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True Blood – 3×10: “Blah Blah Vampire Emergency Blah…” Indeed.

This week I’m blogging True Blood first simply because there is so little to say that I might as well say it now and say it quickly.

What. A. Train. Wreck. As a brilliant yet eccentric man, who told a different kind of “Southern Gothic” story once referenced:

“It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

(Actually, that’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth but William Faulkner made it sound cooler.) From the second the episode started I knew already, and told my friend, this was going to be baaaaaad. I believe more and more everyday what I read in all the screenwriting guides, interviews, books, and blogs piling up in my bedroom and RSS feed: if the opening scene sucks, the rest is probably going to suck, too. Sure enough… Opening line:

Sookie: “I’m a fairy? How fuckin’ lame!”

Bon Temps stupidity diagnosis: It was all that pixie dust (Disney)

First off all, that has to be one of the most epically ridiculous ways to reveal a major plot point in the history of television. Did any of you hardcore fans feel let down or even insulted at how they did this? I imagine that if I gave a fuck about the show I’d be livid. In fact it was so shocking that it felt out of context — like the return from a commercial break on General Hospital (nothing against that show by the way, just saying). This made me go back to the end of last week’s episode because I thought perhaps they had said it then but I had missed it. Alas, no.

And I yet again have to bring up the absurd over-usage of the word “fuck(ing)” to make everything that’s not funny OR shocking appear to be so. STOP IT. WRITE SOMETHING GOOD AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE IT. TRY IT.

Continuing on the snooze-fest of the opener:  the lack of chemistry between Sookie and Bill when they have to actually communicate verbally is incredible. Compare it to a scene between Sookie and Eric simply greeting each other and the proof is in the gooky dead vampire pudding. That monologue about loving her mind and heart and soul… like, really? Not that he didn’t mean it, because I know he loves her, but why anyone thinks these two are uniquely romantic is beyond me. Why the writers continue to use such hokey lines and confessions which have been said over and over since the beginning of fictional romance is astonishing. This is HBO! We learn nothing about the actual fairies except that they “rape people” and then, the last line before we [finally] cut to the the best part of every episode was Bill’s supposedly surprise announcement that the faeries think vampires are going to kill them all. Yeah, didn’t Claudine, the Fairy Godmomma, pretty much say this THREE episode’s ago when we first met her?? Not exactly a cliffhanging revelation, Bill!

Tinkerbell, redux (HBO)

As for the rest of the episode, I’m sorry I just couldn’t handle it. I was going in and out of consciousness from sheer boredom and today I refuse to do anything more than fast forward through a few scenes before writing this. So we’re back to bullet points this week. I’d like to point out there hasn’t yet been TWO continuously good episodes of True Blood this season.

  • Sam Merlotte decides to channel James “Sawyer” Ford and (1) con people, (2) do it with a woman, (3) get conned himself by that woman, (4) accidentally shoot the wrong person, and (5) walk around shirtless.
  • Almost nothing on Vampire politics and the AVL except one amazingly relaxed newscast referencing Russell’s on-camera spine-tingling extravaganza and Nan saying WOOPS.
  • Jason and Tara make out? WHAT???? Hahahahaha. What was that kissing even for? These two haven’t been on screen together since the first episode of the season! Why? Why would anyone watching care about them kissing? I swear this is painful to even think about. Also, Jason hasn’t thought of or even mentioned Eggs or what he did in SEVEN episodes… because he’s a superficial and vapid sonofabitch. As soon as he got to fucking Hungry Blonde Hoe it was Eggs-Who. This goes for both Jason and the writers: You can’t just forget things happened and bring them back and expect people to care again, particularly when no one cared in the first place since you are so void of any significant or lasting emotion.
  • P.S. Note to Tara: He really isn’t pretending that he’s too dumb to know better. Believe me. Well, then again look who I’m talking to. I guess you’ve got a different standard.
  • Eric writes out his last will and testament and gives everything to Pam. We wasted an entire episode on Eric announcing that he’s going to die in 54629 different (yet still not unique) ways when that’s obviously not going to happen. At least Alexander Skarsgard has the gift of making a a mediocre line somewhat enjoyable:
  • Eric (to stripper): “I promised you a job and good sex. That’s all!”

