'It's departing the stage with a swagger' - Ed Power on first episode of final series of 'True Blood'
True Blood has never quite lived up to the promise of its fantastic title sequence, a Southern Gothic fever dream that jerks and judders like an R-Rated mash-up of Interview With A Vampire, Mississippi Burning and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
In later seasons especially, a distressing waywardness seemed to take hold – as interest cooled in psychic heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her off/on/off vampire beau Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), the focus switched to a less-engaging cast of secondary characters.
For its final season show-runner Brian Buckner, having taken over from TB creator Alan Ball, promised a narrower focus. Series seven would, he declared, train a microscope on the Sookie v Bill romance, its decayed ashes at any rate, and on the zombie-esque 'Hep V' vampires overrunning sleepy Bon Temps, Louisiana.
However, the opening episode was chiefly concerned with wrapping loose ends from season six and it is hard to appraise how the rest of the season will unfold. On our last visit to Bon Temps a horde of Hep V vamps had rushed Bellefleur's (as recurring divebar Merlottes has been renamed), dragging away several hapless patrons for snacking purposes and leaving the rest battered and shocked. This despite Bill's madcap campaign to have humans and 'good' vampires pair off, so that the former would have a guardian, the latter a source of sustenance.
As the survivors (literally) nursed their wounds in the blood-spattered tavern, their anger was directed at Sookie, one of the first citizens of Bon Temps to fraternize with the undead. Overwhelmed, she struggled to keep their thoughts out – and was shocked to discover that, along with the rest, werewolf boyfriend Alcide (Joe Manganiello) was quietly blaming her. She stomped out and chucked her mobile phone away for good measure, a feisty but potentially suicidal gesture considering the woods were crawling with distinctly peckish Hep Vs.
Meanwhile Sookie's oversexed brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) belatedly had his way with vampire guardian Violet (House's Karolina Wydra). Having held him at bay for months, she fell for Jason's lewd charms after he lost his temper with her – the ultimate vampire turn-on, we gather. In a sequence that had (presumably unintentional ) echoes of the played-for-laughs love scene from the Naked Gun, both parties stripped with a single tug of their collar buttons and were quickly at it on the bonnet of a car, fulfilling predictions from cast and crew that this season would be the 'nakedest' yet.
Of the episode's several plot-lines, the most interesting concerned vampire Jessica (Debora Ann Woll) trying to protect faerie teenager Adilyn (Bailey Noble) against a stray Hep V zombie. Dainty Jessica hadn't 'fed', ie guzzled several litters of blood , and Adilyn was concerned that, if invited across the threshold of her home, her guest might not be able to contain herself. So it was problematic that Jessica was the only thing between Adilyn and the hungry Hep V (the script skirted over how the zombie could get at Adilyn if Jessica could not). With the two vampires about to fight over Adilyn, at the last she allowed Jessica to enter – saving her just as dawn arrived and Hep V was burned to a very fine crisp.
Meanwhile, in Morocco Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) continued searching for her boss, vampire leader Eric (the MIA Alexander Skarsgård). She triumphed in a game of Russian Roulette – her opponent discerned she was looking for meaning in her life, then blew his chest open– before tracking down a contact with information as to Eric's whereabouts. Pam appeared shocked at what she learned : though we were not privy to the detais evidently it revealed something about Eric Pam had never believed possible.
Amidst the bayou baroqueness, at heart True Blood has always had broad soap opera tendencies and clearly the series intends to finish as it began. As Sookie, Paquin remains an engagingly traditional soap heroine, a vulnerable soul whose struggles to make sense of the world serve only to bring more trouble on her (who, having disastrously dated a vampire, would chose a werewolf as their next romantic partner?).
Paquin did well with what could have been a melodramatic flourish at the end as she stood up in church and confronted those laser-beaming hostile thoughts towards Sookie (ie, the entire population of Bon Temps). Yes, she had made friendly with vampires, she said. But, with her insider knowledge, she was the best chance Bon Temps had of surviving the Hep V onslaught. It was an impassioned turn and suggested that, having worked through unfinished business from last season, True Blood is getting ready to depart the stage with a swagger. ends
True Blood, Season Seven, Episode One - ' Jesus Gonna Be Here', Fox