True Blood 6.01 "Who Are You, Really?" TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Raelle Tucker
Director: Stephen Moyer
THE ONE WHERE Bill returns home, a changed man; the Louisiana State Governor announces a vampire curfew; Pam and Tara make love on the beach (despite the sand getting where it shouldn’t); Warlow makes his presence known; and Eric gives Sookie her house back.
VERDICT So, the first ever episode of True Blood that hasn’t been showrun by creator Alan Ball. Instead, this one was overseen by temporary showrunner Mark Hudis, who was swiftly replaced by Brian Buckner part way through the production of season six (the full reasons for which remain the stuff of rumour at the moment).
So, you might tune wondering if either, a) you’re going to see the reason why he was replaced (has it gone bit crap, basically?) or b) he had a brave, radical new approach to the show that was just too much for HBO to handle.
The probable reason for Hudis’s departure, though, may have had less to do with what ended up on screen and more to do with his day-to-day running of the show. And certainly, watching “Who Are You, Really?” you don’t come away with the feeling that the show has suddenly become either crap and amazingly different. It’s pretty much business-as-usual, by-the-numbers, comfortable as old (kinky, studded-leather) slippers. Right down to all the werewolf stuff being deadly dull unless you’re a fan of Joe Manganiello’s bare pecs.(opens in new tab)
Which is both a relief and slightly disappointing. It’s great that True Blood is still reliably entertaining for fans, but at the same time it feels like a missed opportunity to inject some new energy into the show, and to get the wider, general audience talking about it again, like they used to in the early days.
After an enjoyably action-packed opening act in which Nora goes all Selene (irritating the tits off of Pam in the process) and Bill turns into naked, evil Superman, the episode calms down considerably. It relies instead on a surprising number of heart-to-heart scenes and a couple of kickstarters for this year’s new plot threads.
A lot of the character scenes are very strong indeed: Eric signing Sookie’s house back to her, then Sookie rescinding her invitation to him to enter the house, in a poignant attempt to return to a simpler, former life; Tara and Pam’s beach heart-to-heart; Arlene’s pep talk to Andy (which is hilarious); Bill trying to win Jessica’s trust with tales of General Sherman (to be honest, we’re not sure how he managed that, as he just freaked us out; it must be a sire-bond thing…).
Then we have Arliss Howard as newcomer Governor Truman Burrell to stir things up for the vampires. At first he seems pretty much your bog standard opportunist, radical politician (see Senator Kelly in X-Men or many other fantasy & sci-fi variations) with the added benefit of being played with gusto by ever-reliable Howard. But then we had that scene with him making secrets deal with the Tru Blood manufacturer, and suddenly he became a whole lot more interesting.
Rutger Hauer as Warlow, on the other hand, is slightly disappointing. Lines like “A little blood doesn’t scare me” should be full of menace, but Hauer delivers them with bland efficiency. As a result, Warlow comes across like the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to share a car with for fear he’ll start talking about railway rolling stock or air freight tonnage limitations rather than because he’ll kill you. Hopefully he’ll improve.
Fairies were, thankfully thin on the ground, and even the one plot line they were responsible for – Andy’s new rapidly-growing family – was a lot of fun. Kinda predictable (babies are always growing up superfast in TV fantasy) but worth it for the screaming session.(opens in new tab)
If there’s a major problem, it’s the slightly disappointing way Bill seems to have acclimatised to being to new vampire Messiah. Admittedly, the episode’s cliffhanger – with multiple Liliths entering his body – signposts that we’ve got a lot to learn about the nature of SuperBill, but before that, the way he acts in this episode feels at odds with religious-nutter-Bill we were left with last season. Wouldn’t he be desperate to find out what he’s become? To test the limits of his new powers? To discover what his purpose in life is as the new vampire Messiah? Instead he heads home and whinges about power corrupting; it isn’t doing a very good job so far, though we’re sure it will.
So, it’s a solid season opener. But you can’t help wishing it had been a bit more of a sit-up-and-take-notice season opener. Hopefully, as with Game Of Thrones this season, episode one is just the (relative) calm before the storm.(opens in new tab)
SIGNED IN BLOOD We can’t help thinking how this scene might have panned out if Sookie had given Eric a felt-tip pen.(opens in new tab)
I AM A CAMERA Here’s a candidate for Pseud’s Corner: Stephen Moyer (vampire Bill) directed this episode, and the very image is a POV shot from Bill(ith)’s point of view, almost as if the director is drawing attention to who’s in control of the camera. Or maybe it was just a cool gimmick.(opens in new tab)
SHINE ON Love the attention to detail later in the same scene when – from Bill(ith)’s point of view – we see a little bit of fairy energy escape Sookie’s mouth when she says the f-word.(opens in new tab)
SIGNS OF THE TIMES A couple of the slogans on the banners at Governor Burrell’s press announcement are downright baffling. We think “Gooey Vamps Are Good Vamps” means that vampires are better when they’re a pile of goo, but it could just as likely be a contribution from some Sookie/Eric ’shippers. But “Fangs Are Teeth Too”? What? What? WHAT?(opens in new tab)
WE KNOW WHAT YOU’VE BEEN UP TO Apparently (judging by internet forums) some fans were confused when, late in the episode during the Fangtasia scene, Pam says to Tara, “We f**ked once.” They were the fans who didn’t notice Tara tucking herself in after the beach scene (you know, the one where Tara did the arm-round-the-shoulder first move…)(opens in new tab)
NIGHTWEAR FASHION Andy’s choice of sleeping t-shirt is just so brilliantly… Andy. Classic Trout Flies. We’ve googled it but can’t find it on sale anywhere. They didn’t specially create it for the show, did they?(opens in new tab)
CURIOUSLY BASHFUL Is there a nipple ration on True Blood ? We ask because actress Jamie Gray Hyder seems fine showing her nipples off in other scenes (hell, he shows off her lady garden in other scenes!) and yet here, she’s clearly had her hair carefully taped over her breasts. Maybe it was a very cold night…? Whatever the case, it became distracting the way the bottom strands of hair remained static even while she bobbed her head around…(opens in new tab)
IT’S WOSSISNAME You might know Arliss Howard from Full Metal Jacket , The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 , Natural Born Killers and Money Ball . He also had a memorable recurring stint on Medium as Captain Kenneth Push.(opens in new tab)
HOLY GLOWING HAND Anyone else think that episode went a bit ’60s Batman with Eric’s somewhat out-of-character quip, “Handy!” when Sookie used fairy magic to light the elevator?(opens in new tab)
GROWING UP FAST Thanks to Jayne Nelson for pointing out that the little girls seemed to be having a whale of a time filming this scene. Well, come on – you’re invited onto a film set where lots of grown ups are screaming at you, take after take after take. You’re bound to get the giggles!(opens in new tab)
MORE SEX PLEASE WE’RE HBO The werewolf menagerie-a-trois was a peculiarly unsexy affair, despite all that flesh on show. Maybe True Blood has given us all kinky-screen-sex fatigue, or Game Of Thrones has raised the, um, game.
BEST LINES(opens in new tab)
Arlene: “Well, I got news for you Andy. Life ain’t fair. And there ain’t no Santa Claus either. And you stick Mr Happy inside someone’s hoohah without a raincoat on, babies come out.”(opens in new tab)
Pam: "And you guys are what…? Wait, let me guess. Male strippers?”(opens in new tab)
Tara: "I don’t think he’s following us.”
Jason: “Not unless he’s flying overhead like the naked, evil Superman.”
• Read our previous True Blood reviews
• True Blood season six will air in the UK later in the year on FOX