UF / PR

True Blood season 6: reflections on Vamp Camp and camp vamps

In no particular order and SPOILER-FILLED!

 

1. First prediction: Jason is soooo infected with HepV. See you, Violet. Nice barely knowing you. Which is great, because if Jason were female, I doubt anyone would be too comfortable seeing this former gang-rape victim (which they did, I will admit, remember to shadow nicely when Violet first started munching on him) go on to be essentially held  as sexy-food prisoner by a vampire; develop a weird variation of vampire Stockholm Syndrome and embrace his new role as lunch; and then continue on in this relationship where he spends night after night performing sex acts on his lover with no mutual benefit or reciprocal lovin’. That, my friends, is a pretty abusive relationship.

Okay… So for Jason, Voted Least Likely To Keep It In His Pants six seasons running, it is a very punitive introduction to monogamy, and maybe just a TEENY bit of karma. But I’m not about to pull the whole “they deserve being treated badly” card. Hopefully Violet’s brand of crazy encourages Jason to realise that extreme jealousy and monogamy is bad, but hey, so is breaking hearts all over town.

All that said, Violet’s baroque basement bedroom was fantastic and I want one. Really.

 

 2. Warlow, Warlow, Warlow. What happened to you?

First we thought you were going to be a terrible, boring villain. Oh no, a beardy dreadlocked vampire that killed Sookie and Jason’s parents! Snore. But then you turned out to be kind of fantastic. I mean, we all knew from the start that having Sookie stumble on a handsome, wounded fairy man in the bushes was just too good to be true. But you had this whole tortured immortal thing going on – your own side of the story to tell, a fraught and misunderstood past, semi-heroic deeds, even a role in the vampire bible! You were a character constantly at internal war, your good side struggling against bad, fairy light succumbing to vampiric bloodlust.

And hey, you were kind of handsome after all and maybe all you needed was the love of a good woman just to – yeah, we figured that probably wasn’t going to work out.  I mean, you tried to kidnap Sookie as a child, killed her parents, were giving off stalker-love vibes visible from probably outer space, AND you murdered a whole cabaret club full of fairies. But it was disappointing, so disappointing, that instead of some evil master plan, instead of probing the potential of your fraught fairy-vampire psychology, you decided you’d just be a DICK and then hey, you died. And who killed you? JASON. It would have been so much more gratifying to see Sookie take charge and save herself here, but I guess the writers didn’t want her to lose her fairy powers.

 

3. Speaking of fairy powers: yay, Rutger Hauer! I was really hoping to see Niall return.. Hauer was kooky and great in the early episodes, and his pride in Sookie and barely-concealed disdain for Jason were very enjoyable to watch. Which is why it was so sad to see him get manhandled through a fairy portal in episode 4, scarcely to be mentioned ever again. I thought it was fitting that he would return to help save the day, and it was nicely contrived to stage the final Warlow throw-down in Sookie’s bathroom with its already-established interdimensional portal.  Here’s hoping we get more Rutger Hauer  in season seven. For one thing, his name is just fun to say. Rutger Hauer. RUTGER HAUER.

 

 4. You know who else better be in season seven? ERIC. I’m sorry, but a midwinter wiener roast is far too ignominious a death scene for everyone’s favourite Viking vampire. Not that it wasn’t appreciated: the internet is currently abuzz with the glee of seeing his Nordic penis frolicking in its natural habitat of the tundra. Abuzz!

Nudity on True Blood is nothing new, but there have been quite a lot of boobs this season. And every other season. They’re pretty good about showing partially naked men, but it’s still nice that they finally went there – you know, went there to the male genitals. To Eric’s male genitals, specifically. Titillation! Or should that be peen-ilation? I don’t know.

I wouldn’t believe Eric was dead, and that disbelief was quickly vindicated when Brian Buckner, the new showrunner for True Blood, gave an a series of interviews confirming as such (e.g. here) . Hashtag: #EricLives!

Yeah, I could see why Skarsgard might want to leave the show: he was fantastic in What Maisie Knew and his film career rightly should be taking off. But the show-runners know that letting him leave would be the real vampire-suicide for True Blood. Eric is the biggest fan-favourite character – with both its male and female demographics. (I make this comment based entirely on the observational and anecdotal evidence of the loud people on the internet.) He’s a badass with great lines and he gets to do all the things the “nice guy” characters never can. In fact, he gets to do them with such a sense of charming mischievousness, he’s still totally likable. We love Eric, even in that hilarious Vampire Lestat wig they put him in circa episode 7.

Eric is so awesome that dudes want to high five him, and ladies want to swoon in his strong, muscular arms. Hell, I want to high five him while swooning in his arms, except they’re busy holding me up, so he doesn’t have hands left to high five with. What’s a girl to do?

Anyway, letting Skarsgard go would be a terrible, terrible mistake for the series. Not to mention, when does True Blood ever let a vampire die without lovingly, caressingly showing us in close-up as it dissolves into a puddle of gorey goo?

 

5. Eric is a terrible vampire saviour though. Sure, he charged off all ready to free everyone from vamp camp last season, but did he actually save anyone? Nope. He massacred a bunch of humans, let a swathe of HepV infected GenPoppers free into the world, and arrived slightly too late to save all his beloved friends while Bill thoughtfully fed them his blood so they wouldn’t die. Then he went naked sunbathing. Great rescuing, Eric. Enjoy your rewarding Swedish holiday!

 

6. Speaking of the GenPoppers, where the hell did all those extra picnic-party vampires come from? There just weren’t that many of them in the Big Round White Room at vamp camp. And I was very turned off by the way the rescued vampires were all trippin’ ballz on their escape from vamp camp in episode 9.

Didn’t we get enough tediously high vampires in season five? It’s so obnoxious. I can’t decide if I liked their vampire picnic or not, though reviewers seem pretty enthused about it (see, for example, Vulture’s too-effusive finale review). Apparently vampires have odd ideas about “things humans do outside in the sun”? I just can’t decide whether this scene was so off in a brilliant way, because these vampires running around in House of Tah-jet just don’t know how humans act any more… Or whether it was off simply because it was a little too contrived.

I did like seeing the vampires Charleston (or whatever) with delight, and also Violet in a purple t shirt with violets on it. Vampires – they’re so LITERAL.

 

7. Who has HepV, anyway? Let’s get back to point one about Jason. My money is on Violet and Jason. Doesn’t anyone else remember that part of Jason’s induction to the LAVTF? You know… The part where they injected him with a big ol’ needle of yellow liquid? A big ol’ needle of yellow liquid suspiciously similar to the one they soon administered to poor, goo-destined Nora?  (Who presumably had to die this season from a case of a terminally terrible wig.) Some people think that was just a microchip, but I say, why not kill two vampires with one shot? Plus, Jason being infected takes care of the Violet problem, and also presents a tragic angle if Jason and Jessica ever want to get back together because, sob!, she could never feed on him again.

I was also very concerned for Tara for a while, because let’s face it, Lettie Mae is as crazy as a bag full of cats being shaken by Jesus. But Buckner also commented in the above interview that there is no way Tara’s mother is deliberately infecting her. So… Phew! Tara is so much more likeable now that she’s a vampire. It gives her an appropriate outlet for her rage.

 

8. Soooo HepV is the new AIDS. I had kind of thought that vampire narratives were done with exploring the whole AIDs-parallel after all the time they spent on it in the late 80s and early 90s, but it looks like I was dead – haha, DEAD, get it, because they’re vampires – wrong. Let’s all get tested because anyone not in a monogamous relationship is at risk! Analogy crystal clear to all!

By the way, people of the internet, please stop confusing the Hep D from season one with this season’s government-manufactured Hep V. They are different things.

