Monday, July 18, 2011

Tv Guide Ask Matt Season 4 goodies

Question: I just re-read your column on the return of True Blood a few weeks ago and I think you zeroed in on exactly what is most appealing about the show, most notably, the dynamic between Sookie and Eric and the introduction of witches into Bon Temps' supernatural milieu (which seems to be bubbling over like the cauldron I have to believe will be in an upcoming episode). The season is only three episodes in and I must say I'm already more enthralled by witches than I ever was with werewolves. From what I've heard from devotees of the book series, the amnesiac Eric storyline is one of the very best and from what I've seen so far, I can see why. Alexander Skarsgard's performance is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, delivered in a surprisingly subtle and effective way. As with previous seasons, the interactions between the human world and the vampires is the true heart of the show for me and is far and away the most captivating aspect. Even Bill, who has long played the lovesick puppy, finally has a storyline that has drawn me in and injected him into the action in a more interesting way.

Bearing that in mind, over the course of last season, I began to realize that not only do I find the vampire/human interaction the most enthralling part of this delectable guilty pleasure, but more and more, this interest is to the exclusion of other storylines on the show. Whereas the first two seasons had a central storyline to tie all the characters together in a cohesive way (a season-long "big bad"), seasons three and four (so far) seem disjointed and sprawling. With so many characters engaged in so many disparate arcs, I find myself losing interest in the periphery. Characters that I once loved and who seemed pivotal to the show now seem inconsequential, and at times, boring. I keep assuming they'll be re-integrated into the meat of the show at some point, but it never seems to come. As I watched the last couple of episodes, I found myself desperate to watch the brewing battle between the witches and vampires, but was instead pulled away by Andy's addiction to V, Jason's were-panther problems, Sam's new shifter social circle, Tara in general, Tommy's induction into the Fortenberry clan, Arlene's demon baby, the reintroduction of werewolves and Jessica and Hoyt's relationship woes. While some of these storylines are working better than others, at the end of the day they all seem so distant from the rest of the action that I'm having a hard time really investing. 

I think the show could learn a few things from The Vampire Diaries. Rather than allowing the cast to swell and the storylines to spiral out of control in every direction, I think True Blood would be well-served by a willingness to kill off characters. It seems ridiculous to accuse True Blood of being gun-shy about killing people, but in terms of the principal cast, there have been surprisingly few deaths and an alarming number of additions. Paring down the cast would make for a more cohesive narrative and it would raise the stakes, so to speak. For all the insanity that happens on this show, I'm never all that worried that someone I love might get killed. One of the most compelling aspects of The Vampire Diaries is that viewers genuinely don't know who might die at a moment's notice. It keeps the cast at a manageable level and keeps the audience on their toes. Do you find yourself losing interest in various aspects/storylines of the show? Does it still have the same bite it once did? Is the best yet to come and I'm just being impatient? — Lacy
Matt Roush: I'm enjoying this season much more than last year, and a lot of that has to do with how marvelously Alexander Skarsgard is playing the vulnerable amnesiac Eric. Sunday night's drunk scene was a new high of feisty hilarity, and his hissing match with Alcide in the water was a riot, but then after his sunburn, watching him submit to Sookie's ministrations was awfully touching. Loving it. The witch storyline is fairly strong as well, and the great Fiona Shaw is killing it as Marnie. I agree that the Sam/Tommy subplot dragged down much of last season and feels tacked on again this year — but that's the only part that feels off to me right now. Andy's V addiction, Jason's gory misadventures with the were-panthers in Hotshot, Alcide and Debbie Pelt, Arlene's demon baby (those scenes crack me up, and they're not overdone yet) and anything involving Hoyt and Jessica all feel germane to me as this sprawling cast of characters continues to deal with the supernatural in their midst. As long as the focus stays primarily on Sookie, which the Eric storyline should ensure, I'm at peace with it. You make a good point about Vampire Diaries' ruthlessness when it comes to sacrificing characters and I marvel at the way that show burns through story, but I have to say that True Blood does a better job for me at conveying a milieu, which is to say I believe in Bon Temps and feel transported there in a way I don't where the phonier Mystic Falls is concerned.

Question: On True Blood, I felt a little robbed not seeing the fight scene between Bill and Sophie Anne play out on screen. Do you think this was done to convey how Sookie must have felt losing a year of her life? I do think it is exciting that they found a way to move ahead a year. Now all the characters are different from when we saw them the last time. My only problem is that all the characters are scattered out doing different things, which means less screen time for my favorites. I know everybody has their own favorites but I really hope they do not waste much time on Tommy or Arlene. Do you like those characters? It seems like each year brings more and more characters, which leaves less time for the core group. For me the core group includes Pam, and I would love it if they could flesh out her character more. What do you think? — Susan
Matt Roush: I think Pam got a pretty good (though devastating) scene this week with the witches, but otherwise, the complaint about True Blood servicing too many characters at the expense of the "core group" is a fair one, although as noted above, I felt it was more problematic last season. I was actually delighted by the Bill-Sophie Anne flashback, because it was such a surprising and brutally quick end to that conflict. And from what I could tell from the feedback last season, Sophie Anne was one of those characters that viewers didn't have much use for, so this seemed a suitably nasty way to send her out. I like your theory that some of this shorthand has to do with Sookie losing a year of her life in FairyLand. It should feel disorienting to her, and to us.

Question: I'm still confused by the portrayal of the fairies in the season 4 premiere of True Blood. I am a huge fan of both the books and the show, and have been equally delighted by Alan Ball's loyalties to and departures from the source material over the first three seasons, but I'm very confused about the way he has decided to portray the fae. Yes, in later books, we certainly see a vicious side to the fae underneath their beautiful and helpful facade but nothing quite so sinister as what we saw in the season premiere. I'm hoping you have some insight (or insider knowledge) into this story arc that can help me understand Ball's portrayal. — Jolene
Matt Roush: I guess we'll have to see how it plays out, but I'm thinking the less time we spend with the fae the better. At least for now. I know I wasn't the only one who was shocked when Eric killed Claudine so suddenly, given the role she played later on in the book series. I love how Alan Ball is using the books as a template but not as a bible, which guarantees surprises for those of us who are hooked on both versions of Sookie's story. Given the "meh" quality of some of the more recent novels, I encourage Ball to keep going his own way. The more out there, the better.

read on