(HBO) Last Tuesday, HBO premiered the first two episodes of its number-one rated hit series, True Blood. Created by Alan Ball (American Beauty and Six Feet Under), Ball took the stage and — after humbly thanking both the network and his team of writers, producers, directors and actors — cautioned the audience not to leak any of the secrets revealed in the series opener and following episode; otherwise he had it on good authority “the earth would open up and swallow you to hell.”
Given the fact that after last year’s premiere failed to live up to my expectations (which followed with an anemic review on my part), I was less than excited surrounding the hooplah with the promises of the new season. But as soon as the lights went down and the newly revised opening credits started to roll, I found myself instantly sucked in.
Sookie Stackhouse (played by Anna Paquin) is instantly mesmerizing with her country drawl and wide-eye innocence as she bucks conventional prejudice against vampires by continuing her romance with 150-year-old vampire Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer).
Her nit-wit brother Jason (played by Ryan Kawnten) is still just as dumb as he was the first season — now joining a church who is vehemently against vampire kind. The metaphor, although an obvious parallel to the way some religions treat homosexuality, proves to be just as powerful and thought-provoking. As Jason gets ensconced with the young church couple (a twenty-something version of Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker), it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Adding to the tensions this season include a mounting friction between Bill and another faction of evil vampires, as well as a tasty story-line involving a freshly “turned” vampire in the form of an innocent seventeen-year-old named Jessica (played by Deborah Ann Woll). The constant juxtaposition between good and evil and the shades of gray in between are masterfully mined for every drop of blood of storytelling.
Probably most intriguing is the addition of Michelle Forbes, who is cast playing the mysterious and mercurial “Maryann,” who has come back to town with something evil in mind. Her history with closet “shapeshifter” Sam Merlotte (played by Sam Tramwell) is as interesting as what she has in mind for the future. Clearly not a vampire, Maryann’s origins and intents are as cloudy as the character herself.
If it isn’t obvious already, season two of True Blood has definitely found its heart in every aspect. Gone are the stereotypes and clichés that would make Anne Rice’s skin crawl. Ball and his team of gifted writers have found an entertaining balance of pathos and comedy — never once taking themselves too seriously or not serious enough. (Pay special attention to the Sookie-Jessica relationship in episode two.)
If subsequent episodes are half as good, it wouldn’t be a far reach to say HBO has finally found its new Sopranos. With midland successes like In Treatment, Big Love and, to some degree, even Entourage, True Blood manages to do something no show since Sopranos has ever done – keep you home to tune in the minute each new episode debuts…and even better — leave you hungering for the next installment.
Just for the record, season two of True Blood starts this Sunday and runs through the next thirteen weeks. I know what I’m watching this summer.
HBO's 'True Blood' is showing Sundays at 9:00 p.m.