True Blood Season Opens with New Vampires, Old Skeletons

Season 5 of True Blood premiered tonight with an episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — and it’s as appropriate to describe new vampires as it is to describe this mid-stop in the annual run of HBO’s better series. Last week was the season 2 finale of Game of Thrones, ending with a bang as the White Walkers procession headed toward the wall to Death Star-esqe music. And before True Blood tonight we got a look forward at the third season of Boardwalk Empire, which will begin after the vampires finish their season. It looks like Boardwalk is going to jump ahead a couple of years additional development of some of the more intriguing characters, like a young Al Capone, and Nucky will have his demons from having killed Jimmy.

True Blood seems to be an either love-it-or-hate-it series. For some, it’s a fun way to unwind before the work week. For others, it’s just trampy vampy vampire porn. OK, both sides admit it’s vampire porn. HBO Sunday night has long been detox for overworked, overstressed journalists (which is why we have no need for that new Newsroom series), so I go with the fun way to unwind — it definitely doesn’t require as much concentration as what’s often needed to keep up with the characters as GoT, and I don’t stay up afterward checking the history vs. Boardwalk mobsters. And for those who have kept up with the other seasons of True Blood, one of its apparent strengths this season is bringing back a couple of characters from seasons past: Rev. Steve Newlin, who’s now a shady vampire, and Russell Edgington, whose vampire version of Howard Beale created one of the more classic moments in the series.

A lot was packed into the season opener. Tara was shot defending Sookie at the end of last season, and Pam happens along to the house after it happened. Lafayette and Sookie desperately beg Pam to turn Tara into a vampire to, well, “save her life,” if you can call it that, even though Tara hates vampires. Into the ground they go. Newlin shows up at Jason’s house, tricks Jason into inviting him inside, then admits he’s a gay vampire and in love with Jason. “This dog don’t bark that way,” Jason says as Jessica shows up to claim him and scare off Newlin. Sam took the fall for killing the pack master — and those dogs do crazy things with their dead — but Alcide showed up to save the day. Alcide also tried to save Sookie from Russell, but again the only normal guy to speak of gets spurned.

Bill and Eric were both spurned by Sookie last season, and now they’re suddenly BFFs after having killed Nan together and the Authority is after them (and eventually captures them). Lafayette killed Jesus when he was possessed by Marnie at the end of last season, but Jesus’ body is now missing. Sheriff Andy wakes up with Holly and is starting to show signs of good ol’ Louisiana corruption. And the mystery Marine who showed up is already wrecking Terry’s bliss, hinting there’s a strange connection between house fires and the rest of their unit who served together in Iraq.

The preview for the coming weeks suggests that Tara’s turning won’t work out as well as they’d hoped, meaning they thought she’d dig out of the ground, dust off and happily chug a True Blood. They’re letting little out of the bag in terms of what Russell will do, and the Terry meltdown storyline is similarly mysterious. All in all, looks like an improvement over last season’s bit of a stall with the witches (yawn). Won’t change the world, doesn’t try to, but is happy just being no-brainer vampy camp.