I just watched the series finale for the HBO show True Blood. I started watching the show in college, when I discovered it during its second season. As a burgeoning fan of vampires and romance and everything cheesy, I became obsessed. Over the seasons, I’ve lost that devotion, but still watched for the characters and because it held just enough interest for me.
Overall, this last season and its finale were… disappointing. I felt like the ending of the show was not planned, and the writers just threw everything they wanted to happen into the last season–but without allowing time for things to develop, they were devoid of emotional context.
This is a problem that’s an interesting facet of storytelling–realism and characters. In a show with vampires, we are more disturbed by the unrealistic development of a romance than werewolves or fairies. And what makes something unrealistic? A lack of time devoted to seeing a relationship blossom.
I’ve noticed this issue in other things as well. In the movie A Winter’s Tale, the characters went from strangers to ‘true love’ in the span of a single conversation (and not even a particularly deep or personal one). It made the basic premise and emotional core of the movie feel forced and flat–when a simple montage of the characters getting to know each other would have helped. Likewise, single bits of dialogue can feel extra cheesy or unwarranted when not given the proper development; in the movie If I Stay, a romantic line from the hero in their first conversation simply felt uncomfortable because there was not enough leading up to it.
So in the final season of True Blood, the relationship of Jessica and Hoyt felt like it came out of nowhere–and their wedding in the final episode, probably meant to be an emotional moment, felt awkward and forced. If Hoyt had come back earlier in the season, or even last season, and we really saw their reconciliation develop over time, I might have been much more invested in this moment. Instead, I thought Jessica and Jason were getting back together halfway through the season, so this abrupt turnaround just feels wrong.
Similarly, Sookie’s relationship with Alcide and his death were not nearly as emotional as they could have been, since they only ‘got together’ in the last minute of last season and then he was dead in episode 3. Her reconciliation with Bill had, as far as I can remember, hardly any hints in the last few seasons (as Bill pretty much destroyed their relationship piece by piece)–so it didn’t feel right.
My point is that all of these developments could have worked, no matter how unlikely or dramatic they are–if they were developed. Given the screen time to actually show relationships developing, even the most unlikely pairing or friendship or hatred can feel realistic and interesting. Instead, it felt like the entire season was just a grab bag of emotional moments that weren’t earned, and thus weren’t emotional.
But I didn’t hate the very end as much as I was about to. I, personally, really don’t like fantasy creatures who hate what they are–I guess it’s because I wouldn’t mind being immortal or magical, so it annoys me that they just want to be boring old humans. Bill wanting to die because of immortal fatigue and self-sacrifice for Sookie wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m willing to let it go. However, I did not want Sookie to give up who she was just to be normal. That’s just a personal issue, so I would have respected the show if it wanted to go there, but I was glad when she claimed her power at the end.
And that we didn’t know what random human she ended up with? I’m okay with that, too. The romance fan in me wants to know (and wanted Eric, let’s be real), but the feminist in me realizes that it shouldn’t be about who Sookie ends up with. To be fair, the feminist in me does not need her to be pregnant and with anyone, but she was happy and made her choices so that’s awesome.
I think True Blood is an example of a show that started out with a great premise, but sort of lost its sense of what it was–for me personally, I got sucked in by the romance, and then as that sort of went to hell, a lot of my interest began to wane. This is an issue TV shows have when they set up the central couple and then spend so many seasons tearing them apart for drama’s sake, setting up other partners, then try to shove them back together at the end (see: How I Met Your Mother, though I really didn’t hate that like everyone else). Does that mean you should get your couple together and leave them together, thus robbing the show of its central drama? I guess not, though I think it can be done. I suppose I just mean that there’s something fundamentally difficult about these kinds of television dramas, and I think that’s why so many shows start to wane and then end up unsatisfying.
I’m not sorry I watched True Blood, and I’m grateful to the writers and actors and everyone involved for providing me with hours of entertainment. And I don’t know how they could have done any better. But… I think there was an opportunity for something more.