We’re halfway through “True Blood” season five, and we get the first episode written by series creator Alan Ball. It’s an action-packed hour with a shocking cliffhanger, and yet it’s also emblematic of everything wrong with the show right now.
There’s so much happening, and almost zero emotional weight to any of it. Storylines have no room to breathe and even when one of the actors has a moment worth appreciating (as Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Ann Woll, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Denis O’Hare and Alfre Woodard all did tonight) there’s no time to appreciate it.
I suppose it could be argued that this ADD approach ensures the show is never “boring,” but it’s so wildly disjointed I can’t imagine how anyone feels connected to these characters. Unless you’re watching purely to see stuff happen, how is this satisfying?
I’m pressing pause on the usual good/bad breakdown for a week, because there’s not enough good and too much bad right now. Instead, let’s rank the week’s key stories from “best” to worst of the worst:
1) Jason investigates the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse
It takes a lot to overlook the Pussycat Dolls-meet-“Burlesque” shows going on in Fairy Land and endorse anything connected to bringing that to the screen. But Jason’s continued suspicion over what really happened to his parents was as close as this episode got to a meaningful story. Jason’s talk with the ghost of his father was a terrific example of why Kwanten is so valuable to the show. Later, when he ushered Sookie into Fairy Land, they discovered that it may have been a Band-Aid with young Sookie’s fairy blood that turned their parents into vampire bait.
2) Russell’s return
It’s still frustrating how little we’ve seen of Denis O’Hare six episodes into the season, but a little patience may lead to a major payoff. In a way, the episode was bookended with Russell attacks: he jumped Sookie at the beginning before she struck back with her fairy powers, and of course he staked Roman (surprise!) in the big cliffhanger. Season three of “True Blood” wasn’t great, but it was the last time the show was consistently fun in some way — and that was mostly due to O’Hare’s elegant psychopath. More please.
3) Eric glamours Alcide
Joe Manganiello is having a bit of a pop culture moment thanks to the big screen success of “Magic Mike,” but is there a weaker actor in the giant cast of “True Blood”? Still, at least Ball had some fun with Alcide this week, especially in Eric’s randomly homoerotic glamouring of the wolfman. The purpose was to make Alcide forget they found Russell, but the punchline was Eric also made Alcide swear to protect Sookie but never touch her (“romantically speaking, she kind of disgusts you”). Sookie figured this out and apparently fixed it almost immediately. Too bad.
4) Jessica and Hoyt (and Pam and Tara)
Since Hoyt is still hanging around the show, I guess we had to have this moment some time. He got so excited that Jessica fought Tara on his behalf that he assumed she wanted to get back together. She doesn’t. Hoyt is probably headed for trouble, and Jessica will probably feel really guilty if he whores himself out to a vamp that goes too far. There was a time when I liked them as a couple, but now I won’t even care if Hoyt dies. We need the time to spend on someone else. (Like Pam or Tara, who had one brief scene this week as Pam broke up the fight between Tara and Jessica, and told Tara she was proud of her.)
5) Lafayette chasing Jesus’ ghost
Of all the stories clogging up “True Blood” right now, this is the one I understand the least. Maybe it’s because Lafayette died in Charlaine Harris’ second book and the writers are struggling with how to handle him now? But as nonsensical, stretched out and utterly isolated as this ongoing brujo business is, at least Nelsan Ellis retains his credibility throughout. And at least he got to share a scene with Alfre Woodard, in fine nutcase form as Lafayette’s crazy mama.
6) Roman is losing his Authority
If Roman really met his true death (and I’ll believe that when I actually see it), it would be the end of an epic waste of Christopher Meloni. If you remove Denis O’Hare from this storyline (as I did, because he deserves it), there’s simply nothing working at the Vampire Authority. Salome had her moment in the spotlight and quickly retreated to the sidelines, Nora has been a total waste since her promising debut in the season premiere and this week we learned a little more but nothing interesting about Kibwe (played by Peter Mensah) as he massacred a bus load of humans who may have seen or been aware of Russell. Who wants what — and why — is not remotely clear in any aspect of the Authority storyline, but that’s not the problem. The problem is there’s no reason to care.
7) Terry confesses to Arlene
Just kill yourself Terry, for the good of the show. And maybe you should take Arlene with you. She’s a fun little character and Carrie Preston is a wonderful character actress, but I’d rather see her join “The Good Wife” full time since those writers actually give her recurring character material worth playing.
8) Sam’s out for blood, and Luna is alive
The. Worst. Worst! The only thing more depressing than seeing Luna alive in that hospital was knowing that there won’t be any resolution to this awful shifter massacre storyline any time soon. At least the little puppy Luna’s daughter turned into was cute.
What’s your favorite storyline on “True Blood” right now? What’s the worst? Why are we all still watching?