[This is a review of True Blood Season 7, Episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
After years on the air, True Blood kicks off its final season with one last adventure for Sookie Stackhouse and her impossibly unlucky town of Bon Temps. Unfortunately, while the show is still as drama-filled as its operatic genre will allow, the ever-maturing landscape of television may have outgrown the series’ “unique” way in which it handles all of its many character stories.
Kicking off the beginning of the end is this week’s premiere, "Jesus Gonna Be Here,” written by season 5 and 6 writer Angela Robinson, which continues the 5-month time jump that was implemented in the final moments of last year’s finale. As the Hepatitis-V virus continues to infect vampires around the country, the residents of Bon Temps must still pair with healthy vampires for protection. Elsewhere, Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) continues her search for Eric (Alexander Skarsgard); Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) attempt to make amends to Andy (Chris Bauer) and his family; and Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) reaches her breaking point after the shocking death of a close friend.
As of right now, True Blood season 7 is fueled by characters and story, but at no point is there a purpose thrown in – at least not yet. Sookie being pushed to the limits by the death of Tara (Rutina Wesley) is understandable, and Jessica wanting to protect Andy’s remaining daughter is honorable, but there’s something soulless about the way in which True Blood structures its over-arching stories and continuously requires audiences to seemingly care more about the characters and story than what’s being present onscreen.
A time jump in television is a plot device, often included as a way to separate major changes to the overall story without it coming off overtly awkward or out of place. For all the many uses of it over the years, True Blood seems to be the only television show which takes the opportunity to shift some characters around in order to tell more of the same type of tales. This may have worked in previous seasons, but with shows like Orange is the New Black and Game of Thrones masterfully handling the structure and development of as many characters as True Blood, the artificial drama that this series exists in often overpowers any attempt to earnestly enjoy what’s actually occurring.
Exactly one week ago, television viewers were whisked away to the impressively detailed world of Westeros and watched as an entire world of people progressed their life journeys. Sure, many character names may still be fuzzy for some viewers, but their intents are largely known. The same cannot be said for True Blood, which uses drama and chaos to cover up the general lack of personality and heart that the series has been struggling with for years.
Whatever the key to this season is, we have yet to see it. If anything, the True Blood season 7 premiere feels as if the series is buying time by relying heavily on familiar stories, emotions and complications to justify the story being told, even when it shouldn't. What’s even more disconcerting is, at no point throughout this premiere is there even a sign of an overall seasonal story aside from Hepatitis-V.
Now, barring any STD-angled final season story, True Blood has yet to actually jump in to its series-ending story, and at this point it’s likely that only those who read the books know what’s coming next. Even so, with so many characters that hold so much potential, it’s disheartening to see this series continue to stumble in many of the same ways that it has in recent years. After so many years on the air, and with one final story left to tell, it appears that viewers will have to carry the excitement until the series manages to rise to the occasion.
Those who watched True Blood from the beginning will have a difficult time finding the series it was in season 1 among this season 7 endeavor, and it’s been quite some time since you were able to appropriately compare what the series once was to what it is now. No matter what happens, True Blood is done at the end of this season. So while this may be the most chaotic television show on the air, fans of the series should, if anything, attempt to make use of whatever emotional attachments they have left and see things through to the very end. Maybe.
True Blood returns next Sunday with “I Found You” @9pm on HBO.