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True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season (2012)

HBO Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/15/2013

Say what you will about the television series True Blood, the show doesn't like to repeat itself. Over the course of its five seasons, the series has introduced many storylines and dozens of characters and it always seems to be charting a new course for itself. What began as a somewhat simple story about the forbidden love between a human and a vampire has expanded to contain a whole universe of new things. This certainly creates some pros and cons. One the one hand, there's nothing worse than a show which becomes stagnant and redundant. On the other hand, something must be said for finding something which you do well and sticking to it. True Blood is rarely boring, but it does have trouble finding a balance and every season takes the show down a new path. Season 5 is no exception, as it carries the series even further from its roots.

(SPOILER WARNING: It's impossible to discuss Season Five of True Blood without divulging information from Season Four and more. So, if you haven't seen Season Four, please read with caution.) As Season Four of True Blood came to a close, several characters found themselves in a bind. Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) had angered Debbie Pelt (Brit Morgan) the ex-girlfriend of werewolf Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello), sending Debbie into a jealous rage. Debbie, shotgun in hand, accosted Sookie in her home. Sookie shot Debbie, but not before Debbie could shoot Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), who saved Sookie's life. Meanwhile, vampires Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) had gotten themselves into hot water as well, as they'd killed Vampire League representative Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck).

As Season Five opens, these characters attempt to right their wrong. Sookie convinces Pam De Beaufort (Kristin Bauer Van Straten) to save Tara by making her a vampire, and Pam (who hates everyone) reluctantly agrees. Bill and Eric are arrested by the Vampire Authority, and despite assistance from Eric's sister, Nora Gainesborough (Lucy Griffiths), they are taken to the Authority's underground lair. There, they meet the Council and learn of unrest in the vampire world, as some vampires want to live in harmony with humans, while others see humans solely as food. Bill and Eric are asked to choose side. At this same time, Sookie learns that vampires influenced her life long before she met Bill and she and her brother, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), must attempt to learn more about their past. They turn to their fairy relatives for this help. Meanwhile, a group of masked vigilantes are attacking anyone with supernatural powers while Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe) is being stalked by a fire-demon.

True Blood took a sharp turn in Season 3 by blowing up its established universe and sending the characters on various paths. This trend has continued to the present, as the show follows many divergent storylines and has pretty much proven that things are not going back to the way which they were. Whereas the show was initially about Sookie and Bill, they only appear in two scenes together throughout all of Season 5. Sookie and Bill were one of the most interesting couples on TV ("Not since Buffy and Angel..."), so splitting them up seems like a very odd decision. Yet, as noted above, the show is always evolving, so Alan Ball and his staff must be applauded for trying new things.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at the highs and lows of Season 5. Having Eric and Bill spend most of the season in an underground lair seems odd, but they do have some good scenes together. The first few episodes with the Authority feel awkward, as Eric and Bill are constantly asked how they feel about humans. Given that Eric owns a nightclub where humans are welcome and Bill was always helping the citizens of Bon Temps, the answers to the questions seem obvious and the questioning is setting up something which comes later in the season, but it is frustrating at the time. Sookie's discovery about her past and her involvement with the fairies is interesting, but the show needs to provide more information and backstories for the fairies. As for the other characters, some of the sub-plots in Season 5 drag on for too long. The vigilante story brings back a character from earlier seasons, but it doesn't really go anywhere (save for showing the unrest in the world). Terry's fire-demon story really feels tacked on and unnecessary. Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) seems to still be wrestling with his powers, but this only comes up when needed. It feels like the powers that be at True Blood have painted themselves into a corner where they feel obligated to touch base with every character...but they really don't.

True Blood has never been a subtle show, but Season 5 is dominated by political themes and social issues. Tara's transformation into a vampire is clearly a metaphor for homosexuals coming out of the closet. We get this far before a character keeps telling her, "It gets better". Just hit me over the head why don't you? I must admit that I didn't get all of the symbolism with the vampire "Mainstreamers" versus the "Sanguinistas" (sp?), but that may be because I didn't want to think about it too much. It does become obvious when certain characters are imitating the religious right.

If you can come to grips with the fact that Sookie and Bill probably aren't going to get back together (not in any way which will end well), then you can enjoy the wild carnival which True Blood has become. Season 5 totally steers away from any romantic angle and focuses more on politics and action. There are some nice twists here and it ends with a great cliffhanger. If you can wade through the politics and the symbolism, True Blood is still a good show which is never afraid to be bloody crazy.

True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season makes women envy fairy childbirth on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The 12 episodes of Season 5 are presented on 5 Discs. The show is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing just a hint of grain and no defects from the source material. This can be a dark show, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The colors look fine and the image has a nice amount of depth for a TV show. The level of detail is good as well. This certainly rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a nicely detailed track which offers some impressive surround sound action. There was a moment when a door closes in the rear speakers and I thought someone was in my house. Now that's quality! The stereo effects show good separation and are nicely detailed as well. The subwoofer offers a nice rumble when supernatural events are afoot.

The True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray Disc set contains an assortment of extras. Each episode can be watched with "Enhanced Viewing". This offers pop-up video-like "Hint" and "FYI" offerings which provides more information about what is happening or foreshadowing. There are also "Flashbacks" and "Flashforwards" which allow the viewer to see a scene which relates to the scene being viewed. Lastly, this offers "Authority Confessionals" at certain points during the show. This allows us to hear various members of the Vampire Authority give their views on certain topics. (Disc 5 offers an option to view any or all of these "Confessionals".) We also get an "Inside the Episode" selection for all 12 episodes. These brief (4 minutes on average) segments offer a quick overview of the episode, combined with behind-the-scenes shots and some soundbytes from the cast and someone involved with writing or directing the show. There are several AUDIO COMMENTARIES included here for the following episodes: "We'll Meet Again" by Actor Chris Bauer, Writer Alexander Woo, and Director Romeo Tirone; "Somebody That I Used to Know" with Stephen Moyer (who also directed this episode) and Writer Mark Hudis; "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Denis O'Hare, Carrie Preston, and Director Dan Attias; "Sunset" by Co-Executive Producer/Writer Angela Robinson and Director Lesli Linka Glatter; and "Save Yourself" by Anna Paquin, Alan Ball, and Director Michael Lehmann. Disc 3 offers "True Blood Episode Six: Autopsy" (64 minutes) plays like a super-expanded version of "Inside the Episode". This featurette offers on-set footage, as well as interviews with the cast and the creative team. This offers a step-by-step analysis of the episode, looking at key scenes, the story, and the look of the show (costumes and special effects). Disc 5 offers the interactive feature "True Blood Lines" which allows the viewer to learn more about the characters and how they are connected.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.