 

9. And let’s deal with those roaming hoards of HepV infected vampires for a minute, shall we? I don’t buy what Buckner claims on that one, because zombies much?

Vampire zombies are kind of the rage these days – see: I am Legend, 30 Days of Night, Stakeland, The Passage and The Twelve, the Strain trilogy. Vampires in these texts act much more like zombies than vampires in a number of ways: they’re hideous in appearance, much more Nosferatu than Angel or Damon or Eric; they roam wasteland-ish societies in search of human prey; they’re entirely ruled by insatiable hunger; and they physically corrupt others with their bite. They’re the most undead of the undead. I suppose these narratives restore the contaminative side of vampirism, which was very prevalent in Dracula, to the contemporary vampire narrative. And vampire-zombies are perfect for new, Frankensteinian nightmare narratives about laboratory tests gone wrong and military experiments gone even-wronger. Gee, the post-9/11 world sure is scary. Especially with all these walking dead people in it!

Aaaand zombies on their own are at the peak of their game right now (The Walking Dead, Resident Evil: Retribution, World War Z and Warm Bodies to name just a few recent titles), as are apocalypse and dystopian narratives (from 2011-2013 on the screen – Melancholia, Contagion, The Hunger Games, Red Dawn, Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, Oblivion, the Host, After Earth, This Is The End, and The World’s End). So it makes sense that True Blood would want to experiment with both these concept, and I’m interested to see what they’re gonna do with it. But I’m worried they’re losing originality by it. The stakes – HAHA, STAKES – okay, I’m sorry – are pretty high.

It does make their oh-ho-so-meta joke from the season 4 finale a whoooooole lot less funny. Remember when Arlene quipped “Zombies are the new vampires, didn’t you know that?” at Sookie? It seemed to imply that True Blood was delightfully self-aware of shifts in its own paranormal genre, and no, they wouldn’t be going there, because they’d just be shilling to the current trends! Because this is a show about vampires! And they have tonnes of vampire ideas! I guess they ran out of other vampire ideas.

 

10. However, I do like how they’ve set up two options for the characters of True Blood: willing vampire-human symbiosis, or apocalyptic annihilation from zombie-vampires. These two options are pretty much the bifurcated backbone for my doctoral thesis in terms of where the vampire genre is at post-2000. So thanks, True Blood, for providing such easy evidence on that one!

 

11. Terry died, etc. I am glad they are losing the dead weight from the godawful boring subplots we’ve all been complaining about online (Ifrit? Who gives a shit?). But did they have to literally KILL some of those suplots? Terry was a wonderful member of the True Blood cast, so frequently funny, off-beat and sweet. I will miss him and his love of armadillos… But I won’t miss his time-consuming and politically overwrought storyline.

 

12. Wonderful this season: Pam, Jessica, Lafayette, Andy. I don’t know if I can handle my newfound respect for Andy Bellefleur as a character. Remember when he talked to that pig? Oh-ho, good times. I thought Jessica’s performance this entire season was amazingly heartfelt and touching, and I think in a lot of ways she’s the very soul of the humanized vampire in this show.  I was scared they might kill her off after that teeny little fairy-munching incident. And Pam and Lafayette, well… Who needs to even talk about them? They’re too fabulous for words, honestly. I would love to see a reality tv show where together Pam and Lafayette give people style tips, make-overs and sassy life advice. It sounds like about the best thing I could ever watch on tv.

 

13. Also fabulous: this season’s soundtrack! I always enjoy the True Blood soundtrack, which is unfailingly used to highlight not just the plot but also the emotional and political scope of each episode. Ideally that’s what all soundtracks do, but True Blood is particularly playful with theirs. And I particularly enjoyed this season’s end-credits songs, which ranged from native Louisianan Micky Ekko, New Zealand band The Naked and the Famous (go kiwis!), Etta Jame’s classic “At Last,” and Peaches’ angry female rap “Fuck the Pain Away,” some Led freakin’ Zeppelin, and, of course, recent massive hit “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. HBO, hurry up and put these on a soundtrack, and then shut up and take my money.

