‘True Blood’ ready to flow again


It’s finally time for the “Blood”-thirsty to be appeased.

Yes, “True Blood,” television’s most outrageous and
lascivious series, returns Sunday for its third season on HBO and
die-hard devotees know what that means:

More suspense. More sex. More Sookie.

And now, get ready for more characters. As creator Alan Ball’s supernatural soap opera expands its world and thickens its plots, the
number of names in the cast credits is rapidly multiplying. Joining all
the vamps, shape-shifters and mind-readers this season are, among
others, a pack of werewolves. Not just any werewolves, mind you, but
vicious, “highly trained” werewolves fueled by vampire juice.

Clearly, “True Blood,” based on the novels of Charlaine Harris,
continues to be a wild, over-the-top spectacle where anything goes. At
times, it may make you roll your eyes. At times, it might seem like it
has completely lost its mind. But never ever does it leave you watching
the clock and feeling bored.

No wonder then that the show’s potent blend of
horror, romance and dark humor strikes a vein in so many ravenous fans.
The “True Blood” audience more than doubled last season to 5 million
per first-run episode. Toss in the fans who watched via replay, DVR and
on-demand viewing, and HBO has its biggest water-cooler hit since “The
Sopranos” left the air.

And judging from the early episodes that HBO has made available for review, we’re in for more bloody good fun.

When we last saw the residents of Louisiana
bayou town of Bon Temps, they were reeling from the hedonistic mayhem
wrought by immortal seductress Maryann. In the aftermath, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) was mulling a marriage proposal from her beloved bloodsucker, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), only to discover that he apparently had been abducted.

Meanwhile, shape-shifting bar owner Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) embarked on a search for his biological family, and Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) was mourning the death of her boyfriend, who was shot
by Sookie’s dimwitted brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten). And that’s just
scratching the surface of “True Blood’s” dense narrative.

As Season 3 unfolds, Sookie launches a frantic search for Bill and reluctantly enlists the help of Eric (Alexander Skarsgard),
the brooding — and hunky — vampire who just happens to lust after her.
A big mistake? Time will tell, but it appears that this love triangle
will be a major component of Season 3. And many fans undoubtedly will
be rooting for bad boy Eric to win over the saucy Sookie.

During her search, our heroine also forms an uneasy alliance with a sexy werewolf named Alcide (Joe Manganiello), who serves as her bodyguard. Other notable newcomers include Russell Edgington (Dennis O’Hare), the vampire king of Mississippi, and his snooty sidekick, Talbot (Theo Alexander). Also, Alfre Woodard is a major surprise as Ruby Jean Reynolds, the estranged mother of Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis).

Initially, these and other fresh characters make
Season 3 feel overcrowded — and we pity any new fan trying to make
sense of it all. But by the middle of the second episode, the show
begins to gain traction and sucks you in with its new set of
tantalizing mysteries.

It helps, of course, that “True Blood” doesn’t take
itself too seriously. While its fanged creatures might come across as
ghastly and unnerving, they’re also good for a few laughs. When, for
example, neophyte vamp Jessica (the engaging Deborah Ann Woll) seeks advice on how to keep herself from totally giving in to her dark urges while feeding on a human, the caustic Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) informs her that it’s all a matter of mind control.

“I think about crying children with soggy diapers,” she says. “Or maggots.”



9 p.m. EDT Sunday



(c) 2010, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

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