  • Ewwwwwww! Sam’s little brother is such a creeper with Jessica! He’s like a 12 year old perv. “Don’t cover ’em up. [Your fangs] are fuckin’ hot.” GAG! That piece of garbage attacked Hoyt! As Sam put it:
  • “It’s not respect when your employees think you’re a psychopath… You’re an idiot.”

  • I still think the actress who plays Hoyt’s new girlfriend, Summer, is very funny. Disposable character (who isn’t) but a good actress:
  • “I can tell you’re a sexual person Hoyt Thortenberry. And if that’s what it takes well then…”

  • Jesus is… “The Shaman in the Sunday Hat”. I’m a little confused at how he’s all about trying the V suddenly, when we saw him flip out on Lafayette when he discovered that he dealt the stuff but I guess I can see how someone would be more upset if you sold drugs than if you did them…? I guess. The Virgen de Guadalupe doing the macarena was LOL worthy but the rest of that acid trip — WTF? I got dizzy, then I fell asleep. It was like a really bad Inception parody: shared consciousness fail.
  • I’m glad Arlene told told Terry about the baby in this episode. It would have been dragged out too long if she kept hiding it from him and trying to abort it behind her back, so I can say that I’m surprised that they didn’t fuck that up as they tend to do so often with other storylines on True Blood. 1 out of 16 ain’t bad.
  • How did Sookie have no reaction to Tara’s revelation that Bill didn’t lift a finger to save her from Franklin back at Russell’s mansion? HELLO. There wasn’t even a flinch of guilt. A normal person would feel like shit and apologize on their behalf if their best friend told them this, wouldn’t they? Sookie only seemed… sympathetic.
  • I know this is a dream… When will I stop dreaming about you?” Plus, more fake Sookie and Eric kissing. Stupid.
  • Until they actually kiss. Hot but still not enough.
  • Eric chooses a human over himself. Ah yes, I remember soulless Spike sacrificing himself for Buffy, too. Wish this hadn’t already been done on television before.
  • You think anyone in specific burnt that cross in front of Bill’s home? Oh, that’s right… no one cares.
  • Jessica and Hoyt: I said last week that she needed him because she needs someone to tell what she’s been doing to. In this episode she finally told Hoyt that she’d been up to bad things and he implied that he understood and didn’t care, so I’m looking forward to her Hoyt-induced rehab. (If whatever Jason scene has come before hasn’t put me to sleep already, of course.)
  • Bill is uninvited by Jason. [Snoreeee]
  • Crystal is a shapeshifter (?) [Zzzzzzzzz]
  • Russell sleeps with a Talbot look alike, talks the crazy, and kills him. [COMA]

It ends with Sookie and Eric. She chains her up down in the same carousel of dreams which Lafayette got locked up in at the end of S1. He’s doing it to save her from Russell. He’s not giving her to him. They’ll surely try and make us think that by him taking her to Russell it means he’s going to, but… its clear what’s actually going to happen. It was clear even LAST week when I said this regarding Eric’s new mission:

“How will he do it? As Eric says himself, he’s only 1/3 of Russell’s age. I think he’s going to need a little help from his friends! Perhaps a little Sookie blood for Eric to help him drag Russell out into the sunlight, weaken him and kick his ass there.”

Could this show be anymore predictable?!?

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True Blood – 3×09: The True Face…

If you follow my Mad Men reviews you may have read that I did not watch this week’s True Blood in the privacy of my own home but at the local “True Blood Junkie Bar” in the East Village (NYC) amist many-a hardcore fan. I mean these people were intense. Clapping and hooting just for the HBO guy announcing the episode’s commencement. You can imagine the extensive eye-rolling and not-so-discreet commentary coming from my end of the bar (i.e. “Okay, really?? It’s not that serious.“) For about the first 35 minutes of the episode I was paying more attention to the contents of my $3 Heineken than the contents on-screen. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what happened between Jason and that white-trash-hoe-bag he’s been rolling with. Fuck that. If it wasn’t for the amazing Jessica/Hoyt as well as Lafayette/Jesus action that we got from the get-go, it’s possible I would have chugged and left.

