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TRUE BLOOD: SEASON TWO (HBO)
(Sundays at 9:00/8:00c starting June 14)
The network's description: "In the backwoods Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the mystery surrounding the serial killer has finally been solved. But just as things are settling down, deadly new twists threaten Sookie Stackhouse and everyone around her. TRUE BLOOD kicks off its 12-episode second season SUNDAY, JUNE 14 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, followed by other new episodes of subsequent Sundays at the same time. Mixing romance, suspense, mystery and humor, the show takes place in the not-too-distant future, when vampires have come out of the coffin, thanks to the invention of mass-produced synthetic blood that means they no longer need humans as a nutritional source. The show follows the romance between waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who can hear people's thoughts, and her soul mate, 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Alan Ball (creator of the Emmy-winning HBO series "Six Feet Under") created and executive produces the show, which is based on the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris."
What did they leave out? Let's just say if you thought last season was crazy...
The plot in a nutshell: As is always the case with these types of shows, half the fun is watching the surprises unfold on your own. Last season wrapped as our heroine put a spade in the neck of Rene Lenier (Michael Raymond-James), finally revealed as the killer of her grandmother (and several others). But a host of problems still remain on the horizon for our star-crossed couple: Bill has been forced to sire a teenage girl named Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and must now teach her their ways; Sookie, and her telepathic services, remain indebted to Bill's powerful Sheriff Eric (Alexander Skarsgard); and Andy (Chris Bauer) has discovered another body just outside of Merlotte's. As for the rest of the Bon Temps family: Sookie's brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) took an interest in the anti-vampire church Fellowship of the Sun; Tara (Rutina Wesley) struck up a friendship with the mysterious Maryann (Michelle Forbes) and her fellow houseguest Eggs (Mehcad Brooks); Sookie's boss/backburner love interest Sam (Sam Trammell) panicked over the aforementioned Maryann's arrival in town; and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) disappeared to places unknown. Season two then picks up seconds after last year's finale and nothing will ever be the same.
What works: The show's exploration of vampire culture and mythology remains its strongest asset. While it's certainly not at the forefront, it's always nice to see glimpses of how the vampire hierarchy works and their various customs. Alan Ball and company likewise know how to make cliffhangers and this year is no exception as there's more than a few game changing, completely out of left field moments. I'm also surprised by how quickly the show has amped up the crazy, so much so that it even stuns a certain thousand-year-old vampire. Toss in some new characters, some new threats and some very revealing flashbacks and you've got a recipe for a show that's anything but boring.
What doesn't: I still can't quite warm up to Bill and Sookie's supposedly epic romance. The "I love you/you disgust me/I love you/wash/rinse/repeat" cycle continues to spin this year, sometimes even in the same scene. It's one thing to establish legitimate reasons why these two shouldn't be together, it's another to have them just throw unnecessary fits each week. Not helping matters is Sookie's increasingly poor decision making skills, which include - but are not limited to - agreeing to take Jessica to see her family behind Bill's back; and storming off on her own in the middle of nowhere because Bill says something unkind. Want to take a guess how they end? Jason and Tara likewise leave me cold: his transition from selfishness to devotion feels very artificial while her burgeoning relationship with Eggs falls flat. It's a shame because I really want to love this show as all the seeds are there: a fascinating mythos, some truly interesting characters and a genuine sense that literally anything can happen. Plus, you've got to give Alan Ball credit - anybody who has the balls to, in the first four episodes, have not one, but two... well, you'll just have to wait and see. All in all...
The bottom line: ...let's hope season two can make a believer out of me.