Call me crazy, but I'm liking this season of True Blood more than the previous two. It's a bit early to tell whether it will ultimately trump the others, but it just feels, I don't know... tighter? More focused? Only Sam's storyline with his family seems really tangential; everything else connects to something. And True Blood seems to have found a great balance between campiness and nearly-legitimate drama.
But what's really showing through this season is the cast of new characters, particularly those on the vampire side. I've already professed ultimate fandom for Franklin, who continues to be the baddest undead psychopath ever. He easily holds the crown for Best Scene Involving Speed Text-Messaging. He's hilarious and absolutely insane, and reminds me of why I screen my calls. He's exactly the kind of person you hope doesn't invite you out for beers; when he does, you agree to meet him for some reason, then end up in jail (or worse) and at the end of the day, look back on it and realize you had a great time. I hate those kinds of people almost as much as I love them.
But the man who really shone in last night's "Trouble" was Russell Edgington, Mississippi's vampire king. It took a few episodes, but actor Denis O'Hare (Milk) has comfortably slipped into the skin of this scheming royal bloodsucker, and he's becoming quite the scene-stealer.
And that's what keeps True Blood so fresh. It's other characters coming to the top. Eric used to be the show's main attraction, but now he's happily stepped to the side to let others take the spotlight, and the show is better for it. You'd never see stuff like this happen on Grey's Anatomy without some gossip polluting the internet.
"Trouble" was also struck by Cupid (either that or Merlotte's had oysters and champagne on sale), because love was in the air for almost every character. Tara and Franklin reached a boiling point, with Franklin proposing to Tara (how can she refuse?). Lafayette and Jesus had one of the more adorable and honest exchanges the show has seen. And big props to Nelsan Ellis for playing that first scene perfectly. Jason is making eyes at the mysterious Crystal with the mysterious secret, Terry is ga-ga over pregnant-with-someone-else's-baby Arlene, Hoyt is using someone (The Big Bang Theory's up-and-coming Melissa Rauch) to make Jessica jealous, Jessica might end up falling into the arms of Tommy, Russell's "cleaning lady" is eying Eric like a popsicle on a summer day, and Sookie and her pokies look like they're ready for everyone, thanks to that tight yellow shirt of hers.
Obviously all these budding relationships can't end Happily Ever After, but which ones do you think have legs? And which ones will end with one or more parties dead/undead/crying?
As for plot and storyline (for those of you interested in 'em), things are getting juicy and ready to explode like a sausage pushing the limits of its casing on a BBQ grill (I BBQ'd yesterday). Russell is after Sookie for some reason, and we finally got an idea why. He knows she's special, and when she shot off that Street Fighter II fireball thingy at the end of "Trouble," he seemed nothing but thrilled. We've seen Sookie's blue blast before, but we still don't know what it is. Well, those of us who haven't read the books don't know what it is. Theories?
Other Bloody Good Notes:... Franklin: "Who made you cry? I'll kill him!" Now that's a good boyfriend.
... Sam and Tommy chillin', drinking beers and watching nature showswhat a perfect evening in for shapeshifting brothers.
... This episode has some really great shotsit was a beautiful segment. Jason and Crystal's walk by the lake, all the shots of Franklin... it was just a really good-looking episode.
... More classic Jason Stackhouse with his shirtless Sheriff routine.
... I still have yet to form a real opinion on Alcide. He's just sort of... there. I'm sure I'll come around to him, but so far he's pretty vanilla for a badass werewolf.
Bonus Link!Here's more proof that True Blood fans, while still passionate, aren't as wacky as Twilight fans: An interview with a True Blood superfan.
True Blood Power RankingsWhere I rank this season's episodes of True Blood.
"Trouble": Even though it had little sex and no blood, I still liked this episode quite a bit. I know, shocker, right? But the one thing that "Trouble" had going for it was fantastic pacing, zero dull moments, and some great work by director Scott Winant and writer Nancy Oliver. It was an episode that I couldn't keep my eyes off of. The most polished episode of the season to date, and easily rewatchable. Really, the last four episode have all been great. But "Trouble" just barely takes the top.
1. "Trouble" Ep. 5
Franklin proposes to Tara, Jason meets Crystal, and Sookie shoots blue stuff out of her hands. 2. "It Hurts Me Too" Ep. 3
Where we first meet Alcide and Bill writes a painful new page of the Kama Sutra.
3. "Beautifully Broken" Ep. 2
Where we are introduced to Nazi Werewolves and Bill is recruited by the Vampire King of Mississippi.
4. "9 Crimes" Ep. 4
Where Sookie and Alcide head to Lou Pine's and meet Debbie and the Magister busts Eric for selling V.
5. "Bad Blood" Ep. 1
The season premiere.
True Blood Boob Count!Where I tally the number of scenes in which sets of bare breasts are unnecessarily put on display. Because I can.
Season Total: We came sooooo close to adding one more with Eric's busty redheaded farmhand. She looked like she would have counted as two. Stuck at nine, but the tally of gratuitous shots of shirtless men is somewhere around 48.
Question of the day:Now that they've been around for a while, what do you think of the way that werewolves are being portrayed?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom