he last audiences saw of True Blood, HBO's hit vampire horror-and-sex soap opera, the show's characters were still shell-shocked from a deadly battle between the vampires and a coven of witches — with faeries, werewolves, and even a few humans caught in the crossfire. Critics weren't too keen on the tangled web of supernatural creatures which siphoned attention from the series' main plot points: The steamy love triangle between feisty Southern belle Sookie and vampires Bill and Eric, and the debate among vampires over how they should co-exist — whether peacefully or violently — with humans. Season five of True Blood premieres Sunday. Is the show back on track?
Yep. It's the best season yet: Last season frustrated me with too many "dead-end detours involving faeries and witches," says Brian Lowry at Variety. Thankfully, season five finds the show back on course, focusing on its intensely riveting vampire politics. And, so far, fewer subplots so trite "you want to zap past them" are muddying the mix. The ensemble is in top form, and the show is as refreshingly cheeky as ever — how many series feature a character who earnestly boasts of being a "proud gay vampire"? True Blood has always been a guilty pleasure. And pleasure promises to far outweigh the guilt this season.
And the perfect summer reprieve: The spring can have its "dark and portentous" — if sometimes impenetrable — Game of Thrones, says Robert Bianco at USA Today. True Blood, with its "more easily accessible emotional hook and wider social-satire ambitions" is summer perfection, particularly now that the show is so timely. Its "vampires coming out of the coffin-closet and demanding their civil rights" underpinnings couldn't be more resonant. The campiness is back, as is the ever-diverting nudity. Bonus: Horrifying new twists introduced right off the bat at a deliciously whip-lashed pace. This is "summer TV at its witty, riveting best."
"True Blood goes for satirical jugular"
Actually, it's past its prime: Please, says Ellen Gray at Philadelphia's Daily News. The series is more than "a bit long in the fang." While the introduction of Law & Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni offers a much-needed transfusion, "silly doesn't even begin to describe most of what goes on in the first few episodes" — a strange shout out to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, for example. Worse, the introduction of an unruly number of subplots is spoiling the show... again. "It might be time to think about putting a stake through True Blood before it begins to seem more undead than alive."
"True Blood is getting a bit long in the fang"
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