Is it possible to go back to the past without there being any major consequences? What happens when everyone you love appeared to be in true danger? What can you do to save them? That's part of the premise behind the seventh and final season of HBO's "True Blood," which had the always growing cast facing a new threat that could truly kill them all. The premiere demonstrated some promise, but it's too early whether that early potential will last up to the final episode.
"True Blood" followed the residents of Bon Temps, Louisiana as they faced the threat of a group of Hep-V Infected Vampires who planned to kill every human in sight; even if they weren't already paired with a vampire. With the infected vampires roaming around and no more True Blood in sight, Mayor Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) helped come up with the idea of pairing healthy vampires with healthy humans as an effort for both to stay alive longer. He also had a healthy relationship with his pregnant fiancee Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) that could be destroyed by the infected vampires after she became a potential hostage with a few other residents by the infected vampires. After the massacre, the locals placed the blame on various people, but the biggest one was placed on Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) based on her strong connection with vampires. Unfortunately, Sookie's telepathic abilities allowed her to hear everyones' harsh thoughts about her, especially from her seemingly devoted werewolf boyfriend Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello). Alcide's thoughts proved to be more hurtful to Sookie, because she was dealing with the shocking loss of her childhood friend/vampire Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) who was killed saving her mother from the Hep-V Vampires. Sookie and her friends only have her mother's word for it, but she has indicated that there was more to the story. Sookie also realized that her vampire ex-lover Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) will always be some part of her life whether she liked it or not. Bill and his progeny Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll) also worked extra hard to do right by Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) and his faerie daughter Adilyn (Bailey Noble) after their actions led to the deaths of Andy's other faerie daughters. Jessica made it her mission to protect Adilyn even if she died in the process, while her boyfriend James Kent (Nathan Parsons) bonded with Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) after the attack. Meanwhile, Sookie's frustrated brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) vented his frusrations to his vampire girlfriend Violet (Karolina Wydra) after she pushed him around one too many times. Will Sookie and her friends be able to survive the Hep-V Vampire attacks or will they die in the process? Who will Sookie end up with once everything is over?
In terms of questions, the season premiere posed a lot, but the biggest question involved what truly happened with Wesley's original cast member Tara because her presumed demised happened off-screen. Viewers and the cast only had the word of Tara's unreliable mother who seemed to have a different emotion toward her vampire daughter with each passing scene since she was turned. The character also acted really strange after she was brought home, which could've been a sign of guilt. A possible theory could be that the mother decided to kill her long suffering daughter for reasons only known to her, or allowed it to happen without even lifting a finger to help her. If Tara was truly dead, viewers should've been given the chance to feel the loss instead of it being more of an afterthought to see the remaining cast members grieve in their own offhanded way. Let's hope that Wesley will get to make another appearance somehow before the final episode to give Sookie and company some genuine closure. It was also a shame that the premiere didn't get to show Alexander Skarsgard's Eric who appeared to be meeting a grim fate at the end of season six, but the premiere hinted that he'll returning in some form with the help of his progeny Pam. The show has to bring him back if only to simply wrap up his storyline, or give him a proper exit that won't leave viewers wondering for too long. One of the premiere's most memorable scenes came from Kristin Bauer's Pam who was in a scene that was similar to a key plot in "The Deer Hunter," but the twist was that she was already dead so she had no fear of dying. She also brought a hint of dark humor that could've made a tragic scene a lot more humorous than it could've been. Pam's lack of a presence in Bon Temps also made it unclear whether Tara was truly dead or not, because her progeny's death didn't hit her in any way at all. The show's producers have promised that this final season will help to focus on the core cast, but the addition of multiple cast members makes that theory harder to believe just yet, unless there was even more carnage in store as the season progressed. Only time will tell if that's the case. If there are more casualties coming, future episodes will have to work harder to make them count.
As for breakout performances, Paquin, Woll and Bauer led the pack based on the season premiere alone as the episode largely focused on plots surrounding their characters. Paquin worked extra hard to bring Sookie back to the problem plagued faerie who couldn't control hearing other peoples' thoughts, especially if they were thinking nasty things about her. She embodied Sookie with the right amount of grit and vulnerability as she tried to keep it together while everything around her was falling apart. Unfortunately, Paquin will have to work a little harder to help viewers move past some of Sookie's most questionable storyline moments, but it could happen once the character sticks to a boyfriend long enough. It was also nice to see Sookie paired with Alcide, because Paquin and Manganiello did have a strong rapport that viewers wanted to see explored ever since Alcide's first appearance. Sadly, Paquin's Sookie still had the strongest chemistry with Moyer's Bill, which can be explained by their off-screen chemistry and the fact that the show was working on repairing that relationship by the time the series ended for good. Woll's Jessica had the chance to move on from being the reckless baby vampire from past seasons as she managed to work through her character's guilt of killing most of Andy's daughters. She embodied Jessica with the right amount of innocence, sadness and danger as she tried to prove that she could save someone and not end up killing them in the process. It also helped that she had a nice rapport with Noble that could help sustain the season if both characters are around long enough. Ultimately, the premiere's biggest surprise came from Bauer's Andy who was often made the brunt of the show's many comedic stories that often made the character look very foolish. It was a nice change of pace for the character to show his serious side as he had to decide whether to save Bill, or allow a group of townspeople deservedly kill him for his past transgressions. He embodied Andy as a loving father who would do anything for only living daughter, even if it meant turning to the vampire that killed his other daughters. Let's hope that Bauer will get another dramatic storyline before the series ends for good.
"True Blood" premiered on June 22nd and airs Sundays at 9:00 PM on HBO.
Verdict: The show's premiere demonstrated some early potential, but the series still has a long way to go to redeem itself in time for the series finale.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)