I am not sure when it was, but I placed a pre-order at the local JB Hi-Fi for the fourth season of True Blood. I will not go into the story about how a certain lapse in customer service meant that rather than pay for it when I had the money to spare, I ended up in financial distress again. Instead, I want to talk about how I felt after watching it.
In order to understand what I am getting at here, it is important to talk about how I felt after watching each prior season of True Blood. I bought Season One a few weeks after it was released as a result of a conversation with someone I used to know from LiveJournal. I forget what the rest of the conversation was about. But at the time, my impression of True Blood was that it was a vampire story set in Hicksville, and thus I was not interested. And when I conveyed this impression to the person I was discussing the matter with, she said the magic words. Anna Paquin is in it. These same words overrode my doubts about a film called Buffalo Soldiers. In Buffalo Soldiers, Joaquin Phoenix plays a corrupt soldier who wheels and deals through a series of hilarious adventures, including dating the daughter of the new top Sergeant (guess who?). Anna Paquin was not only in that, but took the overwhelming majority of her clothes off. And after her performances in films like X2 or The Squid And The Whale, I hope the lady herself does not mind me saying this. Anna Paquin is part of a very short list of women in the entertainment industry I would actually want to see in a state of undress.
Unfortunately, that is part of the biggest problem with True Blood Season Four. Oh, do not get me wrong, Anna Paquin gets naked, and fairly frequently, throughout the season. But the problem is that Anna Paquin is one person among many in the cast, and the cast is getting bloated. Terminally so. Characters I could not possibly care less about are overemphasised at the expense of those who are central to the story. Of course, if you know anything about me and how I reacted to one of the “special features” that came with Season Three, then you know who I am talking about. I refer, of course, to none other than Rutina Wesley.
In order to understand my grievance with the character and how she is implemented in this season, we need to look at prior seasons. In Season One, we were introduced to everyone including Sookie. The way we were introduced to Tara, our first impression of her was as a stuck-up, self-entitled bitch. But the season did something clever, and developed two points. One, Tara has good reason to be uppity with a lot of people. Second, in spite of that good reason (an abusive, alcoholic mother), she is good to the people who are or were good to her. Season Two further developed her relationship with that reason to make most people who talk to her regret it, and her efforts to break away from that. But something went very wrong in Season Three.
In Season Three, the delicate balance between Tara the self-entitled stuck-up bitch and Tara the poster child for recovering victims of lengthy periods of abuse was severely upset. Okay, the plot thread in which a vampire kidnaps her, forces her to mate with him, and basically terrorises her well beyond the point where people would be expected to break, was good. But then things start coming out of her mouth (especially in one “special feature”) that make her into exactly what she spent so much time mouthing off about in prior seasons. It is ironic that in progressively greater detail as the series goes on, we learn that the idea most of the Humans in the cast have that people just jump at the chance to be a Vampire is exactly that: a myth. In fact, whilst it does not go as far as Rosario + Vampire (Moka, Kokoa, Kalua, and Akua are Vampires because their parents were), we are shown in no uncertain terms that Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) was never given a choice. A selfish, stuck-up, conniving bitch (remind you of anyone?) made him a Vampire because she wanted a plaything.
So call me racist to your heart’s content (I like it when people shout from the rooftops that they are retarded), but I hate Tara Thornton’s guts. I feel sorry for Rutina Wesley for having to play her, in fact. Given that she was in Season One, I like to believe that Rutina turned to the writers and producers on True Blood and asked, “do you realise how this is going to make Tara and me look to some of the audience?”. Because as the autistic have been getting used to prove for as long as I have been aware, simply being black does not give you a monopoly on what it means to suffer and be marginalised. In fact, a good hard look at news about South Africa as it is today can give you a bit of a head-shaking revelation. I wonder if the powers that presently be in South Africa even care that by making their country one of the few places in the world where white people can meet the definition of a social minority as set by the UN, they make people like the Ku Klux Klan look (marginally) more credible.
But I digress. The point here is that Rutina Wesley is left to contend with some horrible, ghastly material in Season Four. So much so that when I saw her get in the way of buckshot meant for Sookie, I cheered. Good riddance, I said. This has as much to do with what her character does in Season Four as with the previous season. Tara both actively helps in an idiot’s plot to murder every Vampire in the world, and then fails to say “I refuse” when she has rediscovered what miniscule sense of decency the character is allowed to convey. Although she does not come across like a certain piece of Human shit with the name McCarthy, it is only for lack of opportunity in this instance.
And the problem is only compounded when we see which characters are cast away in order to make some room in the terminally overcrowded cast to provide room for Tara to make an ass of herself. Evan Rachel Wood, in the guise of one Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq, got a massive share of the best lines in Seasons Two and Three. In fact, whenever Tara was on the screen during Season Three, I was unconsciously hissing at Tara to get off the stage and bring back Sophie-Anne. Playing a mentally ill Queen who has had the majority of limits upon her power as set by the laws of physics removed is not an easy task, but Wood nailed it. To say that she is sorely missed, and will continue to be so on and on, is an understatement. Nan Flanagan (Tessica Tuck) also bites the dust. Given that she is one of the few characters who can neutralise Vampire dick-wiggling competitions and put normies in their place, she is also going to be missed.
