Now that Charlaine Harris has closed the door on the Sookie Stackhouse books there is something that we need to address. No, not the ending. If you're bitching about that then frankly you didn't understand the series in the first place. No, it's the fact that some of True Blood is actually better than in the books.
Oh don't get me wrong, some of it is worse. I'm never really going to get behind Sam Trammel's Sam Merlotte. He's a great actor, but the character he plays is nothing like in the books and not in a good way. Alcide is also extremely unlikeable, and fond as I am of Kristin Bauer van Straten the fact that her Pam is no friend of Sookie's ruins some of my favorite scenes.
However, there are five characters that have only improved for being played differently on the show. Now we can enjoy them with no guilt.
Tara: In the books, Tara is barely a character. She's Sookie's best friend for sure, but the only reason we ever know that is because we're told that fact. Mostly she's a screw-up that manages to land herself in all kinds of outlandish trouble, only to be glumly saved from herself by the end.
The television Tara is a presence. She's got depth and grit, and while I think her becoming a vampire was a little ridiculous it's not outside the realm of her character arc. She's a train wreck most of the time, but in that she tends to serve as a dark mirror to Sookie's own existence, like Faith did to Buffy on BTVS.
Lafayette: In the books, Lafayette may as well not even exist. His character doesn't even survive the first book, and his death's only real purpose is to set up a long running joke about the disposability of Merlotte's employees.
In the show he's a scene-stopper. At times Nelsan Ellis plays his flamboyantness to the point of parody, but just the AIDS burger scene alone makes him an unforgettable force. As a drug dealer, a gay man in the south, and a meddler in the affairs of the witches it's hard to believe he's survived six seasons, which is proof enough to the strength of the role.Rocks Off True Blood: The Naked, The Famous, The God, and The Devil (NSFW)
Terry and Arlene: Terry in the books isn't explored as well as he is in the show, but he's hardly one dimensional. In fact, Harris does him up lovely with tiny touches that really illustrate the damage PTSD has done to him. Arlene as well is given plenty of screen time... as a sad sack of a human being still clinging to the hopes that a man will whisk her away from small town poverty. Then there's the time she was going to lead Sookie to torture and murder because she'd gotten in too deep with the religious nuts.
It's not that the show offers deeper takes on the characters necessarily; it's that it gives them some damn happiness. Terry in the books does find love, but it's nothing like the healing he eventually undergoes as Arlene's husband and father to her children. Arlene herself is still backwoods and trashy, but there's a core of goodness that helps shine past all that and make you forgive her her faults. Both characters are far realer on screen than they are in the books.
Maxine Fortenberry: Maxine is one of those little old Southern ladies that is pretty much a stock character. She's warm, shows up with food, has down home sayings, her social life revolves around church, and she's a little racist. She's basically Paula Deen in book form, and most of the time she is mostly there to serve as a crowdfiller in any given scene.
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Dale Raoul took that stock character and just ran with it. She's responsible for so many incidental comedic moments of genius. From the first time she hurries to cover the cross in church so as to not burn the visiting Bill Compton to the time she told Summer showing her son Hoyt her underwear was a good thing but still a sin she makes for a very enjoyable presence. Everyone with an aunt in the South can also testify she is 100 percent accurate.
Jessica: No addition to the Sookieverse can compare with Jessica. She's a wholly original creation of the show, but she still fits right in with the established mythology.
As Bill's vampiric daughter it allows us the chance to see him interact with a female character other than Sookie, and considering how cruel Bill can be it's a good way to see a tender side since he so openly cares for her. She's easily the most accessible female character on the show after Sookie herself, and her openness and even innocence after all she's seen lightens the darkness of the show very well. Proof positive that sometimes the book isn't always better... at least not about everything.