Channel Guide - Large

There may be spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen the True Blood premiere, you might want to come back after you have.

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” the season five premiere of HBO’s True Blood, begins just moments after the events of last season. All necromancers have been defeated, hella people are dead, and everyone’s tense (but no one’s genuinely afraid of the cops, or at least they shouldn’t be, because murder isn’t something that you can be arrested for in Bon Temps).

Sookie, Lafayette, Eric, and Bill are dealing with all of the blood and viscera from their respective calamitous situations; shape-shifter Sam is cornered by a pack of growling werewolves; and Jason, who has the thigh muscles of a ninja turtle, is naked per usual. This first episode gave anxious fans a glimpse at what’s going to be this season’s major problem. No, it isn’t Russell Edgington, it’s the ever-growing ensemble. Every character—from Sookie to tertiary, background players—has his or her own elaborate drama. While that may be realistic (most of us aren’t just props in the lives of a small group of inordinately sexy people), there’s too much happening on this show!

In the premiere, we have Eric and Bill clashing with the Vampire Authority; Jason involved in this weird love square with baby vamp Jessica (the worst Rock Band singer ever), Hoyt, and the Fellowship of the Sun’s Steve Newlin (who is now a “gay vampire American”); Sookie, Lafayette, and Pam being brought together to “turn” Tara; Sam and Alcide all bogged down in werewolf politics; Andy and wiccan waitress Holly sleeping together; and Terry and Arlene entertaining Terry’s marine pal (that is, marine in the military sense and not in the mer-man sense…although, who knows?) played by Scott Foley.

That last thread is the most exasperating at the moment. Foley doesn’t come right out and tell us why he’s in Bon Temps. Instead, he speaks in riddles to Terry, making some reference to “that night in Iraq.” But Amber, you say, that’s how storytelling works—things are revealed gradually. Well, that kind of evasiveness would be totally acceptable if this were the primary or even secondary plot but, at best, it’s quinary, so, whatever this guy is talking about is just distracting.

True Blood’s large cast is a benefit—I’m deeply fanatical about five different characters on this show. But if you’re going to hop from story to story there should be something linking the events beyond the fact that it’s all taking place on this one TV series called True Blood. Mad Men and Game of Thrones are two dramas that don’t have a problem managing their large ensembles and multiple storylines. This is because the connection that each thread has to the next is clear. In Mad Men, the advertising agency and Don are the nuclei and thematically, each character is trying and failing to find some kind of lasting happiness. In Game of Thrones, the struggle for the Iron Throne sends ripples throughout Westeros.

It’s far too early to have any idea of how this will all turn out. But at least six different conflicts were introduced in this episode and with True Blood’s history of jamming every storyline together at the last minute (I’m specifically thinking of season two where the Sookie, Bill, Eric, and Jason plots all collide with the maenad plot in the last two episodes), that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

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