When True Blood first premiered on Sept. 7, 2008, it was just what the doctor ordered—a sexy, silly, and downright vampy vampire soap opera. And the pilot was a perfect example of the show’s outrageous, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink MO, featuring half the cast getting aroused at the sight of a hot vampire BDSM sex tape, prompting its buff, frosted-tipped himbo—Jason Stackhouse—to do his best furious vampire-impaling impersonation… only to have his dishy partner wind up dead. It was pure Alan Ball, a wacky mélange of licentiousness, melodrama, and not-so-veiled social commentary, equipped with one of the best opening themes in television.
And, with its Season 1 finale episode airing a mere two days after the U.S. premiere of Twilight, the saucy world of Bon Temps provided a much needed respite from that uber-emo celebration of chastity. Yes, its two stars were also dating, but whereas Stephenie Meyers’ brainchild boasted shirtless tweens, Charlaine Harris’ flaunted a plethora of sexy, shirtless men. Who can forget that naked, blood-splashed Rolling Stone cover. It was the Backstreet Boys to Twilight’s ‘N Sync.
But you can only witness a smoldering cast having crazy sex with each other for so long, and on Sunday night, the HBO series aired its limp series finale episode. After seven seasons, well, it’s about time. Just ask the network’s programming director, Michael Lombardo.
“This season, True Blood is one of the highest-rated shows across the board; it gets over 10 million views an episode,” Lombardo said recently at the Edinburgh TV Festival. “But the minute you feel you’re airing it for the numbers we start questioning it. Every season we sit down with the creator and say ‘Tell us what the next year will be like.’ And if there aren’t exciting, unbelievable, undeniable ideas in the coming season, we’re questioning. And I think in the case of True Blood, it just felt like we had reached a place where the storytelling was hitting a wall. And to stay just because the ratings were strong felt not who we are and we needed, quite honestly, the money and Sunday night space for new shows.”
First, let’s tackle that D.O.A. finale episode. Bill, of course, is in the latter stages of Hep V—an AIDS-like virus that preys on vampires. In the penultimate episode, he refused to receive the antidote, in the form of Sarah’s blood, and tearfully released the fiery, redheaded vampire Jessica from his control.
“I see you around children, see how you light up around them,” Bill tells his love Sookie. “I would hate for you to never know what that feels like, to have children of your own.”
To say the series finale was limp is an understatement; it was completely defanged, devoid of any of the lustiness and camp that made the series so fun in the first place, ridiculous accents and all. The finale, titled “Thank You,” saw other incredibly boring things happen, including Eric offing the Yakuza members, Sarah escaping, and Pam telling Sarah, “I wouldn’t let you go down on me for a million dollars,” while the two are in a park carousel (for God knows what reason).
We’re also treated to Sookie experiencing Proust-ian flashbacks to her childhood days with Granny and Tara, as well as Sookie whining to anyone who will hear it about her predicament with Bill. Andy visits Bill in his office, Godfather-style, and says he’s leaving his home to Jessica and Hoyt. Oh, and then Jessica and Hoyt, two characters that audiences stopped giving a shit about two seasons ago, get married.
After suffering through all these boring threads, we’re finally treated to Sookie’s tearful goodbye to Bill, who is in full-on Christ mode, martyring himself to grant Sookie a happy future.
“You sure, now?” says Sookie. “I’m sure,” replies Bill.” “I love you, Bill Compton.” “I love you, too.” They kiss. The strings kick in. And then, as she’s straddling him in his coffin—that’s buried six feet under—she shoves a stake through his heart until his body explodes. Womp.
There’s a ridiculous postscript of sorts, including a bizarre infomercial by Eric and Pam shilling New Blood, a product to combat Hep V. Then, the action jumps ahead a couple years and we see them ringing in their new product at the New York Stock Exchange, because, huh? And then it jumps again to the following year. It’s Thanksgiving at the Jason Stackhouse household, and he’s got two daughters and a young son with Hoyt’s ex, Brigette. And the entire Bon Temps gang has gathered for a festive Thanksgiving dinner. Sookie, meanwhile, appears pregnant with an unidentified man’s baby. Aww.
Look, we all saw this coming. True Blood has been in a state of decline since Episode 10 of its schizo third season—you know, the one where our delightful Southern belle Sookie exclaims, “I’m a fairy? How fucking lame!” By then, the allure of that hunky new werewolf Alcide was starting to wear off, and the show started plugging fairies and all matter of ridiculous, supernatural crap into the show. It was a mess, and when Ball exited as showrunner following the abysmal fifth season, it got even worse.
Whereas its thrilling first season boasted guest spots by a bevy of exciting young actreses like Lizzy Caplan, Anna Camp, and Lynn Collins, the guest spots became more and more cloying and ridiculous, including a miscast Christopher Meloni scream-acting, that guy from Felicity, and Rutger Hauer. And the not-so-veiled social commentary (vampires as gays) became far too on the nose to the point of trolling, from a gang of pistol-packing thugs sporting Obama masks to a Yakuza bloodbath at a Ted Cruz rally (seriously, WTF are the Yakuza doing on this show?) to that random gay sex dream sequence between Jason and Eric.
And True Blood also experienced the Friends problem, wherein the writing room runs out of ideas and starts creating ridiculous romantic pairings, e.g. Alcide and Sookie, which made about as much sense as Joey and Rachel.
So, R.I.P. True Blood. It’s about time. For your TV sex fix, do yourself a favor and head over to Game of Thrones. The blood is still boiling in Westeros.