"Everything ends, even the immortal." (HBO)

Then, suddenly, those Jessica/Hoyt and Lafayette/Jesus scenes began to inter-cut with the Fangtasia storyline involving Eric, Pam, and the American Vampire League representitive (whose name escapes me at the moment). Just like that — with the exception of Bill crossing over into Fairyland and Jason just… existing — the episode got good… like real good. So good that I watched the end again just now and laughed and gasped all the way over here to WordPress. Let’s totally discuss this one! Only three episodes left, funny how much nothing can happen before you finally get to the juicy stuff at the end, eh? No bullet points this time. I’m giving it a legit post.

Jessica and Hoyt

They struck gold with these two actors playing them, like fah realz yo. I can’t believe I’m going to say this about any character on this show but, there’s just something really honest about their relationship, and better yet, their break-up! Mind you, they dated for a week. Literally. But in their case I’m willing to suspend my disbelief a bit and say that shit like that happens. People fall in love and quickly realize the obstacles in their path and end it before its really begun… all the time. Right? Anyway, that scene at Merlotte’s where the two try to be amicable while Hoyt is on his date and Jessica gets snippy with him only to realize she’s wrong and then becomes adorably apologetic… absolutely charming. Of course, FAIL when the fangs come out. That just made her even more vulnerable and relateable somehow — I completely forgot she was killing people every other night until after the episode ended. We all know that feeling of trying to ‘keep it cool’ and having to hide our intense feelings, especially in front of someone we’re interested in (Hoyt) or, worse, someone we resent (Summer). Unfortunately for Jessica, the vampire baby, controlling all her new-fanged emotions isn’t so easy. Later, when Summer steps away to the bathroom and Jessica sits with Hoyt, she honestly tries to play the ‘Just Friends’ card and kind of does a good job at it too, until Hoyt admits that he hates Summer and that it just kept him busy enough so he didn’t have to think about Jessica all day. And then they both laugh (: I hope he takes her back so she can finally open up to someone about her “killer nights” and regain some control. She’s so alone the poor thing.

Lafayette and Jesus

Despite the lack of conflict, for now I’m just happy watching these two fall so in love with each other. Finally my little Lafayette got what I’ve always thought he deserved. Jesus in that cheesy flower robe and Lafayette kissing his tattoo. The two laying bed together. Lafayette’s mother, Ruby Jean, seeing his mask finally come off, all because of that Puerto Rican nurse of hers. Her reaction was classic:

“Maybe God does love fags.”

I know, I’m being such a mushy girl about this! Sorry. Well, now for the bad news: from a writer’s perspective its making me really scared to see the two so happy because bliss like this never lasts. Not on film, and certainly not in Bon Temps. I feel like one of them might die this season simply because they have both opened up so completely to one another that only a very shocking and sudden external conflict could bring them enough trouble to keep it interesting, and what better external conflict in that Louisiana town than some vampire killings, eh? They’re just too happy.

Jason and Stupid Hungry Hoe

[Please delete this from your memory. Here’s some help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymSEibHKOgo#t=22s]

Sookie and Bill

Bill and Sookie in 'Psycho VI' (HBO)

The most minor main characters in HBO history. They fuck, they shower, they fuck, they hide dead bodies, they dream about creepy fairy tales fantasy worlds, who cares? Sookie learns that her father had a “sixth sense” as per old newspaper clippings and, later, that her cousin’s son has got the same telepathic gift. So it runs in the family, big surprise there, blah blahblah. Bill talks to that magical dream woman: Clementine (?). Nothing more for them.

Just want to clarify something that I don’t think I’ve said yet: We are all in agreement that the reason why Bill isn’t burning up in the light is because he’s drank so much of Sookie’s blood and that it has the magical quality to protect vampires from sunlight, right? This, therefore, being the the reason why Russell and Eric and all these other vampire freaks are so obsessed with her… they want the ultimate power: to kill and live without restriction, without weakness. Well, Bill claims to know what she is, so lets see if either one of us got it right. Fairy with magical vamp-SPF blood? Yes.

