True Blood Season Four [Blu-Ray]

True Blood Season Four [Blu-Ray]
About five minutes into the first episode of season four of True Blood, you might be wondering if your Blu-Ray player has somehow been hijacked by a new Star Trek show, as envisioned by the Syfy network. A bunch of goblin/faerie things shooting energy balls at each other in an arid landscape is miles away from the sultry, slow-burning world building the series started with. Luckily, the creative team behind the horniest vampires in our current fang-hungry zeitgeist have no issues with dropping, or at least pushing aside, some of the more ludicrous plot noodles they've been throwing at the wall since the end of season two's run of nearly perfect pulp. That includes Jason Stackhouse's (the underutilized Ryan Kwanten) misguided dalliances with that furry skank, Crystal. Really, where do you go after having one of the show's only remaining fully human leads gang-raped by a pack of drug-dealing, white trash werepanthers? Even the strong central plot, furthering the love triangle between Sooki (Anna Paquin), Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), and addressing the greater concerns of how vampires are integrating into society, is marred by a maddening insistence on conveniently linking it to all the sloppy story tangents. In a "post-Russell Edgington" world ― referring to the oldest known vampire ripping the spine out of a newscaster on live television in season three ― it is fun to see Bill, Eric and Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck) doing damage control in the media. Having Sooki's adventure in faerie land take up a whole year in regular time, allowing the rest of the principle characters to skip ahead on their respective life paths, is a useful device. Seeing Bill Compton settled in as a major political figure is a good way to keep him interesting now that he's not the primary fang pining for Sooki's neck real estate. It's a shame that those themes get marginalized by the threat of witches dabbling in necromancy, which takes over the drive of the story for the whole season. The saving grace of the witch plot is that it affords Alexander Skarsgård a fantastic acting opportunity to embody a whole other side of Eric, one that culminates in the relieving of some series-long sexual tension. Typical of a True Blood Blu-Ray collection, there are far more features than any reasonable viewer will have time for, or interest in. This especially applies to the "Enhanced Viewing" mode for each episode, which features side characters commenting on scenes from the show, along with random facts and the ability to view related scenes from earlier seasons. Each disc also contains "Inside the Episode" mini-features that usually do little more than recap plot points, but occasionally delve into filmmaking techniques. The assorted episode commentaries are a pretty entertaining bunch, matching actors who have prominent character development therein with the writers and directors who worked on the episode. Pairing creator Alan Ball with Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer with Debra Ann Woll, who plays his redheaded vamp-child, Jessica, yields especially potent conversation. "Final Touches" is a roundtable discussion with the various department supervisors who have to figure out all the polishes required to make an episode broadcast ready. While rather dry, at times, it's certainly more interesting than "True Bloodlines," the now standard menu tree used to clarify the increasingly convoluted relationships that make this once great show an increasingly morbid pleasure. (Warner)