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True Blood: The Complete Second Season(TV) (2009)
Telepathic waitress Sookie (Anna Paquin) attempts to solve a recent murder and sort out several issues with her vampire boyfriend, Bill (Stephen Moyer), including how to deal with his annoying teenage houseguest, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Season two of this critically acclaimed vampire series features new characters, including Iraq war veteran Terry (Todd Lowe) and mysterious social worker Maryann (Michelle Forbes).
For more about True Blood: The Complete Second Season and the True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, see True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 25, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Alexander Skarsgård, Valentina Cervi
Director: Michael Lehmann
» See full cast & crew
True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
HBO conjures up another impressive AV presentation...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 25, 2010
Broadcast television is dying. The advent of DVRs, the popularity of streaming video services, and the use of websites like Hulu are crippling its appeal and profitability, high quality cable series are continuing to dull its edge, and the rise of original premium-channel programming has made the majority of its funniest sitcoms and most powerful dramas seem positively irrelevant. It's only a matter of time before the television landscape as we know it is no more. Not that anyone should shed a tear. As desperately as the Big Three are resisting the inevitable, the future is promising, if not downright exciting. It's these very same reasons that a niche HBO series like True Blood can reach such a wide audience; how it can thrive even though its fanbase primarily relies on repeats, on-demand viewings, DVD rentals, and home video purchases to survive. The result? HBO has found a way to crown creativity king and declare ratings, at least our traditional understanding of ratings, a secondary concern. Of course, that also means the brunt of the responsibility for True Blood's success or failure falls squarely on the shoulders of its creative team. So how does season two of Alan Ball's supernatural soap opera fare? Does it improve upon its first critically acclaimed season? Or does it crumble under network pressure and fan expectation? Read on...
For those of you who aren't already intimately familiar with True Blood or the grisly, after-hour escapades of Miss Sookie Stackhouse, might I humbly point you in the direction of my review of The Complete First Season. Frankly, I'd rather dive right into the twelve episodes at hand. Just be warned: a few major season-one spoilers lie ahead. When we last left Sookie (Anna Paquin), the vicious Bon Temps killer had met his demise at the end of a shovel; her chivalrous boyfriend, a suave Southern vampire named Bill (Stephen Moyer), had been nearly incinerated by the sun, not to mention tasked with training a fledgling seventeen-year-old vamp (Deborah Ann Woll); her lovelorn boss and confidant, Sam (Sam Trammell), had revealed his shape-shifting secrets; her hot-tempered brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), had been recruited by a Fellowship of the Sun zealot; her co-worker and friend, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), was attacked by a mysterious creature; and her best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley), had found a dismembered body in the back seat of detective Andy Bellefleur's (Chris Bauer) car. Over the course of season two, Sookie and Bill head to Dallas to help Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) track down his 2,000-year-old maker, Jason buys into the rhetoric of the Fellowship of the Sun and decides to join their cause, Sam grows close to a new waitress (Daphne Jones) and has to deal with an old flame, and Tara attracts the attention of a strange, seemingly well-intentioned do-gooder named Maryann (Michelle Forbes). Elsewhere, young Jessica tries to cope with her newfound powers (all while snuggling up to Jim Parrack's dim-but-noble Hoyt), reverend Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) and his wife Sarah (Anna Camp) invite Jason into their inner circle, and Lafayette's fate is brought to light. Suffice to say, both returning favorites and new scene-chewers are put through the ringer.
True Blood's second season amplifies everything that made its first season such an inventive, mesmerizing, and unpredictable Sunday night standout. Ball's writers imbue his characters with such wit and soul that it's difficult to think of any of the Bon Temps denizens -- alive, undead, or otherwise -- as anything less than human. Egos abound and flaws are rampant, but everyone has a palpable pulse; an electricity that transforms each down-on-his-luck country boy, fang-popping vampire, and otherworldly entity into a captivating on-screen presence. Bill and Sookie's complex relationship matures in unexpected ways as the season snakes along, growing more compelling no matter the trial or tribulation, while Eric's influence takes on a more frightening, more invasive role than ever before. Jason and Tara are promised salvation from two heads of the same beast, but find damnation waiting instead. Maryann is, dare I say, a perfect villain, bending weak minds to her will, injecting the central storyline with an air of genuine menace and intrigue, and invigorating a mythos that could have easily settled for werewolves or other more familiar beasties. Sam's heart is torn out on more than one occasion, but he continues to leap back into the fray with renewed fervor, settling into his true strengths with the confidence befitting his talents. Even Jessica, easily season one's most annoying addition, earns redemption, emerging as one of the more arresting creatures in True Blood's blood-spattered fun house. Better still, the actors -- even those whose characters are prematurely killed or summarily dismissed -- rise to the challenge, enriching the series' sharp scripts and snappy dialogue despite some deadend subplots and debilitating, late-game pacing issues.
Unfortunately, season one's problems are amplified as well. Several fascinating characters from the series' first season disappear for no apparent reason (Zeljko Ivanek's Magistar is sorely missed), only to be replaced by newcomers that either die within an episode of their introduction or contribute next to nothing to Ball's tale (Evan Rachel Wood is glimpsed during a cliffhanger and then wasted for a pair of meandering episodes). It doesn't help that the show's subtext has become even more transparent and ungainly. The Fellowship of the Sun could have provided a scathing dissection of prejudice, but instead amounts to little more than a superficial satirization of American conservatism. Reverend Newlin and his wife may as well be cartoons, their zealots are as dense and naive as Jason, and the tired connections between religious short-sightedness and practical violence are handled with a heavy hand. More distressingly, the season stalls out just when it should begin to hurtle ahead. Bill is shuffled out of the picture for no reason, Tara switches loyalties so many times that it will test the most devoted fan's patience, a magnificent storyline involving Eric and his maker fizzles, and the final showdown between Sookie and Bon Temps' biggest threat is peppered with cheesy special effects, off-kilter comedy, and odd tonal shifts. That's not to say season two spoiled True Blood for me -- my TiVo is still set to record the series' third outing this June -- but it left me wondering if Ball's drama will rebound or continue its slow downward spiral.
Don't get me wrong, True Blood is a well-conceived, thoroughly entertaining genre treat that, if nothing else, takes a number of paths less traveled. Even at its most flawed, it's still better than many of the shows cluttering NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox's Primetime schedules. However, both its plotting and pacing need a tune up, its subtext needs some serious refinement, and every new character needs to make a Maryann-esque impact if they have any hope of standing their ground against Sookie and her Bon Temps neighbors. I suppose nothing but time will tell if season three can finally capitalize on the series' true potential.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Deep fried in the sticky swamps of a Bon Temps bayou, True Blood: The Complete Second Season arrives with a grainy, visceral, and altogether striking 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that faithfully renders every frame of Alan Ball's gritty supernatural soap opera. Vibrant pools of red spill off the screen, lush greens bake in the Louisiana sun, black levels are stark and inky, and skintones are either wonderfully lifelike or deathly pale. Contrast remains bold and beautiful regardless of how bleak or savory director of photography Matthew Jensen's ever-changing palette becomes -- be it languishing in the dank dungeons of Fangtasia, sweating on the grounds of reverend Newlin's compound, or nuzzling up to Maryann's old-world pagan wiles -- and delineation, though rather impenetrable, faithfully preserves the series' aesthetics. In fact, nearly every complaint finicky viewers could lodge against the presentation is attributable to Ball and his directors' intentions. (Yes, even the source noise, rough-hewn grain, crushed shadows, and soft shots that frequent each episode.) That being said, fans will rarely be forced to settle. Fine detail ranges from solid to stunning, closeups boast exceedingly crisp facial textures, object definition is remarkably sharp (without the help of any glaring edge enhancement), and both depth and dimensionality are thoroughly impressive. But wait, there's more! Ringing, aliasing, smearing, artifacting, and other pesky anomalies never invade the proceedings, and brief, intermittent, arguably negligible banding is the only thing that holds the transfer back from true-to-source perfection. Like the series' first season release, True Blood's second high definition romp looks fantastic. Devotees, videophiles, and newcomers will be most pleased.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
What do The Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Generation Kill, Rome, John Adams and True Blood: The Complete First Season have in common? Simple: exceptional lossless audio. Thankfully, the sonic masterminds at HBO further their track record of excellence with True Blood: The Complete Second Season, a TV junkie and audiophile's dream-come-true that pairs the series' serrated visuals with a powerful, surprisingly playful, ultimately engrossing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is crystal clear and nicely prioritized regardless of locale, and voices take on an entirely different personality depending on whether they're whispered in a cozy poolhouse, barked in a cramped freezer, shouted at Merlotte's on a busy Friday night, or crooned over the rabble of Maryann's... shall we say evening soirées. Moreover, the series' already nuanced soundscape is polished and refined, transforming every strange-n-seedy environment into a realistic one. From episode to episode, acoustics are eerie and convincing, directionality brandishes deadly precision, vampires pounce from speaker to speaker with ease, and the soundfield is impeccably immersive. The LFE channel leaves its mark as well. Whether roaring from an enraged creature's throat, booming from the barrel of a shotgun, or quaking in the thoom of a suicide bomber's wares, hefty low-end tones disrupt the peace and add welcome weight to the experience. Did I mention rear speaker activity is aggressive, dynamics are noteworthy, and every note of Nathan Barr's twangy score is pitch-perfect? Well done, HBO. Well done.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
True Blood: The Complete Second Season slinks onto Blu-ray with seven solid audio commentaries, some fairly decent Picture-in-Picture content, and a few standalone features. However, while the various cast and crew commentaries add substantial value to HBO's latest release, little else satisfies. Sure, the 5-disc set includes three hours of in-character bonus features, but I'd rather have an hour-long production documentary than an endless supply of trivial shorts. Ah well. At the very least, all of the material is presented in high definition, each disc is housed in its own plastic tray, and the set's sturdy slipcover and classy inner-digipak look and feel fantastic.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
After an intriguing first season, True Blood's hit-or-miss twelve-episode followup represents a small step back for the series. While each of the main characters are stretched and tested in interesting ways, the central storylines are more intriguing than ever, and some of Ball and company's new characters inject surprise after surprise into the mix, too many elements fall flat and too much potential is squandered. Even so, HBO's Blu-ray release is a strong one. Its faithful video transfer is a sharp-toothed beaut, its DTS-HD Master Audio track features one of the best TV mixes I've had the pleasure of reviewing, and its supplemental package is decidedly decent. I certainly didn't regret the time I spent with True Blood's second season -- flaws aside, the series is still better than 70% of the derivative drivel on television -- but it simply didn't meet my (perhaps unreasonably high) expectations. Here's hoping season three is more consistent!
True Blood: Other Seasons
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True Blood: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• True Blood Season 2 Blu-ray Announced - February 4, 2010
HBO, in conjunction with Warner Home Video, has officially announced True Blood: The Complete Second Season for release on Blu-ray on May 25. As previously reported, this season set will consist of five discs. Full special features are still pending, but they will ...
• True Blood Second Season Blu-ray Dated - January 22, 2010
HBO has set May 25 as the release date of 'True Blood: the Complete Second Season' on Blu-ray, according to TV Shows on DVD, based on information from its sources at retail. Like the first season, this will be a five-disc set, with DTS-HD Master Audio sound, and ...
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