True Blood: Season Six (US - BD RA)
Gabe saves time with his first ever bullet-point Blu-ray review...
This review is running so late that I probably should’ve just skipped it entirely, but I did watch True Blood season six when it originally aired, so I do have some brief opinions on the subject. Here’s a brief rundown of what worked and what didn’t for the show’s penultimate season. Warning: spoilers.
Things season six gets right:
- Rutger Hauer is great as Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Jason’s (Ryan Kwanten) long-lost faerie uncle, Niall Brigant. Brigant ends up being mostly useless character (he’s tossed into a dimensional void pretty early on), but his disheveled, ‘been there, done that’ attitude is an effective antidote to the usual Cirque du Soleil strip club faeries we’ve seen in the series so far.
- Alexander Skarsgård is fantastic. He’s always been great, but his character, Eric, is the one element that has really grown since the first season. Anti-heroism fits him perfectly and I hope his post- True Blood career flourishes (he’d make a hell of a superhero).
- Vampire Tara (Rutina Wesley) fits in with the series better than non-vampire Tara has since season two. I actually found myself looking forward to her scenes, rather than cringing, because I knew I’d be in for several minutes of whining.
- The werewolf/shapeshifter subplots don’t completely crush the momentum. Alcide (Joe Manganiello) was still more interesting in the early seasons when he was a bigger part of the super-plot, but his reinstatement as a hero figure is certainly welcome. Sam the shapeshifter (Sam Trammell) is still a lame Pollyanna, of course, but his interactions with Alcide help.
- The Bellefleur cousin subplots are possibly the best they’ve ever been. Andy’s (Chris Bauer) trials with his surprise faerie children run a successful gamut from funny to tragic, when Bill’s ward Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll, another series standout I hope catches on after the show ends), is overcome with hunger and murders all but one of them. Terry’s (Todd Lowe) journey from suicidal tendencies to salvation and, eventually, an inevitable death is among the most genuinely tragic sendoffs a True Blood character has ever been given.
- Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) and Ms. Suzuki’s (Tamlyn Tomita) knock-down, drag-out girl-fight is spectacular. When a show is as gory as True Blood, it’s easy to be jaded and even bored with the violence. Episode eight’s extended battle, which ends in a stiletto heel finishing move, reminds us how fun graphic bloodshed can be.
Things season six gets wrong:
- Season five ended with good guy Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) drinking Lilith’s blood and being reborn as some kind of vampire demigod. I assumed that he was poised to be season six’s big bad, but I guess the writers prefer to maintain the status quo. Evil Bill would’ve been more interesting than a more emotionally tortured Bill.
- The lack of a standout big bad is actually intriguing, given the show’s formulaic history, but none of the season’s major threats are particularly interesting.
- Warlow/Ben Flynn (Rob Kazinsky) is an ancient vampire with faerie power. He’s basically the True Blood equivalent to the godlike villains that show up in comic books when writers need to find a threat for Superman. Yet, because it’s True Blood, Warlow is kind of whiny and, of course, wants to marry Sookie.
- Governor Truman Burrell (Arliss Howard) fills the space of a typical heavy-handed political metaphor. He’s amusing, but the writers appear to lose interest in him the same way they lost interest in Christopher Meloni’s character last year.
- Returning villain Sarah Newlin is the best of the season’s major threats, but is still woefully underwritten and clearly biding time before she’s murdered.
- Had season six been the end of the series I would’ve been satisfied by the way things are wrapped up. The last half of the final episode closes loops nicely and might’ve worked as a relatively happy ending. But then a new threat arrives and we’re thrown back into familiar territory.
It appears that True Blood is still shot using 35mm film, an increasing rarity for big budget television ( Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and True Detective are all shot on 35 and The Walking Dead is still shot 16mm). These 1080p, 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfers (ten episodes spread across four discs) looks more or less the same as the season four and five collections. The filmstock shows in the crushed blacks, occasionally thick, uneven grain levels, and minor edge enhancement during wide-angle shots. The palette tends to skew dark in tone, but eclectic in the number of differentiating hues. Warmth and coolness depends on location, though I suppose the default look is either bluish (night and darker interiors) or green and orange (daylight outdoor locations). The faerie graveyard is an especially colourful location, brimming with pinks and lavenders that bloom out of the screen, thanks to diffused focus and digital trickery. The flashback sequences also continue to stand apart visually. The black levels are rich and pure throughout the season, though the severity of the contrast does mean the blackest shadows tend to eat up some the finer details. I didn’t notice blurry ghosting effects in the episodes I sampled for this quick review, but these were a problem last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they popped up again.
Like most HBO shows, True Blood sports a very impressive uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Every channel in the system is given its proper workout. The centered dialogue is natural and consistent without being overwhelmed by effects and music. Ambient sounds are strong, especially anything involving the Louisiana bayou wildlife and any sequence involving more than one werewolf usually features some nice surround growling/howling. Directional highlights usually pertain to the odd action sequences, especially those that involve vampires zipping at super-speed while they attack people. Any blast of ‘faerie light power’ also gives the surround and LFE channels a powerful rumble. The musical soundtrack is, again, given a stronger rear channel influence than I’m used to, especially for a television series. The surround enhancement usually matches the stereo enhancement, though, creating more of a dual wall of sound than a proper directional influence.
- Episode Commentaries:
- Episode 4, At Last – Writer Alexander Woo and actress Amelia Rose Blair
- Episode 6, Don’t You Feel Me – Writer Daniel Kenneth and director Howard Deutch
- Episode 7, In the Evening – Writer Kate Barnow and actor Stephen Moyer
- Episode 9, Life Matters – Executive producer/writer Brian Buckner and actress Carrie Preston
- Episode 10, Radioactive – Buckner and Barnow
- Inside the Episodes (3:30, 3:50, 3:20, 3:50, 3:50, 3:50, 3:10, 4:20, 3:50, 3:40, HD) – Behind-the-scenes of every episode in the season.
- Vamp Camp Files (disc 4)– An interactive text and video-based look at the interworkings of the fictional vampire concentration camp, including files on the ‘vampire solution,’ vampire physiology, vampire psychology, and defense against vampires.
- True Blood Lines – An interactive map of the characters and their connections to each other.
True Blood season six marked the moment that series creator Alan Ball passed off the position of showrunner to Friends alum Brian Buckner. It felt just as awkward as one would expect from a ‘passover’ season, but was an overall improvement over the last two seasons. It never hits the same highs, but is generally more consistent. It’s too bad HBO didn’t give them a 12 or 13 episode run, though, because I think they could’ve wrapped up the entire series. I can’t see where another entire season is going to go. This Blu-ray collection looks and sounds great, but is pretty weak in terms of extras, aside from the commentary tracks.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray as .jpgs, not PNG files, and resized for the page. Larger 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 Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 3rd June 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentaries, Inside Episodes, Vamp Camp Files, True Blood Lines, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgård, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Chris Bauer, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Rutger Hauer, Deborah Ann Woll
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror and Thriller
Length: 600 minutes
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