Arlene and Terry

No surprise here considering that I actually broke down what would happen with Arlene and the pregnancy last week: She freaks out that her baby has “killer blood” and decides to abort it. Still confused as to why she says that when the baby is born Terry will be “blown to smithereens“? Is that suppose to be some metaphor for her being a “time bomb”? If so it’s kind of stupid. Either way I’m going to lose mad respect for her if she does this. Does she really think that being a serial killer is inherited? I swear, these hicks sometimes…

Tara and the (brief) return of Franklin

I actually kind of felt bad for her at that rape survival group, but it wasn’t so much Tara that got to me, it was the story that the weirdo new Merlotte’s waitress, Holly, told about her inability to trust people after what happened to her. Tara’s crying scene wasn’t full of screaming and hysterics for once, so the silent and lonely tears that came down her face gave her character a little more dignity than the usual show she puts on. Also, her happiness for Lafayette and Jesus seemed very genuine and I hope it means that she can heal instead of throwing that endless pity party for herself.

Then there was Franklin who had his brains splattered all over Russell’s linens last we heard (as per Talbot last week), yet somehow he survived? Of course they’ll never explain how he survived without anyone at the mansion knowing about it for days. Dumb. For a moment there I thought he would actually kill Tara considering how she seemed to have almost come to peace with things throughout the episode. That’s so typical of a character right before they kill them off… but alas. Also, I really wish it had been Sam who had shot and killed Franklin and not re-re-Jason.

Sam Merlotte

I guess everyone reiterating how much people walk all over him all season finally built up, eh? According to Timmy it was Arlene and everyone else at Merlotte’s. Earlier in the season he was accused of letting his waitresses come in whenever they wanted. but of course its actually Timmy whose walking all over him — and here I thought Sam would finally have a friend. When Sam beat the shit out of Stupid Hungry Hoe’s dad, I was freaking elated. I joined the rest of those fangbanging fans at the bar yelling “Oh shit!” and may have even let out a “hoot”. He beat the man to a bloody pulp and popped a few shirt buttons. Hot!

Eric, Pam, the Vampire Authority and Russell

First things first, even in a J-Lo velour track suit, Pam is the baddest bitch on True Blood. She’s the only character on the show whose Buffy counterpart is not cooler (i.e. Drusilla). Secondly, did anyone else laugh out loud at Russell’s Urn-of-Talbot-Blood? Mind you I was trying to repress that opening scene where Russell crawls around in Talbot-Chunky-Soup but… he actually salvaged it and packed it into a glass urn? Gagggggg!

I’ve been begging for it, you know I have: bring us the social and political ramifications of a world where vampires run free! They’ve failed at actually dealing with the very premise of the show so miserably that I never thought they would actually get back to it having gotten wrapped up in the sex, violence, and pseudo-campiness of it all. Yet here were are with talks of Kings, Queens, Vampire Feds, Authorities, Constitutional Amendments, and live television news broadcasts. What? There’s a vampire world outside of the frequent customers and staff of Merlotte’s?! WHO KNEW!?

I am the true face of vampires! (HBO)

Best choice ever: having Eric tell the Authority the whole truth and them in turn dubbing him as their new 007 mercenary on a covert black ops mission to kill Russel. +++ How will he do it? As Eric says himself, he’s only 1/3 of Russell’s age. I think he’s going to need a little help from his friends! Perhaps a little Sookie blood for Eric to help him drag Russell out into the sunlight, weaken him and kick his ass there. Considering my track record, don’t be surprised if this really goes down in the finale. Shit. SPOILER WARNING?

