True Blood's Season 5 Premiere: Turn This Mother Out

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True Blood S05E01: "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

There are few televised experiences that transport me more thoroughly off my futon than taking in True Blood, and last night I breathed the swamp air, I felt the damp chill of a storage container, and I was hungry like the wolf.

Last year the Season 4 premiere threw the characters and action forward a year; last night the Season 5 opener literally backtracked to a few minutes before the end of last season's finale. Alan Ball, in his last season running HBO's best dramedy clearly does not intend to waste a minute of time unfolding the fates of his characters and dismantling the love triangle that's so long been the heart of the series.

A ton of silver was thrown onto the True Blood love triangle last night, literally and figuratively. We saw Eric and Bill resist Sookie's distress as they cleaned Nan Flanagan off the floor, and when Bill caved he and Eric were netted by the Authority and thrown into the trunk of a car like two hunky bags of sexy potatoes. These two are seriously turning into a pair of buddy cops out of Lethal Weapon 4, bantering suavely no matter how threatened their lives are or how deep the burn waffle pattern is seared into their faces (the supercut of face burns on this show would probably run 15 minutes). When Eric and Bill ingeniously blew up the car, they revealed another vampire was in play both in their plans for escape in and in the emotional landscape of the show: Eric's foxy "sister" Nora (Lucy Griffiths), who'd arranged to Vampire Underground Railroad our favorite nerd king and vanilla stallion out of Louisiana.

And in the moment Eric placed his tongue 24 inches down her gullet, it was clear that those of us who read the Southern Vampire Mysteries are going to have to mentally unmarry ourselves from the source material's interpretation of Eric's undying love for Sookie, and accept that Alan Ball is moving focus away from a lovelorn threesome in the interest of making the most of the phalanx of amazing characters he's built. He wants to give all his favorite characters a proper season before he says goodbye to the series, and it seems he's quite fed up worrying about Sookie's boy troubles.

So while Sookie was picking brains off her linoleum, Eric was banging his sister wildly in a clammy tin box down by the docks. Is there anything sexier than doin' it in a storage container? Maybe foreplay in a dumpster, filled with dirty cheese graters.

Up until now, Sookie really has had very little to do outside of worry about Bill and Eric (except for dalliances with werewolves and the disposal of bodies) Her first day as a single woman certainly didn't seem like a fun one, burying Tara alongside a begrudging Pam (who hilariously went to ground in running shoes and a yellow Wal-Mart sweatsuit with a picture of a kitten on it) in an attempt to resurrect Tara as a vampire. Pam's warning that Tara might rise from the ground "f-cktarded" made me immediately jealous of Tara's situation.

Having Pam as your maker (that's vampire for mom) would seriously be the best life, ever. Tara's storyline went from constantly sucking to being the most promising one in the bunch the moment Pam's blood hit her mouth, even if bath-salts Tara tackled Sookie immediately after the vampire juices fully kicked in (I have no doubt she's furious/partly brain-'sploded and rageful, but also Sookie and Tara fight in EVERY season premiere so really Tara's zombie tackle was just tradition.)

Despite Sookie's terrible, awful, no-good, very bad first day of being single and having to bleach blood off her kitchen floor for what is seriously the seventh or eighth time in the series, her problems still pale in comparison next to Lafayette's.

In every person's life there hides a day of despair, a day that will push you momentarily past hope and to the very limits of your human endurance. And chances are you will spend that day looking hilarious. What True Blood does that no other show about supernatural creatures manages or bothers to do is embed recognizable, authentic life moments in its ludicrous fantasy storyline. Something about Lafayette's dirty-kneed pajama pants, puzzling hoody and Basquiat-inspired hairdo really struck a chord. He was clearly crawling through the worst day of his life, reflecting on the memories of killing Jesus while possessed and confronting life without his partner and BFF cousin. Nelson Ellis got several standalone moments to show us all that he is seriously the best cowboy at the emotional rodeo and also a kind of chillingly authentic moment that proved he wasn't down and out yet—after we saw him despairingly glance at a Bic razor in the tub, he emerged a few scenes later with his ridiculous little toque of a wiglet shaved from his head. Reclaiming control over his appearance is symbolic of him regaining control of his life, and it was well handled.

