Thursday, September 8, 2011

True Blood - Seeing and Being

I should just go ahead and stop being surprised at myself for watching True Blood, the HBO vampire drama; after almost four seasons without missing an episode, it's evident that something in its mix of melodrama and titillation is working for me. We are no better than the choices we actually make, like it or not. Here's Alyssa Rosenberg discussing the penultimate episode of the current season:
Alcide’s efforts to stay with Debbie have been one of the most consistently-rendered storylines this season, each time bringing Alcide closer and closer to his limits. First, he’s joining a new pack, even if he’s not particularly comfortable with the people in it, as a way to try to help Debbie stay clean. He’s resisting Sookie, even though she might be an easier partner. And he’s stood by Marcus up to the point when it became clear that his packmaster wasn’t man enough to do his own fighting, much less enough wolf. But Debbie’s infidelity, her role in stealing someone else’s child, are too much, and True Blood made us feel the force of Alcide’s ritual without explaining it into the ground.
No, Alcide's efforts to stay with Debbie have been dull to watch and baffling to understand, notwithstanding the relentless consistency with which they've been presented. Or to put that ever more gently: the story so far has given viewers no basis for believing, relating to, or comprehending Alcide's attachment to Debbie, and thus their parting made for meager drama whose only reward might be -- let us pray fervently to the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- the departure of Debbie from the show. That's almost certainly too optimistic. As with so much that has crossed the True Blood screen this season, Alcide's renunciation of Debbie seems designed only to set up a(n arguably) more interesting plot development later on, which, again judging from the course of the season to date, may never actually materialize. Did I mention I watch this program with the same regularity I watch programs I truly like? I do. I don't know why.

Also: for all the histrionics about the "stolen child," in the cited comment and in the episode, it's worth noting that the werewolf man is "stealing" his own daughter by not having her at the expected place within a few hours of the expected time; and even if this qualifies as "stealing" -- and I do, by the way, readily concede that parents can and do kidnap their own children -- he has done a horrendous job of it by secreting her away to the home of Debbie, which is also the home of Alcide, or in other words, roughly the shittiest imaginable hiding place. He didn't even change her clothes or paint a fake mustache on her! His child abduction skills are clearly as weak as his fighting skills.

Alyssa continues:
Without being a prude, it’s increasingly tiresome to hear Lafayette call every woman in hearing a bitch, as in, “Marnie just puked that bitch out,” when Antonia frees herself of Marnie; this is beyond a linguistic tick that expresses Lafayette’s simultaneous identification with and distance from women. It’s just lazy.
It is lazy and tiresome, this overuse of "bitch" and similar slurs by the otherwise welcome character of Lafayette, who breathes life into all his scenes and fits exactly into a twitty melodrama. Not all anti-woman slurs are equal, however:
Ditto for Pam’s appalled reaction to the idea that Eric and Bill would “put your entire species at risk for a gash in a sundress,” which is both sexually nasty and not deeply perceptive ... Pam’s been through a lot this season, so I understand that she’s a little tetchy, but it’s sort of inconsistent to see her get all hair-triggery on Marnie and then pause to pluck a fallen comrade’s Cartier necklace off her soon-to-be-destroyed neck.
Ditto not. True, "a gash in a sundress" is rough, nasty talk, but it works here not only because Pam doesn't use it regularly but also because it so perfectly manifests Pam's gift for cutting through the show's ambient earnestness with sarcasm, detachment, wit, and world-weariness. Wouldn't vampires, of all para-people, be entitled to a little world-weariness after a few hundred years of observing the monotonous ebbs and flows of human life?

For some reason, I am sure I will be watching as season four closes on Sunday evening, whereupon I'll find out along with millions of others how assorted narrative threads are tied up or left ungathered: the fairy versus witch dynamic that began the season before vanishing completely; the excessive time spent watching Jason nurture, impregnate, and escape from panther-morph hillbillies; the burgeoning conflict between the wolfpack and the Alcide-Sam power duo; speaking of power duos, the Marnie-Antonia witch team that just can't possibly be finished given the matter-of-fact manner of their departures; and the messy vampire politics that are sure to get messier now that Erik is the real Erik, Bill is king, and The Authority -- whatever that's supposed to be -- is wary of both. None of which even gets to what the program has endeavored to place at the center of the season, the love triangle formed by Erik, Bill, and Sookie, which is suddenly tinged with more of Pam's resentment than ever and -- let us not forget -- darkened by the threat of a certain former vampire king who is alive but presently encased in silver and concrete at the edge of town.

It's all quite a tangle.

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