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.
On its surface, the fifth episode of this season of True Blood wasn't any great shakes. The plotline involving Tara's (Rutina Wesley) new life as a vampire remains forced, and the new branches focusing on Terry (Todd Lowe) being pursued by a fire demon sent from a vengeful, wrongfully killed non-combatant in Iraq and Sam (Sam Trammel) trapped in series of shifter-related hate crimes that is one of the season's few connections to the fifth novel in the series aren't exactly gripping. Under the surface, though, a great and powerful allegory is waking up.
Two things dominate the thematics of the season, the Dark with a capital D, and living in a changed world. Up until this point in the show there has always been a sense of people learning that the monsters they fear are real, and for the first time since childhood they are forced to face the dark.
The vampires always seemed immune to this. After all, they are the night themselves. What do they have to fear? Well, it turns out they have to fear a lot.
Amongst their own kind, a radical fundamentalist movement threatens their very existence by endangering the mainstreaming movement with their adherence to the idea of humanity as nothing more than food. The most-feared weapon in this fight is the returning and restored Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare, and welcome back, sir!), who is currently rebuilding his strength and preparing to unleash his personal brand of anarchy upon the world.
Like most religious fanatics, this movement has two fallacies, one logical and one practical. First, vampires may feed of humans, but they also reproduce through them. Imagine if cows or soy beans were also instrumental in the birth of our children. Don't you think that we might treat them different if they were?
Second, as the Guardian (Chris Meloni) in the Vampiratican has previously pointed out open war against humanity is suicide. Try as they might, vampires have no shot in beating 7 billion people. None. We are Chairman Mao's wildest dream come to life, a war of attrition that is over before it begins based on inarguable math.
Which brings us to the next point. The world in the Sookieverse is a world trying to exist after world-altering change. Think America after the start of Prohibition or Europe after the birth of the train. Humans, vampires, and all other supes are being forced to learn to live in that world, and just like here in real life there are some who are failing miserably at it.
There's no doubt that America is a changed place to live in the last few years or so. The Health Care Law, the effects of the Great Recession, the meteoric rise in the Gay Rights movement, the KFC Double Down, the all encompassing presence of smartphone technology, all of it has made the way we used to live even a decade ago obsolete.
Just as we must face the darkness and learn to live with it since the planet ain't going to stop turning on our pitiful request, so do we have to learn to live in the World of Tomorrow.
Whether it's a better world or not is an irrelevant question because it is what it is regardless of being a plus or minus to previous iterations. There's no going back, there is only more change... and I thought having the drive-by shifter murderers wearing Barack Obama masks summed this up nicely. All change is the death of something.
Which is why we have to boot and rally. The phrase means to throw up and continue partying, but it serves as well as a battle cry. It's also the name of the title song this week, sung by Iggy Pop and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast.
Unlike most episodes in the series, this one had a name before it had a song. Music Director Gary Calamar was on the edge of changing the name of the episode until he was hit with a sudden muse and crafted the title song with help from James Combs.
Once completed, he remembered that Iggy Pop's people had mentioned that Iggy was a fan of the show, and if a hole ever opened he could fill all they had to do was call. Well, Calamar asked him to join in, and managed to secure Cosentino as well despite her busy schedule of ruling the indie rock world.
"I have always been a weekend songwriter," said Calamar in a post on the KCRW blog. "I can bang out a handful of chords and I must say I've written a few stone classics over the years....in my mind anyway. Back at my office I break out my trusty rhyming dictionary and I start thumbing through it....mmm, one thing leads to another and I started getting, how you say, inspired."
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SHOW ME HOW
I've given Calamar some rather harsh bitchslaps this season over some of his choices, but I am the first to admit that his own work, filtered through the timeless brilliance of Mr. Pop, hold up to some of the best tracks he's selected to showcase in True Blood.
The energetic tone, the way it meshes perfectly with Alan Ball's dark world, it's almost hopeless atmosphere, each of these make it a fantastic vampire tune by any measure.