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Has ‘True Blood’ Become One of the Most Family-Minded Shows on TV?

[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the Season 5 finale.] It’s no secret that fans have become increasingly cold toward True Blood’s myriad subplots, and last night’s birthing-in-a-bar sequence seemed to be one the show’s most incongruent, especially in relation to the bloodbath that followed at the Authority. But underneath its familiar visage of guts and primal sex, the heart of this season has been family and friendship, making Andy Bellefleur’s foray into fairie fatherhood (i.e. “my light broke”), perhaps not so awkward after all. In a world (with the exception of Salt Lake City and a silly little group of moms) increasingly accepting of the “new normal,” supes fit right in.

Starting with the vamps, we saw Pam grow into her newfound makerhood this season, eventually sacrificing herself for her progeny, while Eric took on a new role as grandfather. His stern, “Oh, by the way, she’s family too, so be nice to her,” to Nora upon meeting her grandniece Tara in last night’s episode was the perfect illustration of his bone-dry “family first” sentiment. Of course the vampire definition of family is different from ours. See another winning Eric line from episode 1: “We fight like siblings, but we fuck like champions,” post-heated-cargo-sex with his sister. Yes, it was just the sort of thing True Blood would put in the premiere for shock value, but as the season went on, the show consistently unpacked the maker/progeny relationship, through Pam and Eric flashbacks, Bill’s confession of pride to Jessica (pre-Lilith), Pam and Tara’s budding relationship, and Nora and Eric’s reunion(s). I’ve become desensitized to the vampire sex on this show (for the most part), and that seems about right. Their relationships playfully mock of our reductive versions, our biases, and labels. Humans struggle with fidelity for years. Vampires maintain it for centuries, and sex is just a part of this deep bond. 

Whereas loyalty is de facto with vampires, it’s all about choice with werewolves. And although Alcide’s “Tonight, we choose pack” speech was as perfectly executed as his abs, like the fairie births (plural!!!), it fit in with the familial angling of the season. Same goes with Sam’s choice to be a surrogate father. Technically, he’s always been the pseudo patriarch of the town, but this season we saw him come closer than he ever had before to a functional relationship/family, and I confess his heroism inspired by this newfound role had me saying, on more than one occasion, “Sam Merlotte, where have you been since season 2?!”

Which finally brings me to Sookie. Aside from a sloppy sort-of hook-up with Alcide, she had no love life to speak of this season. In fact, the male she had the most interaction and chemistry with was her own brother (manifested in a remarkably sweet and earnest conversation last night about their mutual problem dating people who are “unavailable”). Perhaps Eric’s “Fuck Sookie,” in episode 1 (when he and Bill sensed she was in trouble) was a little harsh, but it spoke to something we all had been feeling: we needed a Sookie relationship break. And when she stepped back, some friendships had the chance to come to the emotional helm of the show. Jessica-Jason-Hoyt entered as the new resident love triangle, which really boiled down to the conclusion of Hoyt and Jason, a friendship of True Blood legend. Their good-bye could have been cheesy with the whole Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-like glamouring thing, but it ended up being one of the most heartfelt moments the show has seen. And while I mourned with Jason for the loss of his childhood pal (to Alaska, nonetheless), I also had a good time jumping on board the newly forged friendships between Jessica and Tara, and Eric and Bill — particularly the latter. This show is all about its romantic climaxes, and it was significant, not to mention refreshing, that last night’s penultimate scene was about Eric rescuing Bill, perfectly punctuated by Eric’s, “I’m gonna get Bill” before the closing elevator doors. 

So despite some clutter and confusion (namely the Terry Bellefleur smoke ghost, Lafayette’s trip to Mexico, prolonged Guitar Hero sequences), the vampire civil war crescendo was one of the best arcs the show has delivered, and left me the most amped I’ve ever been for next year (and that last WTF-minute certainly didn’t hurt). But surprisingly it was the family values and friendships that came off with greater subtly, and thus served as the real glue of this sometimes off-kilter, but increasingly enjoyable fifth season — a fitting end to series creator Alan Ball’s run with the show.

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