True Blood: Season 4 (UK - BD RB)
Vampires. Werewolves. Witches. Ghosts. Yep, True Blood's back on BD...
Sookie(Anna Paquin) returns to Bon Temps from Fairie Land almost immediately after she went at the end of season three only to discover a year has passed in the real world and Bon Temps’ residents have all moved on to new projects. Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) is now the new King of Louisiana and when local witch Marnie drops a spell on Vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), he becomes a whole new man as well. Once again strange things are afoot in Bon Temps, the weird ass capital of the world.
I enjoy True Blood and always look forward to its return to TV but I have mixed feelings towards just how much. I nearly gave up on how stretched out Season One’s murder mystery was, I loved Season Two immensely and I found Season Three’s structure to be largely boring even though the Russell Edgington stuff was great in the end. Season Four reigned back my enjoyment of the show a great deal and even though some of the plot threads were once again drawn out (mostly Sooki and Eric having sex for large amounts of screen time and Sooki fliting between suitors - just get with Alcide already!). I really got a buzz from the witch stuff, with a great villain portrayal from Fiona Shaw, that was manic and menacing all at once and provided a nicely utilised new element to the supernatural show that wove into the vampire history and world of True Blood very well.
I’m not sure whether the show has been brave or taken a misstep too many to make Bill a character who isn’t just the blood sucking love interest but after about half a season here I warmed back to our lead vamp (though that’s arguable at this stage as vampire Eric is every bit the lead Vampire now, given his popularity). The growth of the Vampires vs Witch battles added a good deal of fun to the True Blood universe and around mid season where the events got bigger and threats got harsher, True Blood offered up a few genuinely jaw dropping moments that I was never sure what the fallout might be.
Really, True Blood comes down to me liking the majority of the characters. I could give or take Tara, Sam and his brother in this season but I really like the lead characters for the most part (okay, maybe not always annoying Sooki) and outright love pretty much all of the stuff with Stackhouse, Jessica, Terry and Pam, who are all so much fun in this show and never fail to make me grin (or stare, given Jessica's Red Riding Hood moment).
As I say my enjoyment of the show is constant but somehow it’s never been one I go back to for repeat viewings, so having this opportunity was a new one for me. The season flowed quite nicely watching it again and small moments that shocked before held up pretty well on a rewatch as did the character moments that either made me grin or made me wonder what the hell would happen next. I still think True Blood struggles with solid finales as they always feel like a bit of a lull after very strong season build ups but this season felt like it had a better balance, even if it did drag its feet a bit with certain threads.
HBO Blu-rays look sooooo pretty. The recent Game of Thrones set was a stunning watch and the story is much the same here. There’s an amazing depth to the image at all times with a real sense of space in the gorgeous 1.78:1 presentation. Colours glow in the warm lighting and fine detail thrives in the slick transfer.
Textures on skin, freckles, wrinkles, stubble, the whole lot is a top notch use of high definition power and this all works in both interior and exterior scenes, though it has to be said the exterior scenes take the award for most impressive parts of this HD presentation. Simply put. WOW. The natural glow of the sunlit trees around the town can really look incredible and loads of scenes in this boxset are reference quality stuff.
Darker scenes come with deep blacks and show the tiniest bit of filmic grain in lower lighting but even so this still shows off new parts of the presentation. Neon lights make everything pop, whether it's street lighting or glints off of characters' eyes, the image still feels alive even at its darkest and across the board this show looks stunning.
Given the TV home of True Blood the biggest strength of this audio presentation is the dialogue. Always strong and clear it’s at the centre of the entire mix. That said the action based episodes still pack a punch. Strong bassy thumps fill out the track and elements like screams, explosions and fights tighten the mix, elevating the show into that middle ground that is always lessening between film and TV.
Each episode comes with previews and recaps as well as the enhanced viewing mode. These provide picture in picture tracks with a host of different elements. 'Character Perspective' includes actors in character informing us of their thoughts on the scenes – sort of like a wonderfully geeky insider track on what’s going on. There’s also 'Flashback/ Flashforward' to tie in moments to key scenes and provide plot pay off details and lastly there’s 'Histories/ Bios/ Hints/ FYIs' which are text based and offer up plenty of details.
Each episode also has a behind the scenes featurette, usually coming in at about five minutes.
As for the extras on the individual discs:
Disc 1 comes with a commentary by Stephen Moyer, Deborah Ann Woll and Brian Buckner (writer), Disc 2, a commentary on Episode 3 with Anna Paquin and Alan Ball (creator and executive producer) as well as a commentary on Episode 4 with Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Lehmann (director). Disc 3 features a commentary on Episode 6 with Raelle Rucker (writer) and Gregg Fienberg (executive producer). Disc 4 a commentary on Episode 9 (Sam Trammell and director Romeo Trone along with a commentary on Episode 9 with Fiona Shaw, Nancy Oliver (writer) and Lesli Linka Glatter (director).
Disc 5 has a round table post production discussion regarding music, visual effects, sound design and the importance of special effects in True Blood called 'The Final Touches'(28:25 HD). They talk about the small elements we all sort of take for granted as well as the larger show off effects and the difficulties of doing all this on a TV budget and schedule.
Also on the disc is 'True Blood: Blood Lines' which enable you go into each group in the show (humans, vampires, werewolves etc) and get bios off each character and who they are connected to.
Season Four of True Blood was a largely enjoyable affair that balances all of its ever growing cast admirably. Sure it stops and starts at times when you just want it to get on with it - but it has a whole lot of fun while it's doing it and the characters make even the weakest of threads enjoyable. The discs looks stunning in every which way and have a great audio track as well. The extras are good but the majority of them are viewable only by watching entire episodes rather than in separate selections and despite their geeky glory, the in character descriptions of scenes do get a little goofy after a while.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 21st May 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Netherlands, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Behind the Episodes, Enhanced Viewing Mode, The Final Touches, Commentaries
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston, Alexander Skarsgård, Todd Lowe, Deborah Ann Woll
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror and Thriller
Length: 730 minutes