True Blood Season 6 postmortem: What was good, what was bad, what’s next?

Whether it was just a matter of seeing a supernova-hot show cool to also-ran status, or a case of it jumping the shark (and biting it on the neck, draining it of all its vital blood) I couldn’t muster up much excitement for True Blood Season 6. I wasn’t alone, right? There really didn’t seem to be much buzz for the return of Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jason and all the weirdos in Bon Temps, not when winter is coming and all.

The truth is, the show strayed far and often from its intriguing start of being about a psychic waitress who falls in love with a vampire to being an increasingly ridiculous and self-referential mess where every episode seemed to introduce a new supernatural being to this tiny Louisiana town. Sookie could tangle with the dark immortal forces of the universe one episode, then fret about being late for her shift at Merlotte’s the next. It’s kinda funny the first five to seven times, but then it becomes tiresome. Witches, fairies, mediums, maenads, werewolves, shifters, fire monsters, oh wait there’s a vampire Authority? Yeah, yawn.

But lo and behold, True Blood Season 6 proved to be tolerable at times, actually decent. Sure, all the boneheaded plotting was still there, with characters disappearing and reappearing with little sense or warning, random revelations that really go nowhere and bringing back old characters for the umpteenth time, but there still seemed to be a sense of restraint this time around to make it feel more like a show trying to actually further its story and deepen its universe rather than just comment on how clever and pop-culturally relevant it is.

So let’s take a look back at True Blood Season 6, what worked, what didn’t, and whether any of us should care come Season 7.

The Good

True Blood Season 6 Todd Lowe TerryRequiem For Terry Bellefleur: Could it be? Someone on True Blood died a natural death, one born from very human issues that could be found in real-world dramas. Beyond that, they stayed dead. Todd Lowe always brought a wide-eyed earthiness to True Blood, something sorely needed among some of the series’ wilder elements. Even last season, when he had to deal with an ancient fire monster that was going to kill him for atrocities he’d committed during the Iraq War, he was able to make that ridiculous situation seem at least emotionally plausible. True, you could argue quite successfully that a show like True Blood really has no business trying to tackle a serious issue like PTSD, much less using it as fodder for one of its gazillion storylines, but since they did, it worked out as best it could. Now, I’m only going to praise this season’s treatment of Terry after his death, not the idea to kill him off in the first place, or the rather haphazard way in which it happened. Employing the overused (more on that later) “glamour” device to have a vampire make him forget his wartime sins, only to have him assassinated a few scenes later by a hitman he’d selected himself seemed oddly dismissive of a character we’d invested so much time in.

But the funeral episode proved quite touching, as everyone (well, everyone who wasn’t at the vampire concentration camp) gathered to reminisce about Terry and allow the audience to see flashbacks. We see Sam (Sam Trammell) meeting a shell-shocked Terry in the woods and offering him the cook’s job. Then Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) taking the frightened Terry under his wing and teaching him the ropes. It’s as though the series put all the craziness on hold for a little bit and we watched what resembled actual human beings exhibiting actual human behavior.

Whatever, though, I’m still not convinced we won’t see Terry in the spirit world or as a resurrected zombie.

Deborah Ann Woll: The fiery-haired actress continues to be just about the best thing on this show, owning every scene she’s in and somehow making us forget we sometimes stopped caring. Having her character, Jessica, commit a truly evil act in the ruthless slaying of three of Sheriff Andy’s (Chris Bauer) four fairy daughters showed the depth of the character. I don’t know about you, but she was the only one I was really worried about in that sun room of death. How is this woman not a big star yet?

“There’s a war coming” finally came: It’s not just True Blood, but so many series and movies like to trot out that portentous “there’s a war coming” kind of vibe between whatever factions make up the show, but rarely do they deliver on it. True Blood did that (a little) this season with some nefarious humans having developed effective weapons against the vampires. They even went so far as to put them in shadowy state-run labs for experimentation. Perhaps it would have been too much to ask for us to be able to identify with the human side of the story, but it does seem like a missed opportunity to just have them represented by people like the governor (Arliss Howard) and his main squeeze Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp), discounting all the humans as either murderous bigots or murderous religious fanatics. Even so, it was a more interesting exploration of a world with vampires than, say, the inner workings of vampire governance.

The Bad

True Blood Season 6 Rob Kazinsky WarlowWhere’s Warlow?: The much-discussed Warlow finally appeared this season in the pleasing-to-Sookie form of central-casting hunk Rob Kazinsky. He started out as an amiable drifter with some mind-reading abilities before his true colors were revealed. He seemed to be being built up as the Big Bad for the season, but then it was revealed that Warlow was actually more of a caretaker for the Stackhouse family, and that his killing of Sookie and Jason’s parents was actually to prevent their father from drowning his infant daughter rather than let her become Warlow’s vampire bride. An intriguing twist, even if part of it seemed to be inserted simply so we could have another scene of Lafayette getting possessed and homicidal. But then once Warlow gets tied to a pole in the fairy world and drained of some blood by Bill, he’s kind of forgotten about until the last episode. He’s brought back, revealed to be kind of a jerk again, only to be dispatched rather easily thanks to an inexplicably present Rutger Hauer. I had stopped wondering where he’d disappeared, because that’s just what True Blood does. So when he came back to save the day, it was more of an eye-roll than a fist pump. Once the show is put to rest for good, I doubt Warlow will register very high on the memorable villain scale. That’s too bad, seeing as they spent seasons building him up.

True Blood Season 6 Anna Paquin Joe Manganiello

Oh there you are. I love you!: One of the more maddening aspects of True Blood is the whiplash approach to character development. Characters who go several episodes without seeing or thinking of each other all of a sudden come into contact and are contemplating love. Yeah, this almost always revolves around Sookie (Anna Paquin). First she walks into work one day, hears about Sam dating another woman and just tells him that, you know, they always figured they’d end up together one day. Sam is understandably pissed, perfectly echoing the audience’s reaction, and the whole scene just felt like a ham-fisted way to remind people of their original dynamic of Sam silently pining for that cute waitress under his employ. Then she meets up with Alcide (Joe Manganiello) at Terry’s funeral and they make the usual goo goo eyes at each other, only this time it appears to have stuck, since they are together in that “Six Months Later” epilogue. Although, this is a mixed blessing because I am for one very thankful I didn’t have to sit through an Alcide-Sookie courtship. Worse, though, the show implies that Bill is once again hot for Sookie, a relationship I and many others were probably glad to have in the past.

What’s Next?

Season 7 looks like it will pick up with a horde of hep Z-infected vampires descending upon Bon Temps. This looks like it’s pretty much the True Blood version of zombies, no? Heck, those lumbering, slobbering vamps that appear before the credits roll even look like they could be extras from The Walking Dead. Not sure how much potential there is in this storyline if it’s just going to be constant zombie attacks. But of course there were a lot of character changes revealed at the end of Season 6: Sookie and Alcide together, Sam is now the mayor of Bon Temps and pushing for humans and vamps to pair off in a monogamous feeding relationship, Arlene now owns Merlotte’s and has renamed it Bellefleur’s, and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) just might be dead.

OK, I doubt he really is, but if so, that is the most hilarious death scene in television history. Sunbathing nude on a Swedish mountain when all of a sudden your day-walking abilities go away, leaving you victim to the sun. Of all the True Blood ways to die, that is the True Bloodiest.

So how about you, Fangers? What worked for you this season, and what didn’t? And do you still care?

Photos: Credit: John P. Johnson