Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood -- which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston.
I've watched True Blood from the very first episode and covered it almost as long once I realized that it had the best soundtrack in television history. Seriously, only Buffy the Vampire Slayer clocks in as a distant second. Music makes up so much of the show, and I really feel that the best moments, the moments that make a viewer want to keep watching, have the uniquely dark Southern sound that has dominated the show.
Last year, I thought I was done with this gig. Watching Bill Compton die and be reincarnated as the vampire messiah/mammon Lilith had me questioning exactly how much cocaine is involved in the writing process for an HBO television drama. Little by little the vampire franchise that broke all the rules was basically turning into the Blade movies. Those are great movies, but they're not the thing six damn seasons are made of.
In the aftermath of the many, many people that got offed at the end of the last season, Sookie, Jason, Eric, Nora, and Jessica are running as far and fast as they can from the vampire stronghold in New Orleans. It's here that the show does something very, very sensible. It spends almost all its time on dealing with the characters in these traumatic aftermaths as they re-establish who they are going to be in relation to each other.
Jason is the most damaged. He is seeing visions of his dead parents and wants to wreak holy war on vampires in general. It turns out his parents' murderer is a vampire so old he appears in their Bible, and the information has driven him just a little crazy. He cuts all ties with his sister and the vampire community before storming off into the Louisiana night.
Nora is struggling with the fact that she's devoted her whole life to a parasite god. Eric is touched by Sookie's honor and ability to fight for those she cares about. His good grace is actually used against him as he recounts their first meeting, prompting Sookie to banish him from her house in order to find that little girl in the white dress Eric remembers so fondly.
Jessica is a deeper and more subtle performance, and Deborah Ann Woll continues to be a real treasure on the sidelines. In Bill she's finally found a real father, but she's simultaneously repulsed by and dedicated to him. Her conflict, magnified as always with a certain headstrong teen angst, makes for some of the show's most tender moments. Later, we see Bill, sporting untold powers, tuck her gently into bed before retiring to study his Bible.
Everyone is falling into new places, which is understandable as huge conflicts in the supernatural community have occurred one after the other. It was strangely a quiet opener, which is a very bold move. I think Season 6 might actually make it.
It left us on a dark music note, though, and that's where we make the acquaintance of Mikky Ekko.
Ekko was a nomadic preacher's kid who traveled all over the Bible Belt with his father. The exposure to gospel turned him into a singer, and there's nothing that True Blood loves more than to find strange hymns to sing about.
Most people know Mikky Ekko from his association with Rihanna, otherwise known in my house as the reason I will no longer watch MTV even during music-video hours. Look, she's a good singer and great performer, but her work is as shallow as a kid's pool and twice as full of piss. Nonetheless, I promise that that last sentence will be the final mean thing I will ever say about her because she's bringing Mikky Ekko up in the world and that's an amazing thing.
His, "Who Are You, Really?" is what takes us out in this episode's credits. It loses points for having been featured in Teen Wolf, but is otherwise the amazing sort of selection that True Blood is famous for.
It's a song that looks at the illusions we weave about control. Are we puppets or puppetmasters? That's the question. Bill doesn't, or says he doesn't, know the reason or purpose behind his new existence, and everyone else from the newest vampire to the most devout is utterly clueless. Other strange power struggles lurk in the side stories, and in all behind it there is the question of just what powers have shadowed Sookie throughout her life.
Ekko's tune has an honest rage to it that smokes, all the while dancing the line behind good modern hip-hop and a dark indie-rock. It's the kind of song that was made for True Blood. And Ekko is sure to be a massive musical treasure in years to come. He sets just the right tone for the latest season, and gives me hope where there wasn't much before.
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