Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is trapped in the land of the fairies, her brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) finds himself abducted by the were-panthers he had spent a good portion of a year protecting, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) has discovered he’s a powerful medium the spirits of the dead are attracted to, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is now the Vampire King of all Louisiana, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) has lost his mind, Terry (Todd Lowe) and Arlene (Carrie Preston) are worried their new baby might not be entirely human, Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer) is addicted to V while Tara (Rutina Wesley) has moved to New Orleans to escape the nightmares of Bon Temps, all of which is only the tip of the gothic iceberg. Why? Kindly magic shop owner and devout Wiccan Marnie (Fiona Shaw) has channeled forth a spirit with the power to compel vampires into the daylight, putting everyone – human and supernatural – in immediate danger whether she realizes it or not.
Not having HBO, and not feeling the need to Netflx the series, I’d never seen an episode of True Blood before season four ended up in my mailbox. A fan of the genre and of programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel I was of course intrigued, but not so much I felt I needed to put forth the effort to actually watching any of it. Time is precious, and with so many other movies to see and shows to see (and thusly write about) I wasn’t about to find any extra minutes to become involved with this particular program.
Maybe I should have. The fourth season is as convoluted and as over the top as they come, filling each episode with so much stuff following it all is close to impossible, especially if you haven’t watched any of the previous seasons. Suffice it to say, while the program does work on its own (especially when you get to episode three and the season’s main plot thread begins to kick in), it does rely on the fact you know who Sookie, Bill, Eric and all the rest already are and, if you don’t, doesn’t exactly take a lot of time to help you catch the heck up.
That main plot thread is a corker, however, Marnie’s transformation from timid everywoman to all-powerful sorceress a thing to behold. Additionally, the love triangle between Sookie, Bill and Eric takes on some interesting aspects going in directions I didn’t quite see coming (which could have been due to my now being familiar with what happened earlier). The three of them are fascinating figures, going well beyond the typical Buffy-Angel-Spike or Bella-Edward-Jacob dynamic to become something uniquely its own. You also got to love Ryan Kwanten’s performance as Sookie’s somewhat dimwitted yet lovably courageous brother Jason, and whether he’s dealing with the lunacy of were-panthers (seriously, this is a plot thread the less said about the better) or potentially tragic relationship with newbie vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) the dude pretty much nails every scene he finds himself in.
But this is Shaw’s show, and by the time the final episodes roll on in she takes over completely. This is a fiercely complex performance, mining intriguing layers and going places that are as ferocious as they are touching. Her journey is an emotional minefield that never follows the typical route, leading to an explosive finale that held me positively spellbound.
The show ends with a corker of a climax, leaving so many fates up in the air longtime fans will be holding their collective breath to see how it all plays itself out. Let’s just say an especially diabolical figure from season two makes a house call while the show’s best villain, he made his appearance in season three, has apparently emerged from his concrete coffin ready to bring about Armageddon for Sookie, Bill, Eric and, theoretically, all of humanity, all of which has me salivating at what the fifth season potentially has to offer.
From that final paragraph, you can guess that I went back and watched all the previous seasons after experiencing this fourth one. In all honesty, I couldn’t help myself. The show’s too darn good and unabashedly enjoyable to leave alone, and I just didn’t feel right crafting this review if I wasn’t completely up to speed with the entire True Blood experience.
While the fourth season certainly stands on its own, and while fans will definitely enjoy just about every second of it, everyone else might want to go backwards and see what all the fuss is about before giving these 12 episodes a look. After you do that, you might find yourself addicted to showrunner Alan Ball’s (Six Feet Under) latest concoction; I’m certainly in that boat, and for the life of me I don’t feel bad about admitting it one single bit.
True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season is presented on five dual-layer 50GB Blu-rays with MPEG-4 AVC Video in 1080p 1.78:1 transfers.
The fourth season of this series comes to Blu-ray in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 along with French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 2.1 tracks and includes optional English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles.
Extras here are spread out over all five discs and include:
· Audio Commentaries – Commentary tracks on six episodes (“You Smell Like Dinner,” “If You Love Me Why Am I Dyin’,” “I’m Alive and On Fire,” “I Wish I was the Moon,” “Let’s Get Out of Here” and “Burning Down the House”) featuring Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Sam Trammell, Stephen Moyer, Deborah Ann Woll and a variety of others.
· Enhanced Viewing Mode – Rather lackluster, if you ask me, the whole thing nothing more than a ‘pop-up’ style extra giving the viewer additional information about each episode.
· Inside the Episode – Much more satisfactory extra, these three to five minutes shorts giving additional insight into the world of Bon Temps and how the activities of each particular episode affects the mythology at large.
· True Blood: The Final Touches – An almost 30 minute feautette with Ball and a variety of other behind-the-scenes craftsmen talking about the season itself and what it took to bring each episode to life. Outstanding.
· True Blood Lines – Interactive resource that looks at each and every character in the True Blood universe (this season as well as the past three). A little annoying at times, but overall quite satisfying, especially for newcomers to the series.
The set also comes with two dual-sided DVDs as well as instructions for downloading digital copies to a portable device (PCs, laptops, Ipad, etcetera).
The fourth season of True Blood got me so intrigued and enmeshed in the story it was telling I immediately went out and watched all three of the preceding seasons so I could catch myself up. Convoluted and silly, showrunner’s Alan Ball’s latest is nonetheless a giddy totally enjoyable hoot, and for fans of this sort of thing HBO’s latest box set is a glorious hi-def treat that should be gobbled up without reservation.