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.
Expectation. That's the word of the day, gentle readers, of our not-so-gentle take on HBO's True Blood. Welcome to the fourth season of the last great vampire television show. They keep the emo to a minimum here.
Our expectations were mixed coming into this season. On one hand, the fourth Sookie Stackhouse book is one of the best in the series, a truly new look at many of your favorite characters as well another great revelation in regards to the fae inhabiting the world along with humans, vampires, weres, shifters, and even the occasional demigod.
On the other hand though, the aspects of the fae delved into in the last season were, if we may quote the Wife With One F who got us into this whole thing, a "bunch of henna-tattooed, Ren Festy bullshit." Sookie had disappeared from all her vampire troubles into a green light surrounded by Harlequin cover models and the Mary KKK. That's where we pick up the narrative.
Note: Fae, a variation of "faerie" will be spelled the way it is spelled in the True Blood Report because that is how it appears in the closed-captioning. No angry comments, please.
The set that represents the plane inhabited by the fae makes us think that Alan Ball read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion one too many times, right down to the glowing trees. Sookie runs into her grandfather, also a telepath and descendant of faeries, who cannot believe that 20 years have passed since he last saw her. For him it has only been a few hours.
In the end, the whole set up is revealed to be a spell by the faerie queen Mab to harvest humans with faerie blood for... some reason or another. To breed is our guess. Anyway, Sookie blows the lid off the whole thing and the faeries are revealed as much more inhuman and their realm much more desolate without the glamour. Sookie escapes with her grandfather, only for him to die upon reentry to the human plane as he had eaten the fruit of faerie.
Much like us, the audience, waited for Sookie's return since last year, time has fast-forwarded a year in Bon Temps. Sookie's brother Jason is now a policeman, her best friend Tara a lesbian cage fighter, and her ex-boyfriend Bill has become the Vampire King of Louisiana.
This was not what we expected.
The song that we feature in this week's column, though, should be well expected. Neko Case and Nick Cave's cover of the Zombies' "She's Not There" has been teased for weeks leading up to the season debut. We get to hear the track just after Eric reveals to Sookie he bought her house in her absence and is now free to come and go as he wishes without her permission, lunging at her with great lust.
We're not terribly familiar with Case, though listening to "She's Not There" makes us believe that we should be. However, we are intimately familiar with the work of Nick Cave. If any artist can be said to reinvent himself as often and as legitimately as David Bowie, it is Nick Cave. From the Birthday Party to the Bad Seeds to Grinderman, he has constantly journeyed, changed, and never ever lost the seductive evil that makes him a class all unto himself.
If you haven't picked up Grinderman 2, Cave's latest album, then you are missing out on something so brilliant and new that you'd need and iPhone app that performs oral sex to top it. Case and his zydeco-rubbed cover of "She's Not There" sounds nothing like it, but it will probably topple Malcolm McLaren's cover as the top interpretation of the track. Minus Tim Curry of course, a sentence you should probably imagine at the end of every declarative statement we write.
Cave hasn't given us such a powerful duet since he and Kylie Minogue went on and on about some chick they called the Wild Rose, whose name was really Elisa Day. Granted, "She's Not There" lacks the straight emotional impact of Cave's most famous murder ballad, but the atmosphere is certainly helped by immediately following a likely rape and possibly blood-drained end. Case's voice, sweet, haunting, and possibly the sound angels hear when they boink, mistressfully keeps up with Cave's famous baritone.
We expected nothing less that perfection from Cave. We wish we could say the same for the season for which he has jerked the curtain. Ball's deviations from Charlaine Harris's novels have usually been good for the series. Changing faeries from walking sex emporiums to semi-demonic harvesters of breeding potential who live in the album cover of Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy may be his first real mistake.
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Be sure to visit the Loving True Blood in Dallas blog, where Jef With One F will be a semi-regular contributor to the podcast this season.