Saturday, November 1, 2008

True Blood: Who's the Killer?

True Blood: Who's the Killer?
• Oct 31, 2008 08:15 PM ET
• by Mickey O'Connor

True Blood
With only four episodes left of the first season of True Blood (Sundays, 9
pm/ET, HBO; a marathon of Episodes 1 through 8 will air Halloween night), we
still aren't even close to solving the show's central mystery: Who's killing
all of Bon Temps' ladies? True, Alan Ball's vampire drama (HBO has already
green-lit a second season, by the way) is more elaborate romantic fantasy
than hard-boiled detective show, but we thought there'd be more clues at
this point.
All three victims — Maude Pickens, Dawn and Gran — had vampire sympathies,
sexual or otherwise. But we can't necessarily assume that the killer has
fangs — or an anti-vampire prejudice, for that matter. (Also: We know a
bunch of you have read the books, and thus might already have the answer,
but please don't suck the life out of it for the rest of us. THIS IS A
SPOILER-FREE ZONE.) So let's look at the likely suspects:
FOR HIM Like most men in town, Sam has a crush on Sookie, who is currently
dating Bill, a vampire. He has been spotted streaking naked across a meadow,
and then lied about it. He very conveniently showed up at Sookie's house
just moments after she discovered Gran's body. Plus, there was that creepy
scene of him writhing around in Dawn's death bed. What was that all about?
AGAINST HIM His green-eyed-monster routine aside, Sam genuinely seems
protective of Sookie, perhaps with the help of his canine companion, with
whom he has "conversations." Sam definitely has a secret, but is it really
FOR HIM Lafayette is a bit of a shady entrepreneur who makes porn and might
be a prostitute. He also has ties with vampires through his drug-dealing
operation. He supplied Jason with his first taste of V (vampire blood).
AGAINST HIM His character often reminds us of the parallels between the gay
and vampire experiences. Bringing him down for murder would totally ruin
that metaphor.
FOR HIM Not a whole lot, but wouldn't it be shocking if it turned out to be
AGAINST HIM Even when Sookie reads his thoughts, Hoyt is still all aw-shucks
sweetness and light.
FOR HIM Well, Bill is a 173-year-old vampire, and they like to suck people's
blood and stuff.
AGAINST HIM None of the bodies indicated death by fang. He's Sookie's
boyfriend. He had recently spoken at Gran's church to educate humans about
vampires; him being the killer would play into all the stereotypes he has
been trying so hard to erase.
FOR HER The voodoo priestess told Tara she had a demon inside her. And she
can definitely be a real crankypants, right?
AGAINST HER Though she isn't a fan of Sookie and Bill dating, she's mostly
indifferent to vampires — and mostly everyone else too.
FOR HIM Morality isn't exactly Jason's strong suit. He likes to drink, get
high on V and bed as many women as possible, including two of the three
AGAINST HIM Mostly, it's just that he's as dumb as a box of hair.
FOR HIM The PTSD-afflicted vet and Merlotte's cook hasn't been the same
since he returned from Iraq, often complaining of "seeing things."
AGAINST HIM He is mostly portrayed as a simpleton: He shyly complimented
Arlene on her "really nice clavicles" and made a necklace out of a
two-pronged possum penis, for example.
FOR HER She did orchestrate that sneak attack and abduction of poor Eddie
the shy, suburban vampire, scary silver net and all.
AGAINST HER Despite having a violent streak when she's jonesing for V, Amy
is basically too much of a peacenik to be a serial killer. She's all about
"energy exchange" and Gaia, man.
FOR HIM Anyone else get a really ominous vibe out of his "I just put fresh
bat'ries in it" marriage proposal to Arlene?
AGAINST HIM He has defended Sookie against the taunts of unruly customers,
and has been generally pretty nice to Bill, even in the face of his
girlfriend's barely concealed bigotry. Plus, he's the only cast member with
a passable Bayou accent; they can't ship him off to jail!
FOR HIM Eric, a 1,000-year-old Viking and vampire "sheriff" of the parish,
is super-creepy. Thus far, he hasn't exactly been straightforward about his
motives, often playing mind games with non-humans for sport.
AGAINST HIM While he does exhibit a sense of menace perched on his throne at
Fangtasia, he also takes his position of power very seriously, and killing a
bunch of humans isn't exactly going to help his cause, is it?
FOR HIM Dude has some serious rage issues, especially if you forget to call
him Officer Bellefleur.
AGAINST HIM He's one of two men charged with finding the killer. Would he
really be working so hard if he knew he was the one responsible?
So we're stumped. Who do you think the killer is?

Flesh and Blood in a Town of Vampires

November 2, 2008

Flesh and Blood in a Town of Vampires
IN her first scene in HBO's new vampire series, "True Blood," Tara Thornton
(Rutina Wesley) starts out reading while slumped on a patio chair at the
Super Save-a-Bunch store, where she works, and then proceeds to dress down a
petulant customer, slap her boss and warn him that her baby daddy would kick
his teeth in once he got out of jail. "I'm not serious, you pathetic
racist," she says when naked terror floods her boss's doughy face. "I know
y'all are stupid. But do you have to be that stupid?" Then she makes her
It isn't a moment that cries out for subtlety. But Ms. Wesley manages to
infuse it with some.
"I saw through the darkness, I guess," said Ms. Wesley, who won her part
through an audition in which she navigated that tricky introductory scene.
"For me, I have this tough exterior and these Angela Bassett arms, and
people think, 'Oh, my God, Rutina's tough.' But I'm just a little Juliet on
the inside."
Created by Alan Ball, "True Blood" is based on Charlaine Harris's
best-selling mystery novels. Of all the elements in the books, Tara is the
one that Mr. Ball changed the most. She is still the best friend of a
telepathic barmaid, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who was raised by an
abusive, booze-sodden mother. But Ms. Harris's Tara is white. ("It's in
Louisiana — it couldn't be all about the Caucasians," Mr. Ball explained.)
And Ms. Harris's Tara is not the truth-teller that Mr. Ball's is.
When Mr. Ball was casting the part, he used Tara-loses-her-job as an
audition scene because it acted as a tricky two-fer, meant to establish her
as the smartest citizen of the fictional backwater town of Bon Temps, La.,
but also as a hot-tempered, curse-happy person who doesn't suffer fools.
"Other actresses played it for laughs, like something on the CW," Mr. Ball
said. "But Rutina was the first person who showed her vulnerable side."
As fun as it is to watch Ms. Wesley furiously storm around, some of her most
memorable "True Blood" moments involve her brushes with Jason Stackhouse
(Ryan Kwanten), Sookie's womanizing nitwit brother, whom Tara idolizes. "I
think she really in her heart believes that one day they'll be together,
married, with, like, five kids — that's where the starry-eyed thing comes
from," said Ms. Wesley, who seems to have created an entire vocabulary of
micro-reactions — moony, crestfallen, no-you-didn't! — just for the scenes
in which Jason disappointingly treats her like a pal.
If Ms. Wesley's reedy voice and crackling energy don't quite ring a bell,
it's because her credits are few. She's a recent Juilliard graduate in her
20s who appeared on Broadway in David Hare's "Vertical Hour" and portrayed a
brainy, impoverished dancer in the feature film "How She Move" (2007), but
she has never worked in television.
Still, judging from her own biography, show business is encoded in her DNA.
She grew up just 10 minutes from the Strip in Las Vegas; her mother,
Cassandra Wesley, was a feather-bedecked showgirl, and her father, Ivery
Wheeler, is a professional tap dancer. After graduating from the Las Vegas
Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts high school,
Ms. Wesley received a full scholarship to University of Evansville in
Indiana. "Huge culture shock" was how she described her freshman year, where
she felt that everything from her race — she was the only black female in
the theater performance department — to her hometown set her apart.
"It was like Get to Know the Girl From Vegas Week," said Ms. Wesley, who is
now married to the actor Jacob Fishel and splits her time between Los
Angeles and Astoria, Queens. "People would say: 'Is Vegas a real place? Do
you live in a hotel?' "
Being considered alien for coming from Vegas is one thing, but on "True
Blood," vampirism is another sort of prejudice. It's not lost on Ms. Wesley
that the theme of outsiders is taken up in "True Blood," which makes clear
that most of the folks in Bon Temps, Tara included, are unapologetically
vocal about their distrust of vampires.
"Not everyone is as open-minded as you," Tara tells Sookie in a recent
episode as the two sprawl like teenagers across a bed. There's something
about the way Ms. Wesley quietly gazes at Ms. Paquin that makes her prickly
character appear to be the only one in town who really understands
compassion and friendship.
"I get to create this girl and make her not the stereotypical — for lack of
a better phrase — black woman with an attitude," Ms. Wesley said of moments
like these. "We see a lot of that. But with Tara we're also going to see a
woman who has been through a lot of things."