Film and TV

True Blood: Steampunk and Strippers

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.

If you came to the column this week expecting me to offer an in-depth look at the plotline of the fifth season, then I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. I will say this, this episode was good enough that I forgot to be all cynical and snarky about the direction of the season. That being said, the plot doesn't move forward a great deal, but oh my lord, the incidentals make it all worth living.

The Vampire Authority remains one of the greatest things on television, what with the Laura Bush vampire chancellor and the amazingness of Chris Meloni as the Guardian. Meloni brings such a potent mix of badass and the Man to the small screen that you can't help but root for him. As far as I know, he is in fact the original gangster.

Incidentally, did you know that his favorite part of Sesame Street is any episode where the Cookie Monster has to battle the voice in his head that urges him to consume cookies without repercussions?

It has such a bizarre connection to the current storyline where he is a dedicated proponent of restraint amongst the vampire community to curb their homicidal urges and live with humanity as one that I'm not sure it isn't on purpose.

All that aside, watching Meloni navigate vampire politic as if this was an undead version of The West Wing is almost more intoxicating than all the sex and violence combined. There is something so damned compelling in the idea that vampires are as eaten up in internal political drama as humans. Each scene where they allow Meloni full reign to ham it up as both executioner and president is a gift to television. Shine on you blood diamond.

Now, the episode gets its name from an old 1939 tune sung by Vera Lynn, "We'll Meet Again." It's been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Pantera, and who exactly is behind the version that plays over the credits I couldn't tell you. Two out of three goths say it's Nick Cave, but I haven't got confirmation on that.

Instead, I want to focus on Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) and Andy Bellefleur's (Chris Bauer) inadvertent trip to a faerie strip club. I make no bones about how badly the series has handled the faerie storyline that happens in the books, but this was extremely interesting.

Jason meets up with his cousin Hadley, who warns him of a vampire threat to all those with faerie blood, and Andy hooks back up with a fae one night stand. All this action goes on with Abney Park's "Sleep Isabella" playing in the background, and I couldn't let a reference to the quintessential steampunk band pass without comment.

Abney started out as a pretty traditional goth band in the late '90s, but 2006 they underwent an transition to become part of the growing steampunk movement. Not only did they change their sound, but they even cobbled together a storyline where their tour plane was caught in a temporal maelstrom with a time-traveling dirigible.

No joke, they even released a novel explaining the whole thing.

"Sleep Isabella" is from their first full on steampunk recording, Lost Horizons. The song is still fairly standard goth, but does fit more overall steampunk themes. Here in the context of the episode it alludes heavily to the dream-like nature of the faerie realm.

God, it was so nice to hear the words of such an act blaring out of HBO while strange bodies writhed in ecstasy. The eldritch, lullaby nature of the song lends itself to the phantasmagorical setting of the fae realm, and for the first time I find myself interested in what is going on there.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner