Comic-Con 2011: True Blood

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Say what you will about True Blood’s quality—and believe me, I’ll say plenty—but the HBO series does have one of the most attractive casts on television. Past eye candy, however, I’m not sure what Friday’s Comic-Con panel had to offer. Showrunner Alan Ball was vague about, well, everything, and audience questions ranged from the frivolous to the frivolouser.

I’m being a little harsh on True Blood, but I don’t have a lot of kind words for the show this season, and the panel did little to suggest any improvements on what we’ve seen so far. Ball continued to tease upcoming plotlines, without really saying anything. “There will be a moment in the show where Sookie and Eric are together in a shower,” he said. “It may not be exactly what happens in the books. It may be weirder and dirtier. Maybe.”

I’m of the mindset that Comic-Con panels should not give too much away, because I think spoilers kill much of the fun. But the True Blood panel was almost all a rehash of things we know already, coupled with the increasingly annoying responses from Ball. (A lot of stuff will happen in Season 5. Good to know!) OK, here’s another tidbit from him: “I believe this year … we are going to see spirits without bodies, whether you want to call them ghosts or not.” Great, because there’s not enough going on as it is.

Enough negativity: for me, the standout of the panel was Anna Paquin, who fielded all her questions with dignity and intelligence. When asked about the two sides to Sookie, she reflected, “I feel like there’s part of her that’s this very sweet and innocent little girl, and then there’s a part of her that has dirty vampire sex on a regular basis.” Later, to explain why we’ve seen less of Sookie’s mind reading, she said, “I think that as Sookie gets more in charge of her own life, she also seems to be more in control of her powers in general. She does still read minds—we just don’t always hear about it.”

I’ll also give kudos to Rutina Wesley for her wonderful assessment of Tara as a queer character. “I personally don’t like labels, so I sort of think Tara was kind of sideswiped and kind of fell in love,” she offered.

I also thought Alexander Skarsgard did well, particularly when he was tasked with answering a whole mess of fan questions about how dreamy he is. In my mind, he and Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam) are True Blood’s real stars—and they were both a lot of fun on the panel, opening up far more than their characters ever do.

“I think both of us, or both of our characters, are kind of uncomfortable showing that vulnerability,” Skarsgard noted. “So they kind of keep that—it’s not until Eric gets amnesia that you see that vulnerability.”

Bauer van Straten followed that up with, “[Pam’s] only been vulnerable about her maker, Eric, and now losing her face,” a reference to Marnie’s mangling of Pam’s features in the most recent episode.

But OK, I lied about there being enough negativity, because I haven’t yet mentioned the panel’s most galling moment. When asked about his favorite scene this season, Ball chimed in with the ritualized gang rape of Jason by the women of Hotshot. Ryan Kwanten, who plays Jason, agreed—and so did the audience, if their laughter was any indication. Whether or not Ball and Kwanten were joking, this is another instance of True Blood not taking the subject of sexual violence seriously.

I’m not offended by much, and I enjoy the way series like True Blood push the envelope in terms of what we can see on television. I just don’t see the fun in a character being bound, drugged, and forced to have sex with a series of women—both unconscious and against his will. If that’s a story you want to tell, fine, but don’t laugh it off. While True Blood was once a campy show I enjoyed, it has become a series that takes itself too seriously except when it comes to anything that actually matters. True Blood fans, forgive me: the show has fallen far out of my favor.

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