Alan Ball is a genius. But you don't need me to tell you that. If you're a fan of True Blood, finishing its fourth season tonight, you undoubtedly agree. Never would I have read one of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels and thought, "Emmy winner!" But Ball did. He, and people like Raelle Tucker, have created a show that make synapses snap to attention. Mine included. I used to call True Blood an existential train wreck with crashes of soft-core porn; today, I call it life-blood.
In a sea of otherwise uninteresting and unimaginative fare, Ball & Co. prepare a veritable feast for hungry audiences. And we are VERY hungry. Reality TV is the viewing equivalent of Chinese take-out; audiences find themselves starved for something more...well, meaty. Protein-based foods take up to four hours to digest, keeping you fuller, longer. Carbs, like a big plate of lo mein, can take less than two hours, tricking the body (and mind) into a false sense of satisfaction. But like a bloody steak, True Blood provides enough mental protein for eager audiences to feast on for nine months in between seasons. Now that's what I call a good meal!
The last three episodes have been some of the best television witnessed in my lifetime, and that's no small feat. As "The Pop Culture Professor," it's my job to review EVERYTHING...from Russian Dolls to new animated Wolverine episodes to the latest Food Network Chopped. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. And I've been doing it for 17 years. In ALL that time, NEVER have I seen anything so original as the last three episodes, 9-11, of True Blood. And as today is 9-11, it seemed the right time to discuss it with all of you.
Today is a difficult day in American history. One of the people I admire in 2011 is Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor-in-Chief of More magazine. She put out a Twitter query on Friday: What were you doing on September 11, 2001? I answered.
September 11, 2001, I was in a rehabilitation hospital two weeks after a neurosurgery for brain cancer that left one half of my body essentially paralyzed. My world had ended. Nothing was as it seemed. Everything was surreal, absurd even. As I lay in my hospital bed, unable to move, I watched a plane crash into the Twin Towers; one of the nurses had come in to give me a Heprin shot (to prevent blood clots) and turned on one of the many morning "news" shows that clutter American telvisions each morning...even Saturdays. At first, I thought it was some kind of stunt; it was just so unbelievable. Though totally numb from my own constant pain, I was sadly aware I was no longer alone.
The stories that began to unfold from that moment forward were something unthinkable in the American collective unconscious. And yet, still real. Still happening. Almost as unbelievable as a 30-year old woman being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor for the second time since she was 20. Seven years later, we all found ourselves in a better place. I was literally back on my feet again, and so was America. We had healed, together yet separate. Part of what helped us move forward was the mindless escapism pleasantly provided by popular culture, ever-eager to serve. And by the summer of 2008, we were all ready for something new. Something daring, adventurous...something, unthinkable. Dark creatures of the night are now the heroes. Humans are the monsters. In a Joseph Campbell-esque world, where "ritual death and dismemberment" are real, True Blood provided American true-blues with a much needed catharsis.
So this piece tonight is dedicated to Alan Ball & Co., to Charlain Harris, to all the Truebies, Fangers, Bangers, and Monster-mash ups like Marnie. Thank you. Humbly, gratefully and most sincerely.
Episode 9 was amazing; I'd never seen anything like it...until Episode 10. Episode 10 took Episode 9 and rolled into Episode 11 with a BANG! CRASH! KAPOW! We've seen the miracle of rebirth with Mavis and her infant son, thanks to Jaguar-Jesus and Lafayette.
Lafayette's character died early in Harris's novels; it's only appropriate that someone who is brought back to life, so to speak, exists between the two worlds. Seeing through the thin veil between life and death is something common to those of us who are now in what I call "the between space." And Marnie, well, let's just say that tonight...she's attempting to bridge the gap between the here-after and the "between." Will Jesus and Lafayette survive? We'll know in 15 minutes!
Jessica and Jason...as predicted earlier this summer, the twain have met! Hoyt is no longer part of Jessica's equation. Does Season 5 hold a future for these two star-crossed lovers? Only time will tell...because if I do, the plot may change, and we don't want that to happen (again). ;)
Sookie Stackhouse. Anna Pacquin's thighs don't even touch she's so skinny this season, no more apparent than in her red, lacey get-up where she dreams about BOTH Bill and Eric. Lucky girl. But all the actors looked more gaunt this season; like they'd subsisted on a cube of cheese and seven almonds for the nine months in between Season 3 and Season 4. Well, everyone except Alcide Herveaux or Joe Manganiello, whose last name contains the word "eat" in Italian...yum.
No were-tigers this season, sadly, Maybe next. Sam Merlotte, though, has had quite an interesting run. In turn, Sam Trammell has really gotten to show his chops (and choppers) this season...here's to more of that in Season 5!
Is Pam going to reunite with Eric? Of course, my beautiful Vampirazzi...have no fear. Pam will always be pretty in her pink casket.
And what of Debbie Pelt? Her last name is a big foreshadow...no surprises there. But there ARE surprises in store...keep watching! I know I will....
On the Housel-scale, True Blood 4:9-11 earn a bloody-good 10/10...if I could give it more, I would. Damn, I hate limits. And that, my dear readers, is EXACTLY why True Blood is so AMAZING.