I will be brief about this, too. If you are going to introduce elements from other novels in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series, do it properly. Do not just chuck a chunk into a few episodes and then forget all about it. Sookie’s relationship with her cousin Hadley and Hadley’s son Hunter is a plot thread that, whilst only minor in the scheme of the novel, goes a long, long way to giving insight into Sookie as a person. (The removal of Queen Sophie-Anne from the proceedings effectively neuters this plot thread, by the way.)
Even Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, and Alexander Skarsgård do not get away scot-free in this shitty season. In contrast to all of the ill-advised and premature terminations, we get one premature introduction to the character of Portia Bellefleur, a lawyer who just happens to be Andy’s sister. Courtney Ford plays Portia well, although a lot younger and easier on the eye than I had pictured Portia when reading about her. In one plot thread of Season Four, Bill begins an affair with Portia (something I cannot picture any Vampire of Bill’s position doing with the Portia of the novel) that ends when his research into his own descendants reveals that she is one of them. By a degree that is far less than some other members of the cast, granted, but apparently this is too much for Bill’s liking. But here is the thing. Instead of using his powers to make her forget that she wants to bump uglies with him, he goes way too far and implants the suggestion that whenever she sees him, she will run screaming in fear. Great. Way to exercise finesse or subtlety in the use of your power, Bill.
Let us not mince words here. When the series actually follows the content of the novel on which it is based, it works. It works brilliantly, in fact. But whenever Alan Ball and his crew of increasingly retarded idiots deviate from Charlaine Harris‘ novel, it all falls apart. Not to the degree that was the royal clusterfukk that an asshole I will not glorify by naming here managed with The Lord Of The Rings, but enough so that it weakens my ability to look at both with a straight face again. Harris has posted on her Fudgebook page at one point that her involvement in the creative decisions on True Blood basically stop at signing off on the rights to each novel. Quite frankly, if I had won the uphill battle to get my work in print, and someone wanted to make a television series that will trade upon being associated with my work (and vice versa), I would want to take some pride in how my work is represented. If Alan Ball told me he wanted to change Linula’s childhood to one where she loved her parents (and most importantly a certain relative of theirs), but they got taken away, I would ask him which orifice he would like me to make him fukk himself in.
Let us talk for a moment about certain components of a story. Characters not only move the plot, but they also represent things. They represent many things. In my case, as an example, they represent fragments of my person and psyche that I rearrange like puzzle pieces in order to make a representation of myself, others, different things. It is complicated. But in Harris‘ novels, there are characters who are important to the plot like Sookie, there are characters who give Sookie things to fight against, and there are characters who are basically nothing more than Chess pawns who get a mention every once in a while to move the plot around. After maybe one or two novels, Tara is even less than the third kind. She does not even interact with anyone of minor importance in most of the novels. Yet here she is in the television series, basically being a knife in the ear. I am not exaggerating when I say that I cheered when she was shot. Tara dead, and apparently Ball has seen fit to dash that hope, would be bliss from my point of view. I take it all back. Rutina Wesley has a great agent, because I cannot begin to imagine how else a character survives being hit in the head with a shotgun from six feet (at most) away.
Look, this is important to understand. As much as I hate Tara Thornton as she exists today, and find the screenwriters on this series increasingly abhorrent, I really tried my best to enjoy this series. Nelsan Ellis escapes the shit-fling that the witch plot puts forth, but he is the only one. It is a testament to Ellis‘ luck with the writers, and his acting skill, that at the end of Season Four when he expresses his sorrow and dismay at how things have gone up to that point, I was right there on his side. This constitutes one of the few alterations from Harris‘ novels that constitutes actual improvement. Lafayette, Ellis‘ character, is simply mentioned as one of the chefs at Merlotte’s who meets with an unnatural end (they die like flies in Harris‘ novels). In True Blood, he is one of the few characters left besides the three main stars that I can stand the sight of.
Oh, and one other good thing about Season Four. Lois Smith, who played Sookie’s grandmother Adele in Season One, returns for a cameo as a “ghost” of Adele in Season Four’s climax. She is looking worse for wear in this series, but given that she is 81 now, I think we can overlook that. She still gets one of the best moments in the story, one that made suffering through the whole love affair Alan Ball has with Tara almost worth the effort.
I hope to Odin above that a distributor gets a decent or even good version of the Rosario + Vampire television series onto Blu-ray Disc here soon. I really do. Because I am not joking when I say that contrary to the impressions given by the previous three seasons, Season Four’s Vampires would either shit their pants in fear or be flicked away by one of Outer Moka’s smallest fingers. Nana Mizuki could make Joe Manganiello shit himself with the way she voices Inner Moka. I do not hold out any hope that Alan Ball or anyone working under him will improve the content of True Blood, irrespective of whether they happen to learn of my grievances at all, be it by reading this shit or otherwise. I believe I might end up being surprised at a later date. As a point of comparison, X-Men In Name Only offended me so much that I did not even bother with the Wolverine film. But X-Men: First Class is a celluloid phoenix. However, no matter what I say after this point, the thrill is gone with True Blood.
And considering how the relationship started out, that is probably one of the saddest things it has yet been my displeasure to write in this journal.