TV on DVD: “True Blood: The Complete Second Season”

True Blood is good, pulp fun. I’d never seen an episode before The Complete Second Season DVD box and honestly, I’ve never been an enormous fan of Anna Paquin’s acting, so I didn’t bother to check out season one. I find every acting choice she makes to be so deliberate, telegraphing her every move before she makes it on screen. However, her strong supporting cast (especially Sam Trammell and Alexander Skarsgård), and the exceptional production value of the show easily quelled whatever reservations I had about True Blood.

Created by Alan Ball, the man behind the beautiful, yet cold American Beauty, and the complex, yet sometimes cold, Six Feet Under, True Blood is based on the Southern Vampire series of books by Charlaine Harris, about telepath Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a waitress living in Bon Temps, a small Louisiana town, As established in the first season, vampires have “come out “ and live freely amongst humans. It’s an uneasy relationship between humans and vampires, as religious groups denounce them as tools of the devil and law enforcement is trying to crack down on the illegal sales of “V”, drops of vampire blood, taken like tabs of LSD, that has a narcotic effect on humans. Sookie falls in love with a vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), who has been alive since the Civil War, which is all kind of complicated, but they try to make it work.

Characters don’t get much colder than the blood-sucking vampires in True Blood; yet, I find that these Alan Ball creations are warmer blooded than some of his past work. Perhaps it’s the humidity that seems to drip from your TV screen because of the setting, or perhaps it’s all of the sex occurring on screen. The writers for True Blood, and especially the actors, make their supernatural characters more interesting that most of the other vampires floating around pop culture. The combination of all these elements makes True Blood engrossing and, like I said, fun to watch.

Season 2 finds Bill having to take on a charge, 17 year old Jessica (a delightful Deborah Ann Woll), a recently turned vampire who is his penance for killing another vampire to save Sookie (at the end of season 1). Since Sookie and Bill are lovers, the three of them are intrinsically bound together. There are several other main storylines in the 12-episode season 2: Sookie’s brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), is recruited into the anti-Vampire religious group, The Fellowship of the Sun. His recruitment seems to coincide with the disappearance of a 2000-year-old vampire sheriff. Sookie is asked by Eric (Skarsgård), Bill’s arch nemesis (and a pusher of V) to help him investigate. Meanwhile, Maryann, a maenad played by Michelle Forbes-having more fun in this role than anything I’ve ever seen her in, slowly takes Bon Temps, control. This supernatural crazy woman wants to serve up Sam (Tramelle) the local barkeep and closeted shape shifter in order to summon her bull horned demon God to marry her. At the tail end of the season, Evan Rachel Wood embraces her gothness and appears as the Queen of the Vampires. She’s a hoot, the most lively I’ve ever seen Wood, and I’ve been following her career since Once and Again.

If you haven’t seen season 1, it’s not essential before biting into season 2, which is full of gore, boobs and butts. There’s an excellent review of the first season on this box. Moreover, the writing is so superb and the direction so careful that any information you need to follow along is neatly incorporated into the narrative.

Bonus features on the box set are just okay.  There are a couple are farce featurettes: “Fellowship of the Sun: Reflections of Light,” which gives “rules to live by” from Fellowship of the Sun leaders. Also there is  “The Vampire Report: Special Edition,” which “highlights the year’s biggest stories in vampire news, politics, and pop culture. The real bonus is the audio commentary by Alan Ball and most of the cast.

If you’re tired of the mopey vampires on The Vampire Diaries or Twilight, but still have a need for some blood sucking dramatic fun, True Blood may be the show for you.