This authenticity of emotion is even more fun when it comes from a vampire: Steve Newlin's amazing coming-out scene with Jason was one of the better treatises on how people would probably use newly-attained vampire powers. Like a baby vampire using his glamour power to get his crush to hear him out? Yes. That is such an endearingly relatable and yet "noob" move. And Jason certainly got one of the better-penned responses to an unrequited crush I've heard on TV. (Lead with gratitude, close with clarity. Do not ask for a loan. Do not ask for a back rub.)

More authenticity: Jason and Jessica's awkward negotiation of their relationship and Jason's continued march toward maturity. Jessica declared Jason "MINE" to prevent Steve Newlin from coveting Jason's carb-starved body, and the ensuing confusion over their relationship status is feels very real. Jessica is behaving like a tenth-grade dork who suddenly finds herself body-switched with the most popular girl in school, putting streaks in her hair and playing Rock Band.

And for Jason, whose recurring theme has been the loss of identity after his high school life came to a close, the combination of Jessica's youthful escapades and power to protect him makes her just that much more appealing and yet just that much more inaccessible. It feels real, is what I'm saying about this relationship, and these actors are killing it, even if Ryan Kwanten seriously looks like his body acids are eating through what's left of his .000017% body fat, painfully, in every scene. You are taking "looking fit" to a painful place, Ryan Kwanten.

Do I really have to talk about the werewolves and the shifters? Okay fine. The werewolves: If True Blood's vampires are a thinly veiled metaphor for being gay in America, then the werewolves are an even more blatant metaphor for meth addicts, and they are the worst. Like, they want to honor their fallen pack leader so hard they might KILL HIS ONLY CHILD to do it? That makes sense.

Sam Merlotte was jumping at the chance to get his shirt off and be tortured by them for information, as he clearly spent the off-season in the HBO Gym, the Bowflex machines gathered into a circle-the-wagons formation as he and Hoyt and Eric and Jason and Christopher Meloni mad-dogged each other and pumped iron, the smell of protein-powder farts blanketing the room. Sam, your pecs look great but you still have the most boring storyline ever, spending almost every scene across from a grip of extras we don't care about, threatening to turn into an owl.

And it all led to the lady from Winter's Bone morphing into a wolf to eat her son's dead body (not the same actress, but the exact same character). Do I find that shocking? Frankly no, if anything it seems kind of resourceful? Have fun. Or kill Sam, or whatever, yawn.

Terry: Are you a firestarter? Time will tell I guess. Todd Lowe is one of my favorite actors so please, give him something juicy to do this season.

This premiere re-ignited all my old anxieties over my beloved True Blood characters, characters I have fretted happily about for years. While it appears this will certainly be a hard season for Sookie, almost every other character on the show has been given better things to do. Eric and Bill have a spy novel to star in, Lafayette's life has turned into a gripping Greek tragedy, Tara will get to buddy up with my beloved Pam, the shifters and werewolveszzzzzz. If Alan Ball is excising the love triangle from this season, I have every confidence he'll ensure we don't feel its absence too harshly. But it seems like Sookie will.

QUESTIONS:

1. What is going on with Terry?

2. Is Pam your ideal maker, or Bill, or Eric, or...?

3. Did you find yourself immediately liking Nora/Lucy Griffiths?

4. Are the muscles on this show getting a little embarrassing? Like, does ANYONE in the South actually look like this?!

5. Are you excited for the focus to drift from the Eric-Sookie-Bill love triangle, or do you need the core romance to enjoy the series?

6. What was your favorite part of the premiere?

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