Television Revision: True Blood – Season 3

Television Revision: True Blood – Season 3. Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, and Ryan Kwanten. Rated R. By Andrew Williams.

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… The undead are joined by plenty of dead in Season Three of True Blood, as the ramifications of past events are felt throughout Bon Temps. Tara (Rutina Wesley) is grieving, Sam (Sam Trammell) is looking for his real family, and Bill (Stephen Moyer) has been kidnapped by a pack of werewolves connected to Big Bad #3: ancient, powerful vampire Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare).

Happy days? If it wasn’t for the main storyline featuring O’Hare as this season’s primary villain, True Blood’s third outing would be a total wash. Sam Merlotte, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), and the rest of Bon Temps are all stuck in messy, ineptly constructed subplots that have nothing to do with the larger storyline and go absolutely nowhere. It’s a sad indictment of True Blood’s inability to drop some of its actors and characters, seemingly possessed by the need to give everyone stuff to do.

Luckily, the events in Bon Temps are all merely distractions from the main event: Russell, the vampire king of Mississippi, and his nefarious plans for humankind. True Blood is always at its best when it throws caution to the wind and indulges its inner freak, and O’Hare’s performance is the epitome of that. He’s a fey, furious, and fabulous force of nature that improves every scene with his presence. What’s more, an interesting villain gives Bill, Sookie (Anna Paquin), Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) something to do, paving the way for the character shading and depth they’ve desperately needed. Sure, the werewolf inclusion is mostly a meaningless one and sure, Bill and Sookie have long grown tiresome as a couple, but at least the Russell storyline gives us something to watch.

The final frontier: When we’re following the A-story, True Blood is every bit the show it should be. When we’re anywhere else, it is cripplingly, impossibly dull. Sadly, the split makes this season one for die-hards only.

Top 3 Episodes: 2) Beautifully Broken. The debut of Russell Edgington, plus a few bad-ass moments for other members of the ensemble. 7) Hitting the Ground. The season’s plot mechanics whirr into motion and we (finally) lose a character or two. 9) Everything is Broken. Mostly a fairly average outing for the season, it’s redeemed by an outstanding Denis O’Hare monologue and one of the series’ best cliffhangers.

Worst Episode: 10) I Smell a Rat. Features an interminable drug-fuelled fantasy sequence for Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), an incomprehensible descent into drunken madness for Sam, more Bill and Sookie fighting, and barely any Russell. Ah, creative momentum, we hardly knew ye.

Season MVP: If I’ve spoken a lot about Denis O’Hare, it’s because he dominates this season of True Blood so completely there’s very little else to take away. He’s just a superior villain. In the absence of any other highlights, I’ll give some love to Jace Everett, the writer of True Blood’s theme ‘Bad Things’. It’s a cracking tune, and even after shotgunning twelve episodes in a row, you won’t get sick of it. Trust me.

True Blood – Season 3 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY until November 9.

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