True Blood: The Complete Third Season [Blu-Ray]

True Blood: The Complete Third Season [Blu-Ray]
Right out of the gate, it's pretty clear the third season of creator Alan Ball's lurid take on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels is set to revel in excess. Excessive nudity, violence, melodrama, characters, plot threads and supernatural revelations ― that's what we love about the most ridiculously adult soap opera television has to offer, but it's that same mandate of excess that's also responsible for this season's worst moments. The first two seasons were quite focused in their extremes ― vampires, telepaths, shape shifters, a serial killer and a maenad ― but with so many balls in play this time (literally as well ― there are more beefy men on display than in a Greg Araki film), the juggling act falters. Sookie and Bill get embroiled with werewolves, a feud between vampire royalty and the vampire authority, and a secret agenda that reveals the source of Ms. Stackhouse's powers. That'd be all well and good, and their plot thread continues to be, at least revolving around the spine of the story, but theirs is just a fraction of the messy whole. Tara gets more annoying than ever with her self-pity and rampant negativity ― sure, being kidnapped by a psycho vampire paramour (a wonderfully twisted James Frain) after her lover is outted as a brainwashed murderer and shot in the head is a pretty good reason, but the character's rut has become wearisome. The convoluted family drama for Sam Merlotte, who's seeking his birth parents, fares only marginally better than the silly, meth-dealing, werepanther, trailer trash, incestuous, love/obligation triangle Jason Stackhouse is saddled with ― if only his arc of trying to become a cop would've been allowed to play out instead. Relationship sagas with Terry and Arlene, and Lafayette and his new love interest are similarly overburdened with supernatural elements, deflating the earnest emotions of human interest at play in favour of the fantastical. If everyone is "special," nobody is. At least the love story between Hoyt and Jessica doesn't require an extension of the pulpy reality they already live in. The vampires still carry the show. The introduction of Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), king of Mississippi and oldest vampire on the books, gives the season extra weight, menace, sadistic humour and an effective dose of environmental and social commentary to contrast the political satire of the Vampire League of America. Alexander Skarsgård continues to charm as the manipulative Eric Northman and the prissy posturing of increasingly desperate vampire queen Sophie-Anne (Evan Rachel Wood) in the face of taxation is pretty funny. Like the season itself, the features on the gorgeous Blu-Ray (this is one of the most beautiful uses of HD I've seen) are a mixed bag. "Post Mortems" for each episode range from a montage of twisted violence and a rehashed segment from the fascinating "Anatomy of a Scene," in which we're treated to a look at on-set wolf wrangling and how werewolf transformations are accomplished, to complete versions of various background news programs, Reverend Newlin diffusing a white power comment on his call-in show by reaffirming his support for Betty White and a Nazi werewolf propaganda film. Episode commentaries range from humdrum observations by writers, directors and occasionally tired actors to hilarious and insightful. Alan Ball and Denis O'Hare's discussion of episode six is easily the stand out, with Anna Paquin's jovial questioning of why there isn't more man on man action an easy second. A misguided music video for "Oh Sookie" by Snoop Dogg is even lamer than the obviously scripted "Character Perspectives," in which side characters offer trite thoughts on their internal motivations. These are laced throughout the frustrating "Enhanced Viewing" option, in which infrequent deleted scenes are also included. Oddly, only the deleted scenes don't get their own menu outside of this pointless function, and there's no option to skip to the next feature, so if you want to see them, you have to sit through the entire season again, ready to click "enter" at the right moment. And, finally, to keep the vast cast of character relations clear, "True Blood Lines" displays bios by species type, with helpful tags like "murderer," "lover," "maker," etc. connected to everyone who's ever had any sort of significant part in the dense mythology of True Blood. Overstuffed ambitions marring its focus aside, season three of True Blood is still a hell of a lot of bloody, sexy fun. (Warner)