Crash Analysis Support Team: True Blood Mid-Season Rant: Do You Feel Lucky Vamp? – Guest Post from Cory Brin

We have arrived at the mid-way mark of the final season of True Blood, and the stakes True-Blood-S5have certainly been raised. See what I did there?  But are raised stakes really a good thing in this show’s send off? The way that the episodes have been playing out, I dare say, “Not so much.”

Warning, there will be spoilers following if you are not current with the show.

Leading up to this year’s premiere, the promotions posed questions such as, “Who’s safe?” and  “Who will survive?” When you couple this with the army of zombie vampires approaching Bon Temps at the end of last year’s finale, it’s easy to see that the show wanted have a conclusion dripping with action and suspense. Of course our main heroes will be in danger, but the fun will be to see what they do to overcome this new threat.

But then the advertising persisted – Facebook promos warning us that, “Everything is at stake,” and “Goodbyes are a bitch.” HBO issued bite-sized blurbs reminding us that this was the last season, and therefore nobody’s safety could be guaranteed. This year was labeled the, “Deadliest season yet,” and hash-tagged #TrueTilTheEnd.

This isn’t anything new. In a dramatic series where violent vampires are openly on the prowl, death is around every corner. This goes without saying, which makes it a little more foreboding that the advertisements were highlighting the potential demise of series favorites.  Why such the emphasis? What was their game?

Then they started dying. Tara went in the first episode, and we didn’t even see it happen.  That was a pretty lame way for a major character to go out.  Next we lost Kevin, the police officer with the slack-jawed dialect, when the Hep V vamps chose him as a midnight snack. Maxine Fortenbury, Hoyt’s over-protective mother, had her stomach ripped out when she threatened to shoot Jessica. Sadly, Alcide went down like a chump – Shot by an unseen supporter of the Anti-Supernatural Justice League. Finally, it was revealed that both poor Eric and Bill have the dreaded sickness that is killing off the vampire population.

And we’ve only hit the halfway point!

How many more will follow? Since we’ve seen them start to bring back other somewhat absent people such as Hoyt and Alcide’s father, in a “True Blood, this is your life,” styling, there is a scary chance that the show’s creators are setting up these characters just to knock them back down. There’s no telling how high the body count and bloody ooze piles will be when all is said and done.

However, what is real cause for the increased knocking off all these characters? From what we know of the plot thus far, it doesn’t seem very clear. Yes, there are the bands of Hep V vamps, but they were only responsible for two of the aforementioned kills. Plus, the A-Team seems to have already eliminated the pack that was tormenting Bon Temps.

Perhaps it’s the mounting tension between the townsfolk and their differing opinions on how to deal with the sick vampires. When citizens take the law into their own hands, there are going to be casualties. This is especially true considering these people are defending their homes and loved one. Two of those casualties were Maxine and Alcide. Though it would also seem as if this splinter group was already dispatched during the assault on Fangtasia.

But, Bon Temps is no stranger to extremely dangerous situations. This goes for humans and supernaturals alike. There have been six previous seasons where our main characters, and secondary town citizens, had to deal with a racist serial killer, a Maenad willing to make sacrifices to Dionysus, a crazed Vampire King bent on making bloodsuckers the dominate species, a Necromancer who could control vampires, and the living incarnation of the Vampire Goddess, Lilith. During all of these encounters, people have died, but they varied greatly in duration and the importance of the characters.

Now, he we are in the final season and some really well known and long lasting characters are signing off. Four important people in Bon Temps are gone after only one vampire raid, and one episode of urban unrest? When those same people survived the past six seasons? I’m about as confused as I was when nothing ever materialized from Jason’s werepanther plot.

So then, does it not seem like the sole reason for the cast list genocide is specifically the fact that the show is in its last season? Any show is of course going to add in some shockers near the end, but still, why so many? We were warned about the bloodshed, and so far they are not backing down. The season’s theme has been set and the town’s coroner will be busy…if he wasn’t already also dead.

Maybe this will all play out well, and I should just give it time. There’s a really good chance I’m jumping the gun. I want to feel like I can trust the team that is responsible for this show. But I have seen the fifth season, so this is not foolproof.

If the show continues on its murderous rampage, it will only work to destroy the legacy that it carved out for itself. True Blood has done a lot in terms of paving the way for dramatic series, special effects, and what you can do on a premium cable channel. Thank goodness it was here to show Twilight fan girls what a real vampire thriller should be.

But to adopt a mentality of being edgy and dark, only because it’s your last season, damages the show’s well-established tone. In the world of True Blood, people do die. Normally those deaths have purpose, such as advancing the plot, or evolving a character. Yet, the show has made it a point not to kill off the Bon Temps rogue’s gallery of citizens, as the town itself is the heart of the series. When everyone is together at Merlotte’s, we feel that charm that was abundant in the first season, which is what made us fall in love with the show initially.

Now, the town is in danger of being staked through said heart, even with its well-document ability to survive. Yes, the writers may be trying to establish a metaphor that the greatest danger to Bon Temps has always been Bon Temps itself, but the last season is not a great time to try this trick. When that final episode concludes, we want to believe that Bon Temps will always be there and continue to go on, even though we’ve seen the end of this particular chapter. We won’t be able to do this if the death toll continues to climb. Based on all the information we have, it seems like this is the most likely trend, with the only catalyst being that the characters are no longer needed after this season.

If this is all true, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, or at the very least seems like very weak storytelling. It would be like if all the employees got fired in the last season of The Office, or if besties started hating each other in the final installment of Friends. Could you even begin to imagine the outrage that would have followed if everyone died in the final season of Lost? These shows kept right on doing business as usual in their concluding chapters and any unique changes they made to tell engaging stories were superbly crafted and well executed.

Tara’s death wasn’t on screen. Kevin’s exit proved that the bloodthirsty vampires were bloodthirsty. Maxine’s murder may have helped bring Hoyt back into the picture, but would it have not been better to let Hoyt have a final growing moment by confronting the over-bearing matron? Alcide’s demise was the clunkiest of them all, and reeked of a slate clearing device so that Sookie would be free for Bill. Let’s be truly honest: Alcide was poorly used this entire season and his passing was more of a mercy kill.

What will this mean if a more prominent person’s number comes up? Without a need to establish a story for any future seasons, it is alarming to consider that we may lose some of our favorite characters for meaningless reasons.

I hope I’m wrong. I wish that they do have some devilish plan in place so that all of this will end well. I have my fingers crossed that need for body bags/buckets dwindles. I pray that if Eric meets the true death, that it will bring him the honor that is befit his Viking heritage. I want to believe that the scripts for the remaining episodes are sharp and purposeful.

But if the gratuitous violence on most HBO dramas in any indication, I have to ask myself one question: Do I feel lucky, punk?

Cory Brin is a Halloween enthusiast, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, a BA in History from King’s College, and is currently working on projects for the screen, the stage, and for print. Follow him on Twitter@corybrin.

(Photo from Bloody Disgusting.)

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