When you separate out the individual elements of True Blood’s fifth season, on the face of it, a lot of them should have worked. You’ve got Alcide’s pack battle for superiority, exploring Terry’s messed up past during the Iraq conflict, the Hoyt-Jessica-Jason triangle ultimately damaging each character in some way and providing some of the season’s genuine heart, Lafayette saving the spirit of Jesus, and the introduction of the vampire Authority and their mostly unexplored mythology. And while it’s necessary–important–that all of these elements be woven together into a cohesive story, season five instead feels like a mashup of plot bits, happening at seemingly random intervals. Storylines drop in and out (along with their characters), leaving the season without any real momentum or tension.
And while the finale introduces a couple of interesting turns, they come at the conclusion of a mostly meandering season that will probably go down as “the one where they lifted the blood god plot from the first Blade.”
****spoilers after the jump****
So after several weeks of playing up its importance and dancing around the “will he or won’t he” question of whether Bill will drink it, the vampire blood comes into play in the very last scenes of the finale. And from the exploded pile of bloody goo that was once Bill Compton comes… a naked Bill Compton. Is the manifestation of Lilith the Blood Goddess then bloody nudity?
Here’s the big problem with this, the overarching story for season five: the beginning of the season saw a couple of clear threats to Bill, to Eric, and to the Authority, with the hard-liner religious zealots of the Sanguinista movement making trouble in the streets while Russell Edgington was out there getting fat and back to health thanks to Salome. And after that reveal, after Roman’s death, not much happened.
The turn in the season hinged on the survivors drinking the blood of Lilith, and after the fact it reduced all of these potentially dangerous, potentially complex characters down to “stupid thanks to magic; also zealots.” The paper-thin religious allegory took what could have been a scathing satire and used a bunch of super-broad characters without any real internal motivation to tell the story of… I’m not sure what because very little actually happened here.
After weeks and weeks of attempting to convince us of how savvy she is, Salome is undone by being in a hurry; Nora’s religious mania is cured thanks to a ghost; Eric’s unaffected just because; Bill, well, Bill becomes evil thanks to magic blood. The changes in him this season are all externally motivated, and within an episode or so of joining team Lilith, the character is all but unrecognizable from previous seasons.
If the Authority feels like a mess, most of the other plots worked throughout the season are pretty much disasters. The human supremacist storyline begins with the shocking attack on Sam and Luna and ends with a farce in a barn involving a couple of very motivated rednecks. The fact that we only see a couple of them led by Bon Temps’ former sheriff makes this storyline feels smaller and less necessary than it already is. And this is a shame: in a season where we’re supposed to be gearing up for all-out conflict between humans and vampires, it comes off as a joke, a non sequitur in the grand scheme of the rest of the season, ultimately disconnected from everything else.
Everything I said up above goes triple for the revelation that Jason was molested by a high school teacher–an awkward grab at seriousness for the mostly silly character. Jason actually has the roughest time of it this season, going kind of nuts in the finale thanks to the vampire-hating hallucinations of his dead parents (again, something external motivating a change in the character for the worse).
Acide’s story takes a while to get to his defeat at the hands of V junkie JD, before taking longer still for Alcide to take V himself, kill JD and then immediately declare the pack to be V-free (none of the assembled werewolves noticed he was torqued up?). Again, this was another place for mythology building, but it was structured with a a whole lot of nothing (Alcide spends a lot of the season not wanting to get involved before nearly getting killed) before suddenly having the straight edge wolf-man decide to drop V without any real deliberation.
I’ve already groused about how Sookie’s presence this season was mostly to wander around like a plot point which is especially unfortunate after the start of the season where the death (and resurrection) of Tara opened up an opportunity for the character to make some changes based on a bunch of choices that put her friends and loved ones in danger. I’m not sure where that really could have gone (it seems interesting on paper, at least) but what we got instead was Sookie as MacGuffin with the mysterious vampire Warlow and the person looking for her. Plus, every moment with the burlesque fairies was camp agony with True Blood winking so hard at us with the most generic, broadly comic scenes of wackiness. Even poor Andy’s new romance is dragged down by this story, spoiling a pretty good relationship with a one-night stand with a fairy and said fairy’s subsequent, brief pregnancy and protracted labor sequence in Merlotte’s (it’s funny because it’s leg-shaking orgasms!).
Season five felt like a lot of moving pieces to a machine that really didn’t go much of anywhere and it’s timing is constantly off. Noisy, lurching, and mostly very dumb, here’s hoping having… whatever is happening to Bill translate into some kind of clear and present danger for season six.