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Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: True Blood, "Dead Meat"

Season 6, Episode 8

Grade: D+

Verdict: Yet again we see True Blood attempt to string together more than two interesting plots into an episode and fail.  Sookie's arc throughout the episode is truly the most engaging, although where she ends up at the end of it may not be the best of ideas.  As with the past few episodes, the strictly human characters of this show continue to steal the spotlight as their more down-to-Earth/realistic arc feels like such a relief from all the supernatural BS going on elsewhere.  Alexander Skarsgard gives yet another terrible performance, but at least this time it is brief.  It is frankly strange to see this vampires vs humans plot go from the most interesting aspect of the season to one of the least.  While there is little point in mentioning it, Sam got his new girlfriend pregnant and the writers want you to care for some reason.  Apathy abounds.

To say True Blood has been wavering would be an understatement.  While this season has, thus far, been decidedly better than any of the garbage which took place the previous year, this is ultimately still a series which struggles with making its audience care about plots and characters which are utterly boring.  Admittedly, this season did put together a string of quite watchable episodes that expanded certain stories in ways that made them interesting, but this still feels like a series without a compass.  Going into this week's episode, there was not a lot to be excited about, and, by episode's end, those fears were largely proved correct.

This week's True Blood sees an impatient Bill awaiting Sookie's decision on the matter of rescuing vampires from the "white room", but Sookie receives in ultimatum from Warlow which complicates matters.  Things continue to get worse at the vampire prison as many of the higher ups begin to notice some of the inmates are not drinking their True Blood.  Meanwhile, Eric takes matters into his own hands, and Sam and Alcide begin to patch things up.

Once more we find that the only interesting narrative aspect to this episode is Sookie.  It would probably be more wise to just post a short review stating "Sookie stuff = good/Everything else = bad" as that would be sufficient enough explanation of how many of these recent episodes pan out.  Nevertheless, this episode deals with Sookie having to make a life-changing decision.  Bill needs Warlow to save the vampires being held by the humans, but Warlow will not agree to this unless Sookie is his...forever.  That's right, this episode sees Sookie struggle with the decision of whether or not she wants to become a vampire, something she has avoided for at least six seasons if not her entire life.  In many ways, this would seem to be a pretty quick decision, but the writer's decide it should be something Sookie debates quite heavily, and it is actually done somewhat well.  Being turned is often treated as such a no-brainer on this series it's actually nice to see someone think about whether they want to be a vampire.  We see her discuss the idea with Sam, and, while it would have been a worthwhile scene a few seasons ago, these characters have drifted so far apart that it almost seemed like a waste of time.  Where Sookie really finds the most obvious answer is when she realizes that a more traditional death would mean an eternity spent with the parents who tried to murder her.  Although Sookie's final choice at the end of the episode is one which does not seem like the best move narratively speaking, it still says a lot that Sookie considering a potentially stupid plot choice is more interesting than anything else going on. 

In the previous review of True Blood, it was mentioned that Alexander Skarsgard gave an exceptionally bad performance.  Unfortunately this turn of events continues into this episode, with everything starting off with the continued bad acting of Mr. Skarsgard.  It is understandable that his character is grieving, but that is not an excuse to be a worse actor than some children.  To make matters worse, it would seem many of the actors on the show took a lesson from the Skarsgard school of acting this week as almost everyone with a supernatural gift gives an outright terrible performance.  Sure, Pam is still Pam, and Kristin Bauer still plays her well, but it seems like everyone else has just given up and decided to phone in their performances.  Jessica deals with her new love interest in a way that feels immensely muddled and makes absolutely no narrative sense, making the bad acting even more grating.  Not only has the acting on this series turned sour, but the action has also taken a turn for the cheesy.  This week sees more outrageously bad wire stunts (again with Skarsgard) as well as a murder that is more hilarious than shocking.  An irate Ms. Suzuki (she works for the company that makes True Blood) arrives at the vampire prison, attempting to expose everything going on, but she is murdered by Sarah Newlin in a way that is just as pathetic as Sarah's character.  Not only is it a chase scene that feels degrading in that both characters struggle with running in high heels, but a high heel is used as a murder weapon in some sort of deranged version of Clue that I never want to play.  Frankly, there are deaths in direct to DVD horror films that look better.  Anna Camp has given good performances in the past, but her Sarah Newlin is just an outright horrific character who should have never been brought back.

Before wrapping things up on another terrible week, let's take a look at one of the main arcs of this season: humans vs vampires.  You may recall that, earlier in the season, this reviewer complimented this decision in storyline as the one that made the most sense for this series to cover, one that could even be the most interesting.  Sadly, this has not remained the same.  It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this story went wrong, but perhaps it is because this story feels like one with a lot of lost potential.  One of the things which made the previous season a bit of a bore was the sheer amount of scenes taking place at the Authority's underground facility, a much more cut-off location compared to the more open ones usually used on the show.  This is used once again with this storyline as things have been focused on this vampire prison more or less since the second episode.  It is claustrophobic storytelling which really cuts off a lot of the potential scope of a story like the humans against the vampires.  It is possible that this is something which will be expanded upon next year, but Sarah Newlin's side seems to be a crumbling Rome that will not last the season.  What makes this such a shame is that all out war between humans and vampires could have been an incredibly exciting avenue for this series to take, and one that felt natural from how things have progressed.  Once again, however, we see True Blood squander another opportunity in favor of the more apathetic route.

This week's episode title may be the most apropos to date as it is hard to not see True Blood as anything other than dead meat these days.  While there are still things about this series which hold interest, as we have seen this week, that does not necessarily mean they are always handled well.  It may be something which gets repeated in reviews each week, but this is still a show which desperately needs to kill off or write off much of its superfluous cast.  Although, even if a number of characters bite the dust by the end of this season, it is hard to imagine all of the bad acting will be completely undone.  Yes, this is a series which appears to be dead meat, but unfortunately it is dead meat which still attracts 4-5 million viewers each week, guaranteeing that we will continue to be exposed to this torture for the foreseeable future.
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