And now for one of the coolest TV closing monologues ever from, yours truly, the King of Mississippi:

Did I help you decide America? Do NOT turn off the camera!! You’ve seen how quickly I can kill. Ladies and gentleman, my name is Russel Edgington and I’ve been a vampire for nearly 3000 years. Now the American Vampire League wishes to perpetrate the notion that we are just like you and, I suppose, in a few small ways we are: we are narcissists, we can’t leave without getting what we want, no matter what the costs, just like you … Torture and genocide, that’s a small price to pay for your SUVs and your flat screen TVs … Futile, symbols of permanence to quell your quivering, spineless souls. But no, in the end, we are nothing like you. We are [laughs] immortal. Because we drink the true blood. Blood that is living, organic, and human. And that, is the truth the AVL wishes to conceal from you because, lets face it, eating people is a tough sell these days. So they put on their friendly faces to pass their beloved VRA, but make no mistake, MINE IS THE TRUE FACE OF VAMPIRES! Why would we seek equal rights? You… are not… our… equals. We will eat you, after we eat your children! [Smile] Now time for the weather. Tiffany?

Oh yeah… it’s going down, my friends. I’m looking forward Sunday. Equally as much, I’m looking forward to three Sundays from now (when it’s all over).

The Problem with TV McGuffins – Procedurals vs. LOST vs. Battlestar

Chances are you know what a McGuffin is. Even if you’ve never heard the actual term, you’ve probably thought about it or discussed it. Then again, to the passive film and television viewer it may have gone unnoticed, thus proving the magic of the McGuffin itself. Here’s a fabulous little audio clip from my hero, Alfred Hitchcock, and an even more fabulous video to go along with it, which explains the phenomena:

Sigh. Nothing like the Vertigo theme to get your day going, eh? So just in case you’re only further confused, here are a couple of famous film McGuffins:

  • The contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction
  • The meaning of “rosebud” in Citizen Cane
  • Mrs. Thorwald (the missing/murdered wife) in Rear Window
  • Fisher’s inception in Inception

In all these films the characters are obsessed with getting their McGuffin; but really, did it make a difference to you what it was? In the case of Pulp Fiction and Citizen Kane, the McGuffin was a mystery all along. (Lets call these “Mystery McGuffins“.) For all we knew they could have been a can of spam, or a dirty condom… but still we watched. In heist, spy, or thriller flicks like Rear Window and Inception we know exactly what the McGuffin is (these are “Classic McGuffins”), but just the same we could have replaced the story of missing wife with the story of a missing child (Rear Window), or an inception to be directed at a suicidal young heiress who was going to give up her fortune to an evil uncle instead of Fisher (Inception)… and again, we still would have watched! Why? Because while the characters may think that thing is so important, we’re busy thinking that they are what’s important. We care that they get “it” but we don’t care what “it” is.

Okay, so what about McGuffins in television? Where are they?

In procedurals, the McGuffin is always the case-of-the-week. On House, we tune in to see how Dr. House and Staff react and interact with each other, with their co-workers, and with the issues surrounding the McGuffin (i.e. the case), but we really don’t care all that much about who did it, why, what it is, or where it came from so long as our characters figure it out. Procedurals are built on the whole concept of the Classic McGuffin with a new one showing up in every episode! Generally, they function fabulously and the show can last for 5+ years so long as there’s a new McGuffin every week and the characters remain consistent and entertaining.

But what about serialized McGuffins on serialized shows? You know, the Mystery McGuffin that year after year the characters have still learned next to nothing about. And along with them, neither has the audience! I searched deep into my memory to recall some over-arcing, multi-season, serialized Mystery McGuffins and found these:

  • Rambaldi on Alias
  • Laura Palmer’s murderer on Twin Peaks
  • The mother on How I Met Your Mother
  • The island on LOST
  • The myth of Earth on Battlestar Gallactica

