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True Blood: Season 1 - Strange Love (Review)

True Blood

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of True Blood entitled Strange Love (as aired on FX on Friday, July 17, 2009).

What’s the story? Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a waitress at a local Bar notices a vampire who walks in. After locking eyes with the vampire she confronts him asking his order. The vampire asks for Tru Blood but due to a lack of vampire activity there isn’t any in stock. Soon Sookie runs out of the bar after the vampire and two people that lure the vampire outside. The two people are found draining the blood from the vampire. The blood is known to enhance the healing process in humans and give a bit of a sex boost. Sookie saves the vampire, who introduced himself as Bill (Stephen Moyer).

Was it any good? True Blood boasts some great credentials. Firstly, it’s timed perfectly to cash in on the vampire revival recently spearheaded by the success of the Twilight novels and films.

Secondly, it’s the latest offering from Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and American Beauty. And thirdly, it has genuine bite.

Whereas some vampire lovers have lamented the anaemic nature of Stephenie Meyers’ bloodsuckers, Ball’s creatures of the night – based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris – are lusty, thirsty and not necessarily always prone to doing good.

Season opener Strange Love, for instance, contained kinky sequences involving weird sex between humans and vampires, as well as hinting at the uneasy tension that exists between both species.

It had to get through a lot of set-up, as well as introducing its numerous characters and its near-future world (where vampires walk among us), but it contained enough to intrigue and enough to titillate and/or seduce.

The vampire universe seems particularly interesting as, according to Ball’s screenplay, vampires are as vulnerable to silver as werewolves, their blood is a highly sought-after commodity, and everyone should have sex with a vampire at least once before they die.

As ever with a Ball screenplay, all this is cleverly juxtaposed by the petty tensions that exist in every small-town community (American or otherwise), as everyone has a secret admirer and a hidden prejudice. It looks set to make for richly engrossing, highly adult viewing.

Of the principal characters so far, Anna Paquin’s Sookie looks to be an endearing free spirit – kooky, optimistic and drawn to irresistibly drawn to vampire Bill. Paquin invests her with just the right mix of frivolity and feistiness, complete with a really lazy Southern drawl. And her ability to hear everyone’s thoughts apart from Bill’s appears to be an interesting plot device.

Stephen Moyer’s vampire, however, needs work. He’s got brooding and mysterious down pat, but thus far we don’t really know that much about him or his motives. He even needed rescuing by a woman after being tricked by two bar louts into being drained of his blood.

That said, Ball’s busy screenplay posed plenty of questions and set up numerous scenarios that look certain to deliver quick payoffs. His last scene found Sookie being kicked and beaten by the same two louts who had tricked Bill – surely paving the way for some vampire payback.

While Sookie’s brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) had been arrested for an apparent murder after a bout of ultra-kinky rough sex with a woman who, herself, had been addicted to vampire sex. Did he or didn’t he do it?

And then, of course, there’s the obligatory other prospective love interest in the form of Sam Trammell’s bar owner Sam, who clearly has hidden feelings for Sookie, but who was forced to watch from afar as his favourite waitress placed herself in harm’s way with her attraction to Bill.

True Blood is already well into its second season in the States, where it became the critical and audience hit of the past 12 months. F/X, as ever, leads the way in the UK, and it’s advisable to jump on board early.

On the evidence of this opener, we’re in for a bloody, chilling, well-plotted ride that makes for perfect late Friday night viewing.

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