The shockingly sexual, hyper-violent vampire hit prepares to sate ‘True Blood’ lovers.
by Steven Foster
Both audiences and (more importantly for the creatively floundering HBO) critics everywhere devoured the sophomore season of True Blood with more hunger than a waking fang freak on a blood binge, making this drama the cable giant’s most-watched series since The Sopranos. But despite the glamoring of the masses, the season suffered problems as constant and aggravating as a toothache on your incisors. The Maryann storyline was excruciatingly repetitive despite Michelle Forbes’ delicious, scene-chewing turn. Characters engaged in more “Wait! I’ve just got to go back in there!” with almost B-movie stupidity. And watching Evan Rachel Wood as a Yahtzee-playing vampire queen was positively painful. Thankfully, these bitter-pill flaws are more easily swallowed on DVD, giving True Blood’s real strengths power to linger more prominently on the lips and remain oh-so-easy on the eyes. It may claim a higher pedigree than the carnally confrontational and unabashedly porno-riffic Starz hit Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but let’s be honest here: from the get-go, True Blood has always been about sex.
And the season two box set is dripping with it. Twilight members of Team Edward can swoon over the supposedly smoldering sexuality of the gallant but bland lead Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer, but he’s definitely not the money shot. The real meat to feast on is dim-bulb Jason, played within an inch of his Gold’s Gym-worked-out life by Ryan Kwanten. Nelsan Ellis’ Nubian beauty stretches his equally proud physique, and combining the routine with a workout of comedy crunches that gave the actor more screen time and enough quotable lines to justify this fan-favorite’s resurrection. (Ellis’s gay queen character Lafayette was killed off last season and then famously brought back, thanks to a deluge of fan protests.) Alexander Skarsgard lost his awful wig and his inhibitions to become one of the most magnetic cast members to watch, a transformation that is luxurious to witness on the new box set. And while sex was usually limited to simple strip-downs of these three hunks, other Bon Temps residents more than made up for their on-screen abstinence.
Rutina Wesley’s S&M sex scramble with eggs is riveting. The game, overweight, weird cast of secondary actors and bit players rooting around, experiencing demon-induced anal sex for the first time, epitomizes goofy fun—albeit somewhat nauseating at times. But the real thrill is watching the incendiary chemistry explode between Moyer and award-winning wonder-hottie Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse. In the season opener, the two strip and get down to some of the most jaw-droppingly erotic and truly beautiful sex work that television has seen in years. The scene was perversely amped up for the viewer by the revelation that, yes, actors Paquin and Moyer were lovers, engaged to be married in real life as well. And now with Paquin’s admission that she bites both ways—she’s bisexual—sex with Sookie has another libido-blowing factor to it.
True Blood may not offer provocative viewer rewards such as the more complex and nuanced Damages box set, but it’s lurid, pulpy fun. The extras are a mixed bag, with the obligatory commentary tracks in abundance. These bits reveal that, more often than not, production crews tend to be vastly more informative and interesting than giddy, airheaded actors who flounder when having to comment on their work. Other extras bring a fluffy charm to the party, with “Character Perspectives” straight from Hoyt, Pam, and others. There’s also a “Flashback/Flash Forward” feature that lets you relive pivotal moments from the show, and a “Hints/FYI” bit provides some TB schooling for new viewers. The killer extras here are full dispatches from the American Vampire League and the Light of Day organization, the buttoned-down blood lobby group, and the televangelist rightwing nutjobs trying to out-Fox-News each other. True Blood might not have the same authenticity with New Orleans that, say, Treme does, but they nailed big tooth-grinning Southern snake charmer power mongers just fine.
The DVD is out on May 25 (along with a Blu-ray edition and downloads from HBO Home Entertainment [hbo.com]), just before fans cue up for a darker, dirtier season of sex, secrets, and spells.
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.