HBO, June 26 (US)
She’s not there, indeed. She’s in fairyland. And when Sookie does get back to Bon Temps, she’s not been there for rather a long time.
The new season of True Blood opens with a stunning prologue. Fairyland looks just as cheesy and nicey-nice as you might imagine from Disney, but it is really good to see that the powers-that-be create an otherworld that chimes with traditional fairytale. A world where humans at first see only one illusive layer of fairyland, where they are offered sweetmeats that entrap them forever, and where time does not flow the same as it does in the real world. It’s all very well done, but to top it all, Sookie’s trip to fairyland is made all the more entertaining thanks to a guest spot from Gary Cole as Sookie’s grandfather. His appearance is a little gem and he does steal the show a little bit.
The fairyland introduction is effective in grabbing the viewer and opening the season with a bang, but it is over quite quickly. Claude’s brief appearance helping Sookie escape does seem to be setting up the war in fairyland subplot though (that is, if it follows the novels). The bulk of the episode that follows doesn’t quite match up to the opening, but that’s probably to be expected as it needs to set up what has been going on since Sookie left with Claudine at the end of season three. Yes, she was only gone a few minutes, but as a game-changing opening episode this is a bit like one from Alias where Sydney wakes up in an alley in Taipei and it’s five years later.
So effectively, the plot is mostly catch up and set-up. Jessica and Hoyt don’t seem to be having much of a happy ever after (tasty eggs there, Hoyt), Maxine Fortenberry seems to have replaced her son with Tommy (now what is that all about?), Jesus is inveigling Lafayette into a witches coven (the mad turn from Fiona Shaw as witch leader Marnie is perfectly delicious—and by the way, what’s with Lafayette’s Mr T hairdo?), Tara has taken up cage fighting and a lesbian lover in New Orleans, and Arlene’s baby is pulling the heads off Barbies. And what the heck is Bill up to? Phew. Sookie has a lot of catching up to do. Only Eric and Pam seem to be the unchanging calm in the centre of the storm (and they do seem to get all the cool lines). It’s certainly a hectic episode, but you can never say it isn’t funny and smart and captivating as ever.
Verdict: Eric rules: “When they all gave up on you, I never did.”
Episode 1, ‘She’s Not There’: 8/10