watching it almost all in one go, i think, gave me a sense of what worked and didn't work this season. in list form, here are my thoughts on season 2 of "true blood":
1. maryann and the zombie-eyed orgies
one of the challenges i face when i watch this show is that i really love the books. and i've read the books. so going in i knew that maryann was a maenad. what alan ball did with the character expanded on what happened with that character in the books. and it did give tara a significant storyline for the season, obviously an area that ball will tend to have more creative license with, since her character in the books is almost tertiary.
the story about maryann was the frame for the whole season. this was the season's over-arching mystery: what is up with maryann? and ultimately, the answer to that question wasn't really interesting. seeing the bon temps townfolk get zombie-eyed and have crazy, orgiastic sex [including, apparently, the sodomizing of a pine tree. i ask how can one sodomize a pine tree? isn't a pine tree lacking in parts that one would be able to sodomize?], wasn't interesting after the first two times, especially since the naked girl parts were all displayed by cute, youngish girls, whereas the naked boy parts were all displayed by old fat men. not cool hbo. not cool.
when the vampire queen of louisiana, sophie-anne, finally tells bill how to solve the problem of the maenad, i kept hoping that maybe she told him the wrong thing. i wanted her to be wrong or to have willfully misled bill because something more dramatic than making maryann believe that the ritual worked this time needed to happen. and while sam's "sacrifice" and sookie's reactions were all dramatically compelling, it still was a big letdown.
2. dallas and the nest of vampires
so i've been to dallas. in fact, one of the worst trips i've ever taken was to dallas. i had a cab driver who accused me of being an fbi profiler trying to pin a murder charge on him and the adam's mark hotel checked someone else into my room--while i was clearly using it! i've never quite forgiven the city for these things. and i also hate that america's team is considered to be the dallas cowboys. i am not a fan of the cowboys. i wouldn't be married if i were.
anyway, the trip to dallas for sookie and bill isn't exactly a success, what with all the kidnapping, near-rape, suicide bombers laced with silver, and general creepiness associated with the newlins and the fellowship of the sun [more on them later]. but where the book concentrated the action on the events in dallas, the dallas interlude on the show was much shorter.
spending a little more time on the vampires--the politics, the hierarchy, the opposing factions--all of that stuff is dramatic and can serve as a metaphor to any number of social groups. learning more about isabel and stan, and where they stand in the vampire pecking order, and how that compares with eric's position, would have been nice. godric isn't eric's maker in the books, but it i thought that particular change worked well within the realm of "true blood" the show. it gave us insight to another side of eric.
a side very much worth seeing.
3. fellowship of the sun and other kooks
in the books jason never joins up with the fellowship of the sun, but if he had, well, i don't think things would have turned out much differently. the character of jason is fascinating, in the books he is petulant, selfish, and has a real mean streak. in the show, he is dumb as bricks, self-absorbed, but has a good heart at the bottom of all that prettiness. his relationship with sookie is much more contentious in the books, sookie is more critical of her brother, even though they do have as little to do with each other on both the show and the books.though they did have some sweet moments this season.
tv jason means well, he is just easily distracted from the path of righteousness. and abstinence is certainly not his strong suit. watching the interaction between the newlins and jason, it was obvious that "god" was going to point sarah toward jason's pants [or rather what's in jason's pants]. and it was also clear that reverend steve and his wife exist on completely different wavelengths. this is highlighted in one of their last appearances on the screen this season, and i can't help but think that they'll be back and just as dysfunctional as ever.
all this being said, the light of day institute stuff, the plan to "force" godric to meet the sun, wasn't as fleshed out as it could have been, but was also kind of boring. luke was possibly the least interesting character they could have introduced, and his death by suicide bomb had little impact because he was a jackass competing with jason half the time, and an earnest lost soul the other. gabe was also introduced clumsily, and as boot-camp instructor, reverend steve's lackey, and near-rapist he had a thankless role, but the character could have been developed with a little more depth.
4. the young lovers: hoyt and jessica
one of the great things that alan ball has done with the show [even though i am occasionally frustrated by this] is to treat the source material as a roadmap. he hasn't been afraid to put his own spin on things. and the calculated risk of introducing jessica paid off big time over the course of the second season.
deborah ann woll does an amazing job playing jessica, who is at times a petulant, rebellious teenager; a naïve young woman forced to adapt to difficult, life-altering circumstances; and a person capable of monstrous things, who needs to learn to control her baser impulses. when they first introduced her in the first season, i thought it was a terrible idea. but she won me over, and her sweet, tender romance with hoyt fortenberry has done a lot to counter a lot of the violence and ugliness that comprises the show's dna.
