Following last season’s lack-luster finale of conflicting character story-arcs and poor story progression, the True Blood season 4 premiere attempts to beautifully refocus HBO’s hit vampire drama with an entertaining storyline and masterful handling of the series’ ever growing cast.
As Sookie (Anna Paquin) gracefully traveled into the mysterious fairy world in the season 3 finale, fans of the series were left wondering what the outcome would bring to the series’ proverbial femme fatale. With the absence of any overt cliffhanger, the opening scenes of the True Blood season 4 premiere highlights what could have been a wonderful way to end a not-so-wonderful season 3 – and perhaps that’s what should have happened.
Even though the fantastical world of magic-infused fairies deliveries a beautiful facade of enchantment (with enough “power” throwing to satisfy any fan of the preternatural), the overall inclusion of this plotline feels like an anecdotal transition connecting these two seasons. This notion will become even more recognized when viewers realize that the next appearance of anything fairy has been pushed until the very end of episode 3.
That being said, the apparent segregated fairy storyline provides a perfect emotional disconnect from any bad taste that may have been left from True Blood season 3. While television’s often misused “time jump” is regularly pulled out as a symbolic “get out of jail free card” for producers attempting to distance themselves from a poorly received season, its use in the season 4 premiere feels like a pure and honest progression of a logically occurring phenomenon – made even more so by the brief appearance of Sookie’s long-lost grandfather.
Despite the fact that True Blood’s time jump results in several instances of cringe inducing, on-the-nose dialogue serving to pick-up certain characters exactly where they left off in season 3 (Lafayette stating that it’s been “10 months” since he messed with anything magical, for example), the manner in which the story confidently progresses itself leaves little time for those watching to second guess the series’ motives.
With at least 10 different storylines being included in a single episode, it appears Alan Ball has finally figured out how to perfectly manage True Blood’s ever-growing cast and deliver a competent storyline without impacting the fluidity of the series. While some might say that the series’ lengthy hiatus may present a faux appearance of an evolved handling of the characters, the subsequent episodes serve to highlight this aspect even more than the premiere.
Considering the lack of character balance and time management (in regards to the story) was one of the main problems that many pointed out in regards to season 3, it’s nice to see the series be able work out its flaws – especially when it’s a flaw that could completely derail True Blood from its heights of fanatical praise and almost certainly lead to future sentiments of a “long-overdue cancelation.” Even though it can be said that the inclusion of vampires, wolves, fairies, witches, and whatever else Bon Temps has now become home to may weigh on the side of including more plots (and subplots) than any one series could handle, everything presented feels complete, focused and, more importantly, entertaining.
In the series’ cavalcade of cast members, each included storyline feels important. While it’s true that many may not be intrinsic to the main arc that follows Sookie, their inclusion never feels contrary to the purpose of wonderful storytelling. For each proverbial step that we take in Sookie’s journey, we also take that same step with the supplement characters that surround her. Considering the simplicity in being able to use single-lines of dialogue to evolve a character that’s not the series’ overall main focus, one must both acknowledge and praise Ball's ability and interest in fully developing as many of the series’ additional inhabitants – something that is much easier said and done in the Charlaine Harris novels that True Blood is based on.
Even though True Blood season 4 is just beginning, and this past year of television has proved that any series can instantly, and unceremoniously, make an about turn in terms of its ability to deliver quality storytelling (Cough: House), it’s hard not to believe that this is the season for True Blood to not only redeem itself, but to also secure its future as one of television’s continuously great fantastical dramas.
…and from everything I’ve seen (3 episodes), it appears that’s exactly what’s happening.
True Blood airs Sundays @9pm on HBO
Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio