Television Revision: True Blood – Season 2

Television Revision: True Blood – Season 2. Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, and Ryan Kwanten. Rated R. By Andrew Williams.

Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse and Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton.

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… Bon Temps has another killer on its hands, with the revelation that Miss Jeanette (Tara’s fake exorcist; remember her?) had been brutally murdered at the end of Season One. Meanwhile, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) joins anti-vampire cult The Fellowship of the Sun, Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephen Moyer) invite a new member into their ultra-weird family, and there’s a new woman in town taking care of Tara (Rutina Wesley). But this is Bon Temps, people. She’s almost certainly evil.

Michael McMillian and Anna Camp as Steve and Sarah Newlin.

Happy days? True Blood’s sophomore effort is a marked improvement. The addition of season-long antagonists in anti-vampire fanatics the Newlins (Michael McMillian and Anna Camp) and mysterious social worker Maryann (Michelle Forbes) offer some much-needed forward momentum, and the actors are up to the challenge. Forbes in particular is able to command the screen and, as a bonus, some of the regular cast rise to her level, especially Alexander Skarsgard as Eric, who proves why he has inspired so much breathless fan-fiction with a smouldering, layered performance second time out.

It’s not all Sookie sex and Eric one-liners, though. This is True Blood, and the writers will make you yell things at the television. Episodes feature the kind of ham-handed exposition you would have blushed at in your high-school play; the whole ‘Fellowship’ storyline is fun but takes pot-shots at religion without ever actually saying anything; and character motivation has never been priority numero uno in the True Blood writers’ room. But no element suffered a worse fate than poor old former romantic lead Bill Compton, who is (I’m sorry) de-fanged in such a spectacular way you can see why female viewers jumped ship to Eric with such reckless abandon.

The final frontier: This is True Blood’s best season, and the kind of show it should have been going forward. At its best, it produces jaw-dropping character moments and plot twists. At its worst, it can set records for facepalms-per-episode. They got the mix right this time out, but at the risk of spoiling further season reviews, it’s all down hill…

Chris Bauer as Andy Bellefleur and Michelle Forbes as Maryann Forrester.

Top 3 Episodes: 3) Scratches. Delightfully weird and icky. 6) Hard Hearted Hannah. Compelling flashbacks (something they do surprisingly well) and a cracking cliff-hanger are among the highlights of the season’s best episode. 9) I Will Rise Up. A so-so outing redeemed by a fantastic closing scene and a send-off to another great True Blood addition. They always kill the good ones!

Worst Episode: 7) Release Me. In which an entry into the ‘Worst Exposition dialogue of all Time’ Hall of Fame is submitted. You can try and distract me with breasts all you want, True Blood. I still noticed.

Season MVP: Deborah Ann Woll. Woll takes a character primed to be an irritating, repetitive presence  – newly undead teen Jessica – and turned it into the show’s most human, grounding element. Not bad for a vampire.

True Blood – Season 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY until October 12, 2012.

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