Now some of you may be thinking: “Hold on, I care about who the mother is on HIMYM! I cared about what the island was on LOST! I was dying to find out what ‘Earth’ would look like on BSG! These aren’t McGuffins. They are plot!” And, yes, I see your point, but here’s where the problem lies… if the answer to what the Mystery McGuffin is is anything less than perfectly satisfactory by the series end, then it loses its credibility as plot and was simply a McGuffin all along! It was fluff. It was stuffing to fill in for the character’s motivation. This would be fine if the series treated the McGuffin with the careful distance with which it should, but to make an audience think that the McGuffin is anything more than a McGuffin is just wrong. Just as in the Hitchcock’s story, as soon as the second man on the train realizes that “there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands“, and the contents of the McGuffin are not what we theorized they might be at all, what it is becomes totally meaningless. So, when a series turns their Mystery McGuffin into part of the plot which affects the characters’ lives and it takes on a life of its own, they better find a way to make sure that there are some lions in those highlands! Either way, creating such a larger-than-life mysterious object of desire runs the danger of becoming an obsession for the audience, not just for the characters. Why a ‘danger’, you ask? Because while the mystery may work on film for an hour or two, the time investment and emotional investment put into a serialized television show (especially a drama) can easily create a situation in which the audience will care more about the McGuffin than the characters and their relationships, and this should never be the case. Caring about “it” is a job that must always be left primarily  up to the characters themselves! Can you see where I’m going with this?

Credit Unknown

LOST – Year after year we watched a show in which what the characters wanted became the same thing that we wanted: to know what the Island was. Actually, I regress, most of them just wanted to get off. It was us that wanted to know what it was more than anything. Instead of rooting for them to get off and to grow and change, we wanted answers about the McGuffin. What ended up happening was that a show which had such beautiful characters, tremendous acting, heartbreaking stories, and moving relationships in its early seasons, began to build so heavily and unnecessarily around its Mystery McGuffin (“the Island”) that the audience began to lose their initial connection to the characters and stories. (Of course, adding 10 new Losties every season didn’t help in strengthening our connections with existing characters either, but hey, that’s a different bone to pick.) If you’ve never read the Alan Sepinwall Interview with Lindelof and Cuse which came out the week before the series finale, I suggest you do. In it, the LOST showrunners claim that their show has always been about characters first and that the finale will resonate to that. Indeed the finale did go back to the characters stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as an episode (tears and all!) but to claim that the show always put these characters as its focus, and not the Island, upsets me in ways I can’t even explain because its simply not true! They certainly may have wanted to do that but unfortunately they failed by creating the fluffiest and most complicated Mystery McGuffin ever put to film.

Battlestar Gallactica –  If you ever get a chance, read the BSG Bible by Ronald D. Moore. It’s a fascinating guideline on how to create a serialized drama without getting lost (inadvertent pun!) in the meaningless details of ‘coolness’. Time and time again Moore repeats how important the characters are and how the story is about them and their reactions and how vital it was to keep them flawed but real above all else. This series too was built around a Mystery McGuffin: the myth of planet Earth. It was that thing that that the entire fleet was looking for, the thing which kept their hopes alive, which kept them going despite death and chaos biting at their heels and plaguing their memories. Let’s think for a moment, though, when you talked about BSG then, or when you talk about it now, how often do you talk about the need to reach Earth and what it was and whether it was real and who was there and how it all happened? Pretty often, perhaps? Good, because it was important, as it should be with such a heavily serialized and mythological series. But nonetheless, while watching an episode, reaching Earth was a question which lingered in the back of our minds, meanwhile the conflict of each episode or each season was what kept us going. In my very humble opinion, this is a point under which LOST failed and Battlestar Gallactica played it just right.

How can we tell? While there are always going to be people who were disappointed in the way that both of these shows ended (and we all know there are plenty of angry fans in both corners), a less than satisfactory answer to the mystery of the Island in LOST is significantly worse than a less than satisfactory answer to the mystery of Earth in BSG because the myth of Earth remained as much of a McGuffin as possible, while the Island grew to pseudo-plot of epic proportions. If Hitchcock could retell his McGuffin allegory for LOST, the package wouldn’t be above the man’s head, it would be sitting smack dab in the middle of the room in a box covered with the words “DANGER. BEWARE. SECRET”. It makes for a much more tension-filled story, perhaps, but by the time the second passenger gets the nerve to ask about it, the thing has grown to such a size that it has taken over the entire train car and he can’t even see past it. The poor man has to sit on the longest train ride of his life, staring at the thing, and wait to arrive at his destination in order to be able to ask the man sitting across from him what was inside it all along, at which point anything he had made up in his mind about what it was, was far more interesting than the answer he got.

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