True Blood, Season Two
As a DVD watcher, I'm always seeing programs a bit "after the fact." Usually this delay has little to no effect on my watching or expectations, because most of the shows I watch are not watched by every single one of my Facebook friends. True Blood, however, usually garners a random assortment of status commentary the night or morning after a new episode airs.
As a result, I went into Season Two wondering about all the fleeting items I saw on the internet or heard in person during its first run season. I also went into Season Two having recently finished reading Living Dead in Dallas, the second book of Charlaine Harris's series upon which the show is based (I've read the books hideously out of order due to library and audiobook availability).
One of the things I like about the True Blood series and how it uses the books as a fundamental substance is how they keep Sookie's story lines generally true to the course of events in the books (the books being first person narrative), while taking creative liberties even to the extent of making up completely new story lines for the characters who do not get viewpoint attention in the books. It gives fans of the books a grounding in the familiar, while letting the viewer still be surprised by twists and turns when they invent new plots or shake up old ones.
I felt dubiously at first when I heard, before watching this season, that the Jason character would be joining the Fellowship of the Sun. As it turned out, though, I actually liked what this subplot did for the arch of the season. Jason never really turns against vampires and subscribes wholeheartedly to Fellowship doctrine; viewers never lose the sense that he's just looking for a place to belong. I also like the fact that this plot line introduces viewers to the Newlins and other Fellowship of the Sun characters before Sookie's fateful encounter with them later in the season. While they aren't terribly likable characters, they also aren't one-dimensional villains by virtue of this extra screen time.
The other big difference in Season 2 from Book 2 is the maenad/Maryann storyline. One of my Facebook friends complained that it seemed like there was an orgy in every episode. Hearing this critique, I wondered how gratuitously the show makers had distorted the book, as there was only one orgy I could recall in the original text. While the maenad/Maryann storyline wasn't particularly interesting for me, I didn't find it, or the orgies, off-putting. Far from a gratuitous grab for ratings, the orgies feature many of the un-sexiest characters in the series and are not dwelt upon with very much screen time at all. The conclusion was clever, and I enjoyed that it gave the series an excuse for an early introduction to Sophie Ann, the Queen of Louisiana. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this story line was the fact that it became the grand climax of the story while it mostly didn't have much to do with Sookie until the end. In the book, the climactic orgy scene has everything to do with Sookie finding the killer of her friend Lafayette (who is saved from death by the series in a storyline with Eric that generally fizzles).
Finally, one storyline that I'm rather on the fence about is that of Jessica, the vampire created by Bill at the end of Season One. She is a character that was created entirely for the show and has never been a part of the books. She ends up in the show dating Hoyt, who is indeed a character from the books, but a fairly minor character. Their storyline isn't uninteresting, but it seems so detached from the core stories and characters, that I often find myself wondering "Why am I watching this?"
Overall, my impression upon watching this season is that it's much better than the rumors made it out to be. In general, True Blood is consistently entertaining and it's one of the DVD sets I most look forward to getting.