Did you know that the seventh and final season of HBO’s vamp-drama True Blood kicked-off on FX this week? Neither did I, but then does anyone actually care about the show anymore? It says something that the strongest reaction to the news that the show was to finally end was an anaemic shrug and a vaguely-surprised “Oh, is that still on?”
In truth, the show has long since ceased to be of any interest to anyone. Where once it was a boundary-pushing, sexually adventurous fantasy-drama fearlessly tackling issues like death, equality and religion now lays a rotting corpse reanimated by increasingly campy characters and an insipid love square.
It wasn’t always like this. At its peak, somewhere around season two, True Blood was regarded as one of the most ground breaking shows on telly, its stories laced with a political subtext as dense as the ethereal bayou that haunts its Louisiana backwater setting.
A clever premise where vampires are able to “come out of the coffin” thanks to the inventions of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists was brilliantly allegorical of every conceivable contemporary issue. Equality, sexuality, race, discrimination, drug addiction and the influence of the media were all intelligently covered as Sookie Stackhouse and her supernatural cohorts battled vampire gods, a creepy religious cult and a deadly coven of necromancers for our amusement.
True Blood was also one of the first mainstream shows brave enough to challenge the power of religion in the Deep South, exemplified by an Emmy-nominated title sequence that flashed contradictory images of sex, violence and religion to Jace Everett’s ‘Bad Things’, long before True Detective taught us that “time is a flat circle” – and Rush Cohle never had to contend with meth-addicted werepanthers.
It was allowed to get away with discussing such weighty themes because, more than anything, True Blood was a fantastical, funny, thoroughly silly show. A great True Blood episode is one where its sheer insanity is pushed to the foreground, dazzling viewers with town-wide orgies, a gay fry-cook who is also a medium for the dead and an alcoholic sheriff who thinks he’s being stalked by a pig.
Unfortunately, that’s what the show was and what it no longer is. The writing has been on the wall for since season five saw the show reach its lowest ebb with a bloated cast and plot so convoluted that the run felt endless and disjointed with many characters left on the peripheries – something for which Joe Manganiello recently criticised the show.
It seemed like showrunner Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) was running short of ideas about where to take things next as he became increasingly reliant on the original Sookie Stackhouse books, picking up confusing plotlines like Sookie’s sorta-psychic cousin that would have been wisely jettisoned or given an inventive twist in earlier seasons. It came as no surprise when Ball announced he was stepping down before the start of season six.
The move appears to have had a rallying effect on the series. Season six felt like a vast improvement, the vampire concentration camp adding a much-needed sense of peril, and the early signs are that season seven will continue this upward trend having killed-off some of the characters that had long-ago fulfilled their purpose (farewell, Tara) in Monday’s brutal season opener to focus on tying up the remaining loose ends.
Its right that True Blood should go out on a high considering the impact it has had on television and the untold joy it has brought to many millions, and while I among others will mourn the show when its gone, it will be tempered by the knowledge that it perhaps stuck around longer than it should.
And if the series has taught us but one thing, it is that the end comes to all things in its time, and so it is for True Blood to step gracefully into the sun rather than trying to bury its legacy further into the ground.