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True Blood "Turn! Turn! Turn!" REVIEW

TV REVIEW Incest, bromance and naked lies

Episode 5.01
Writer Brian Buckner
Director Daniel Minahan

THE ONE WHERE Okay, it’s a True Blood season opener – you don’t expect us to sum it up in one line, surely? So:
• Sookie makes a deal with Pam to resurrect Tara as a vampire.
• Eric and Bill are captured by the Authority… twice (they escape for a while in between, during which time Eric bonks his sire sister, Nora, who also happens to be quite high up in the Authority).
• Alcide reveals to the werewolves that it was him who killed pack leader Marcus, and it looks like lupine civil war is brewing as a result.
• Terry’s old army mate tells him that members of their former platoon are all being killed by mysterious fires.
• Rev Newlin is now a vampire and gay, and professes his love to Jason.
• Sheriff Andy is caught in bed with Holly by her teenage sons.
• Jesus’s body mysteriously vanishes.
• Oh yeah, and Russell Edgington is on the scene again, apparently being fed live flesh by his acolytes to bring him back up to speed.

VERDICT First the good news – no bloody fairies. And now the bad news… erm, well there isn’t much. Just a few quibbles. Which is really more good news. And the news that there’s no bloody fairies should pretty much cancel anything else out.

“Turn! Turn! Turn” is, as usual for True Blood season openers, a massive setting up exercise, and part of the reason for the longer than usual summary above is just to give you a quick, visual clue about quite how much it’s trying to set up. You don’t need to actually read it (presumably if you’re reading this review you’ve seen the episode anyway so you know the plotlines), just cast an eye over it to remind yourself quite how much information this show is throwing at you.

This approach could, of course, have its downside, with all the various plotlines struggling to make an impression. But unlike season four’s opener – where that was a problem, and few of the new storylines actually grabbed you immediately (Tara as a lesbian cage fighter, a bunch of silly witches) – “Turn! Turn! Turn!” is tightly written, punchy, pacy and instantly intriguing. Okay, the werewolf stuff is still a tad dull (when is this show going to discover how to make its lycans interesting and not just a bunch of bickering crusties?) but pretty much everything else makes an impression, for good or for bad.

The Authority looks like it could be fun this season, and it looks like we’re going to get to see more of how it operates. For the moment, though, we can enjoy the newfound Eric/Bill bromance, which, amazingly, works, and makes Bill more likeable than he’s been any time since early in season one. It’s like the final season of Angel all over again.

Eric shagging his sire sister (she was turned by Godrick too) is an odd moment too, not so much because it’s incest, but because it’s True Blood trying to a bit hard to give it an incest vibe for the sake of some contrived perviness. But hey, the show knows any naked Eric arse shot is going to be appreciated by a certain section of the audience.

Pam spends most of the episode buried, but makes the most of her time above ground with a brilliant line in acid wit. Also, we may be thanking her in the week’s to come. Although Tara has never been the most popular character on the show, turning her into a vampire could be the key to giving her a decent plot line for once, especially as it looks like being turned when she only had half a brain left seems to have left her some kind of zombie/vampire hybrid.

Jessica is great as usual, just for being Jessica, though to be honest there’s no real clue where her plot arc’s headed this year. Jason, meanwhile, has to put up with being a lust object for the newly-turned (and newly gay) Reverend Newlin in one of the episode’s dodgiest scenes. It’s certainly fun to watch, and actor Michael McMillian is clearly enjoying himself enormously, but his sudden double conversion feels a little contrived and sensationalist. In a show that generally treats its gay characters with a degree of respect, suddenly making Newlin a comedy (homo)sexual predator seems an oddly cynical move. Unless, of course, Newlin’s hidden agenda (because it’s clear he has one) explains all this to some degree.

A much more satisfying premiere than last year’s then, and certainly things look promising for the weeks ahead.

FANGS FOR THE FANGS Michael McMillian (Steve Newlin) loved having fangs so much, he tended to overact with them, and director Daniel Minahan had to ask him to tone it down a bit, because he was coming across like something from Blackula.

BROMANCE Alan Ball has called this “the season of bromance” and Alexander Skarsgard and Stephen Moyer apparently have been having a ball on set camping up the new friendship between the show’s lead vampires. In fact, they were laughing so much, their scenes were hell to edit.

BEST LINE(s – sorry, we have a three-way tie)
Jason:
“Fangs are basically like twin hard-ons.”

Pam: “I am wearing a Walmart sweatsuit for y’all. If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit, I don’t know what is.”

Steve Newlin: “I am a gay American vampire, and I love you Jason Stackhouse.”

Dave Golder

True Blood season 5 will air in the UK on FX some time in the future

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