 

14. Surprisingly Not Awful this season: Bill. I have hated Bill since season two. Last season I genuinely wanted him to JUST DIE ALREADY and I had a brief moment of morbid ecstasy when I thought that ingesting all Lillith’s blood had actually done it. Nope. I was almost turned around just because somebody coined the term “Billith” and boy, that kept me laughing for a while.  Entirely surprisingly, in season six Bill turned out to be far more awesome and complex as a vampire-superhero than a vampire-villain. His character trajectory this season was really interesting, and I was actually kind of pleased when he didn’t die.

It has to be said though, that as the saviour of all vampire-kind, he is distinctly lacking in actual saviour-like achievements. He saved a handful of his friends locked in a room (which, by the way, he presumably could have done just by opening the freaking door). Woo hoo!  Good one, Bill! But what about all those other vampires now infected with HepV? Bill’s story arc was clearly set up as a redemptive journey from from selfish villain to self-sacrificing hero, but did he actually follow through on any of that? He was willing to sacrifice many others to Lilith’s plans (the fairy girls; Sookie), survived through the whole thing himself, and SERIOUSLY? He’s just back to normal now? Just like that? To quote the Bluth family, COME ON!

Unhappily, for Bill “normal” is an emo-laden state of pining for Sookie, and I just don’t care for that. Sorry, Bill.

Thank god Sookie seems to finally have learned not to trust him. Please don’t go back there, True Blood. PLEASE? No more Bookie or Sill or whatever their stupid couple name is. Yeah, we all know they’ll go back there. Sigh.

 

15. The timeskip. Ah… A big shrug and whatever? A lot of reviewers seem enraged by this. I don’t know why everyone was so surprised, because there were a few promo interviews for the finale that already told us it was going to happen. No? You DON’T all read promo interviews between episodes? Just me, then. Well, okay. Maybe I’m desensitised because I knew it was coming. Yeah, yeah, it’s a cheap tactic mostly used for shock value. Sam is the mayor now? Arlene bought Merlotte’s? SOOKIE AND ALCIDE ARE TOGETHER? OH MY G-

Okay, I wasn’t shocked by that one at all. Alcide’s storyline this season was such a hilarious NON-event. All that very growly yet bizarrely boring werewolf business… Just so he could decide to uneventfully NOPE out of his pack? What a waste of my time. But the moment he showed up at Terry’s funeral all clean-looking and handsome and be-wigged for Sookie to cry on his shoulder, I knew that that His Time Had Finally Come.

Image from the io9 recap.

Sookie inviting him on her walk through the cemetery in the finale just cinched it. The writers could NOT possibly more clearly telegraph: hey, Alcide is Sookie’s new love interest. Things are probably about to go bad with Warlow! And you know what? I would actually like to see them happy together next season, at least for a few episodes. Give them both a break for once.

Anyway, I don’t really care about the timeskip. The series has done it before, and it’s nice to change things up.  Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding: we’ll see what they manage to do with it next season. The only thing that made me really mad about it is that they cheated us out of the promised Eric-Jason erotic dream sequence and HOW DARE THEY. Unless maybe naked Eric going up in flames WAS Jason’s dream sequence, but I doubt Jason has the imagination to dream of Eric reading the work of Swedish author Hjalmar Söderberg.

 

16. Are you sick of Sookie’s magical fairy snatch? I’m not!

No, seriously. I’m not. A lot of fans and reviewers online seem to be irrationally angry over Sookie’s prevalence in this series. Oh my god! She’s a woman in her mid-20s and she has had SEVERAL boyfriends! SOMEBODY CALL THE SUPERNATURAL CHASTITY POLICE. Wait…  But she’s only had TWO boyfriends, ever, in her life, before Warlow? Does that one date with Sam even count? Okay, so she made out with Alcide that one time, but she did also puke on his shoes. Three actual boyfriends, now! That has to be more than her fair share, right? SHE’S PRACTICALLY THE WHORE OF BABYLON!

Let’s all complain about her because A) obviously she should be dating MY fan favourite love interest and she’s worthless for not realising how fabulous he really is and/or B) it’s just so terrible that Sookie is making mostly competent male characters waaaay too concerned with the feelings and emotions of a SILLY WOMAN. Haha, that’s ridiculous! Men have More Important Business to attend to than love and feelings and romance and WOMEN! And people who like romance plotlines are obviously silly too because they don’t know what’s Important!

Well, too bad, Sookie-haters. Sookie is a main character. She could be considered the main character, if you’ve read the book series. Deal with it. And you know what? Sookie’s decisions are no dumber than those of anyone else in this series. Most of the time they’re smarter. Sometimes her emotions run away with her – yeah, because no one else on this show EVER gets carried away, huh? (I’m looking at you, fairy-chomping Jessica and one-man-massacre Eric.) Yet somehow when she needs saving, it’s totally unlike when other people need saving, e.g. OH, say, Bill from Lorena, or Tara from Franklin, or Sam from Maryann, or Eric from Marnie, or Jessica and Pam and Jason and Willa from vamp camp!  No, when Sookie needs saving it’s because somehow she’s uniquely useless, right?

Wrong. Sookie is awesome. Sookie is a mind-reading, chain-slinging, serial-killer-killing, maenad-confronting, undercover-infiltrating, werewolf-girl-fighting, shotgun-weilding, witch-hunting, ghost-talking, nuclear-light-bomb-carrying, screaming-scratching-punching, table-waiting BAD ASS.

She is not a “danger whore”: she is a lonely, socially outcast young woman whose world has been turned upside down and she’s desperately trying to connect with others, to find someone she can love and trust. She’s not without problems, but who on this show actually is?

You know what I say, HBO? Ignore those who think it’s crazy that a female character can or should enjoy the attention of more than one male character. Ignore those who think Sookie takes up too much screen time because her romance plotlines are somehow innately less valid, less valuable and less “important” than the manly stab-bite-kill-explode plotlines! Screw everyone who thinks that Sookie and her exploratory romances make this show too “silly,” too “unrealistic,” and worst of all, too “girly.” Go, Sookie! Celebrate and enjoy your fairy snatch!

 

17. Vamp Camp was awesome, by the way. I know not everyone was too sold on its Holocaust parallels, but I thought it was a great foray into the medical macabre. And what better way to suggest the dehumanising influence of failing prison systems than by putting actual non-humans inside and giving us more pity for these literal monsters? If you doubt the deep thought that went into the whole set up, I really recommend the behind-the-scenes Vamp Camp Featurette. Just to sweeten the deal, I’ll tell you right now that it totally references Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon!

 

18. How about that girl fight with Anna Camp as Sarah Newlin? I loved Sarah and Steve this season – the Light of Day Institute was by far the superior storyline in season two and bringing these characters back has delighted me in both season five and six. First, congrats for demonstrating the practical problems involved in being a woman with sexy highheels and still fighting like a badass mofo. This scene was so badass, Anna Camp had to go to the ER for an injury from filming it!

I thought it was a great move to contrast the easy, supernatural violence perpetuated by the vampires with Sarah’s spectacularly brutal murder of a True Blood spokeswoman. The violence on True Blood can all too easily be densensitising and is frequently played for laughs. Sarah’s fight scene was also given the usual humorous True Blood inflection, but it reminded us viewers that in the real world, killing someone is not that easy and can be a whole lot more digusting and scary than a quick, vampire-induced snap to the neck.

 

 19. The season seemed a lot tighter at 10 episodes instead of the usual 12. My preference for good plotting is warring with my desire to watch more True Blood. Which leads me to: can season 7 please be now?

 

 20. WE NEED CROQUET AND VOLLEYBALL. WHO’S MAKING A TARGET RUN?

 

 

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