there is something so pure about first love, and the fact that it is first love for both these characters, makes the journey for them that much sweeter. but they have some tremendous obstacles ahead. hoyt's mama is a force to be reckoned with, the fact that she's kept her boy so tied to her apron strings that he's reached the age of thirty without having sex is pretty amazing, especially considering he is close friends with jason stackhouse, the sex machine. he is such a mama's boy that even as she insults him and jessica, he can't bear to shut her up, and quickly comes to her defense when jessica bites her.
it's a tough scene, and it is completely understandable that jessica wouldn't have been able to control that impulse. and it's not surprising that hoyt choses his mother, she's been the main woman in his life for so long. it's not until mrs. fortenberry reveals some horrible things about hoyt's father that he is even able to stand up to her. it's only then that he choses to seek jessica out, but it might be too late to save their relationship.
because jessica is still reeling from the realization that she will forever be a virgin. her first time with hoyt will be the first of many first times. and this knowledge makes her a little crazy, as does her fight with hoyt. when we last see jessica, she's feeding off a trucker at a rest stop after having told him she's a virgin. it's an act of rebellion, it's seedy and repulsive, the complete opposite of her first time with hoyt. and the scene at the rest stop is nicely contrasted with a scene showing us that hoyt has gotten all dressed up, he's bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and knocks patiently at jessica's door ready to ask for forgiveness.
forgiveness given and granted will be the thrust of their story next season. because the obstacles keep rising up between them, and how they cope will make for an interesting turn of events.
5. eric is awesome
i still say there wasn't enough eric. alexander skarsgård is delightful as the sheriff of area five. this season we learn more of eric, he is a manipulator, an enforcer, and a loyal friend. he's been a vampire for so long that he has little empathy or time for regular humans, but he in his efforts to help godric he is forced to be in touch with his feelings. godric, sheriff of the dallas vampires, is his maker. it is a complex relationship between a vampire and his maker, and unlike bill and lorena, there is a deep love between godric and eric. they've known each other for at least a thousand years.
this connection humanizes eric. at one point, while helping sookie escape the fellowship of the sun, eric and sookie have the following exchange:
sookie: he's your maker isn't he?eric may not understand love anymore, but it is obvious that he feels it for godric. and as he continues to struggle with his fascination with sookie, it will be interesting to watch how he handles emotions that he hasn't been in touch with for a long time. [a key indicator that he feels something for sookie is when he is discussing bill and his human with sophie-anne.]
eric: don't use words you don't understand.
sookie: you have a lot of love for him.
eric: don't use words i don't understand.
ultimately, there wasn't enough eric in the season finale. the show works best for me when it's dealing with vampire stuff. and while i understand why the focus on bon temps, and know that the were and shifter stories will pick up next season, the show needs more eric. a LOT more eric.
6. and they're cousins: tara and lafayette
in a major departure from the books, lafayette is kept alive. but after being held hostage by eric as a punishment for dealing v [vampire blood], lafayette has lost some of his pizzazz. tara has also lost her pizzazz after discovering that the psychic who performed an exorcism on her and her mother was a big old fake.
the cousins have a pretty rough season of it. tara is inextricably caught up with maryann the maenad, and lafayette needs some serious recovery time from dealing with the vampires. with a little help from her friends, tara is released from the maenad's influence. but lafayette is not necessarily as lucky. released as part of a deal by sookie, eric forces him to again trade in v, which is later revealed to be part of a plot by sophie-anne and maybe something bill has unfortunately mixed himself up in.
7. sophie-anne, the capricious vampire queen of louisiana
as played by evan rachel wood, sophie-anne is child-like, frivolous, and likely full of mischief. we discover early on that sookie's cousin hadley is living with her. which will very likely play into future seasons' storylines. when bill goes to see her, it is unclear whether or not she is simply toying with him. when she dismisses bill for eric, we discover that she enjoys wielding her power. as the head vampire of the state of louisiana, eric and bill have no choice but to submit to her whims.
when bill threatens eric over what he believes to be eric's trafficking of v, he doesn't realize how deep the waters he is stepping in are. eric, we discover, is trafficking v on sophie-anne's orders. not only that, the blood that he is trafficking happens to belong to sophie-anne. this opens up the suspect pool to bill's disappearance in the closing moments of the season. is it eric? is it sophie-anne? eric acting on sophie-anne's orders? or is it the spurned lorena?
the black gloves could mean it was either a vampire wielding a silver chain or just a general criminal covering their tracks. and the fact is, i'm just hoping we get a little less bill and more eric as a result of whatever happened.
[i'm not even going to talk about the proposal.]
images courtesy of tvguide.com