Sure, waiting sucks, but what about “True Blood”?

Season 5 is the time when a lot of shows really start to show their age. The cast gets blonder, tanner and much more fit, virtually unrecognizable from how they looked when the show started. You know, back when they were struggling actors hoping for their big break, instead of pop-culture rock stars who are by now so over it all.

Has True Blood reached that point? I wasn’t alone, I’m sure, when I started to see trouble signs with the problematic Season 4. The show seemed to be collapsing under the weight of its own expectations for being outrageous. Lines that seemed more suited to be coming out of the mouths of superfans on blog comments were actually making their way into scripts, as though the whole hour each week was an exercise in breaking the fourth wall and observing the goings-on in Bon Temps through an ironic gaze rather than getting lost in them.

Not to make True Blood sound like it was ever a real serious show. It’s always had fun with its dirty sexy charm, and thankfully so. But hey, no one likes a comedian who laughs at his own jokes while he’s telling them to you.

So, about Season 5. I’ve seen the first four episodes, and there seems to be a bit of dialing back going on, which is all for the better. Perhaps this has something to do with creator Alan Ball’s plans to step aside after this year. But while there’s still big balls of crazy everywhere, there is much more focus on characters to this point than in plots. No new creatures to speak of yet, in fact, a whole lot of what’s going on has to do with past villains and situations returning to wreak more havoc. Russell Edgington, Terry Bellefleur’s traumatic war past, Jason Stackhouse’s sexual addiction, Lafayette’s tendency to get possessed by malevolent spirits … all that and more.

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Some new wrinkles I’ve enjoyed have been the show’s long-in-coming recognition of Sookie — isn’t it great that I’ve gotten this far without mentioning her — as a completely unworthy object of so much attention. In that sense, she truly is Bella Swan, and True Blood absolutely is Twilight for adults. But Bill and Eric, especially Eric, finally seem to be over her, and Sookie herself seems to realize that all she does is cause trouble. Alcide, however, that’s a different story. Then again, he’s never been the hairiest wolf in the pack. What’s weird, though, is Sookie’s trouble this season really isn’t her fault. There’s the justifiable blowing away of Debbie Pelt and the decision she makes to help a dying Tara that turn people on her through the season’s first third. Her psychic powers are back big and bad, after being conveniently ignored for much of the past three seasons. Not sure yet how I feel about that.

Then there’s The Authority, which plays a huge role so far, with Christopher Meloni all menace and rage  (and total awesomeness!) as its leader. Bill and Eric are in serious trouble with the vampires’ governing body after offing Nan Flanigan. I can’t help but be reminded of the hoods in Goodfellas having to finally answer for killing Billy Batts. C’mon, Batts, vampires … it all fits.

Regardless of how you feel after watching it, True Blood is still as entertaining as hell while it’s on, and five seasons in, that’s one of the best things you can say about a show.

Photo: Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO