Out this week, the True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray set includes DVD and digital copies. Let’s take a look. [Some spoilers to follow.]
Season Four ended with death. On a show like True Blood, death is not a great shocker but the last few episodes had quite a few losses. A crazed, V-tweaked Debbie Pelt came to confront Sookie, aiming a shotgun at her, but Tara pushed Sookie aside and was fatally shot instead. Sookie quickly overpowered Debbie, shot and killed her. Also on the death list was Authority and AVL representative Nan Flanagan. She was staked by Bill and Eric because of a difference of opinion on how to handle the Marnie/Antonia situation and other political matters. Marnie, the pacifist Wiccan, also died, as a result of her increasing lust for magical power while Antonia inhabited her body.
Another casualty was Jesus, killed by Lafayette while he was under influence of the ghost of Marnie (and infused with brujo magic). And nasty werewolf pack leader Marcus was killed by Alcide during a fight. Finally poor Tommy Mickens, Sam’s long lost younger brother, got beaten to death, mostly because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and his shape un-shifted.
Season Five begins immediately after all the mayhem. New characters are introduced, and the most intriguing of all is not a single character, but an organization - The Authority. This governing body, thousands of years old, is also a religious organization that worships Lilith, the original vampire. Their headquarters, which is hidden underground in New Orleans, holds a vial of what is thought to be her actual blood.
Guest stars this season are Christopher Meloni as Roman Zimojic, the “Guardian”, leader of the Vampire Authority; Scott Foley as Patrick Devins, one of Terry Bellefluer’s patrol members from Iraq; Valentina Cervi as Salome Agrippa, that Salome, from the Bible; and Lucy Griffiths as Nora Gainsborough, a chancellor of the Authority, and Eric’s sister (both are Godric’s progeny); and Robert Patrick makes a brief appearance as Jackson, Alcide’s father. Dennis O’Hare also returns as Russell Edgington - the vampire we love to stake hate.
New Technology: The iStake. Yeah, there's an app for that
The first episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” an apt title, because the stories that unfold this season are all about some very real and drastic changes for many main characters.
To save Tara, Lafayette and Sookie plead with Pam to turn her into a vampire. Pam reluctantly agrees and borrows clothes fit for sleeping in dirt “I am wearing a Wal-Mart sweat suit for y’all. If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit, I don’t know what is.” Oh, and Tara is furious with Sookie at having been turned.
Pam herself does not change her essential character, yet the audience is granted a closer look via flashbacks. As a brothel madam in the early 1900s, she is not so different from Pam the Fangtasia manager, yet we still see a softer side of the woman. Her vulnerability shows in her fear and frustrations with vampires. Pam does not let that vulnerable side surface, and typically keeps up a strong, sarcastic, cheeky persona. But as Tara’s maker, Pam will begin to feel things she couldn’t have predicted.
Terry and Arlene’s marriage is further tested, and this time Terry morphs from easy-going front-line cook to a frightened soldier confronting his past. He and Patrick spend much of the season dealing with the repercussions of their acts in Iraq, as a terrifying fire monster, the Ifrit, promises to follow them until they and their loved ones are dead.
Bill and Eric are now jailvamps. Arrested by The Authority for Nan Flanagan’s murder, they are interrogated - tortured with IV silver and UV lights - to explain/confess not only what happened to Nan, but to pledge their alliance with either the Mainstreaming movement, or the Sanguinistas.
Another transformation starts with Jason Stackhouse’s realization that all the sex he pursues won’t fill the empty place inside him. He takes his job seriously. He turns down the advances of sexy college girls. Eventually, he begins to hallucinate that his parents are alive and urging him to stay away from vampires.
Things change for the “shifters” as well. Sam, Luna, and their friends are targeted by a hate group and things become violent. Little Emma is revealed to be a werewolf (her father was Marcus, the pack leader). The pack itself goes through a revolution. Once they find out that Marcus is dead, another member, JD, steps up to claim the pack-master role. But JD also takes V, and begins to encourage (then force) other members to drink it. JD has formed a side alliance with Russell Edgington, who uses wolves to do his dirty work.
Old beliefs fall away for Sookie and Jason. They find out the truth behind their parents’ death, and the new information causes Jason to go into vengeful warrior mode. But one of the biggest changes is with Bill Compton.
Most likely because Bill and the rest of the Authority Chancellors drank a small amount of Lilith’s blood, they all began to hallucinate that Lilith appeared to them individually, claiming that she chose them to lead the rest. Bill falls under her spell completely, and claims that the Vampire Bible is to be interpreted literally, and that humans are simply food, nothing more.
An interesting theme from Season Five is the conflict between the Sanguinista movement and the Mainstreaming movement. The Mainstreaming movement is basically what the first four seasons have depicted. Most vampires believe in getting along with humans, or at least tolerating them. The Sanguinistas however, believe in the literal interpretation of the Vampire Bible - humans are food. These opposing views absolutely mirror the conflict between real world religions’ very fundamentalist views, and more liberal views.
The Blu-ray video quality is excellent, beginning with the title sequence. As the muted pastels transition to primary colors, the red lips pop even brighter. And with all the “staking” going on, the red goo and blood really seeps indelibly into the scene.
- Enhanced Viewing: Each episode can be watched straight, as if it would air on TV or enhanced. In Enhanced Viewing, the episode has text occasionally appearing with FYIs regarding scene trivia, a quick character bio, or other hints on plot points. Quite fun and a must for True Blood aficionados.
- Authority Confessionals: Salome, Nora, Rosalyn, Kibwe, Steve, and Russell weigh in on their roles in The Authority, and offer insights and gossip. Because Season Five is so Authority-centric, these spots really add a great dimension to whole concept.
- Episode Six: Autopsy. "Autopsy" is appropriate, because the episode is thoroughly dissected with commentary and behind-the-scenes moments. It is rich with more hints and FYIs, such as the digital creation of the ifrit. According to creator Alan Ball [We’ve] “…never had a character or creature that was purely a visual effect.”
- True Blood Lines: An interactive chart that lists characters by their “species” (Human, Vampire, Werewolf, Shifter, Faerie). Click on any character, and a separate chart opens up a list of all that particular character’s relatives, friends, enemies, progeny, and the like.
- Commentary: A few episodes have an option for commentary by cast, directors, or writers. Cast/Crew commentary is worth the extra time; it’s always interesting and often quite hysterical. Being privy to the inside jokes, the irreverence, and the praise for others’ work is great. How else would we know that Anna Paquin said of Dennis O’Hare (Russell Edgington), “he could read the “Smith” pages of the phone book, and make it interesting.”
Season Six of True Blood airs June 16th on HBO, so it's a great time to get caught up.