I love True Blood. I’ve been looking forward to Sunday’s Season 3 premiere all year, dutifully gathering up the breadcrumbs that creator Alan Ball has been dropping over the nine-month hiatus. The show’s gleeful display of bare and bloodied flesh, coupled with its wicked humor, make it my second-favorite show on television (Mad Men retains the top spot so I can continue to feel smug and cultured).
Which leads me to the following question: are we supposed to like Sookie? Ball adapted the show from a series of books that are told from Sookie’s perspective, and yet made True Blood more of an ensemble where the hijinks of Tara, Jason, Jessica, Sam, Lafayette, Eric and Bill are often as important on a weekly basis as whatever Sookie’s mad, sad or horny about. Which is not a complaint – any show that revolves entirely around one character can get tiring. But I also feel as though even though the show began as something of an ensemble, in the past two seasons it has moved increasingly away from having Sookie be its anchoring character. Yet I do feel as though I should, at least, like the female lead of my second-favorite show. At best, I find both the character of Sookie and her storylines entertaining for their sheer ridiculous camp value, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been moved by the character herself – even when she’s tragically wolfing down an entire pecan pie (still one of the show’s weirdest moments, which is saying quite a bit). But, by contrast, I constantly feel sympathy and affection for Sam, the tortured, lovelorn shape-shifter. Or even the unbelievably dim-witted Jason.
I’ve often joked that part of my love for True Blood has to do with the fact that the male eye-candy on the show is far superior to its collection of sexy ladies and that most of the nudity stems from the cast’s collection of brooding supernatural men. But in truth, who in the main female cast are we supposed to relate to, or even find charming? Tara, Sookie and Arlene only seem to be able to handle one emotion at a time and become flighty or hysterical at the drop of a hat.
The addition of Jessica is one rather large saving grace. Jessica, who is one of the few characters not borrowed from the book series, provides added depth and heart as we watch the once-sheltered good girl navigate her terrifying yet exciting transformation into a vampire. And, as ridiculous as that concept is, the show and the actress (Deborah Ann Woll) pull it off wonderfully. Woll’s Jessica is layered, interesting, sweet and strong. She easily could have been another Dawn a la Buffy – a sudden and unwelcome teen addition who hangs off the existing characters like an annoying baby sister. Instead, Jessica is the only female character I consistently like. And no, I’m not forgetting about Kristin Bauer’s Pam who woefully belongs to the supporting cast category because she is not featured nearly enough.
This concern about female representation on the show is not helped by the fact that Season 3 will introduce at least two new female characters – Crystal Norris (Lindsay Pulsipher) and Debbie Pelt (Brit Morgan), both taken from the book series – and without spoiling anything, I don’t see the trend of the angry/horny/crazy ladies ending any time soon.
My hope is that Season 3 sees a softening of Tara, a third facial expression for Anna Paquin, way more Pam and a continuation of the fantastic exploration of Jessica. But, most of all, I’m hoping for a continuation of the combination of bad accents, giddy gore and cheesy humor that makes this show so much fun.
So. Do you guys watch True Blood?