Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Joe Manganiello, Carrie Preston, Deborah Ann Woll, Jim Parrack, Kristin Bauer Von Straten, Todd Lowe, Lauren Bowles, Janina Gavankar, Lucy Griffiths, Michael McMillian, Scott Foley
Brian Buckner, series created by Alan Ball, based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels
Daniel Minahan
HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
June 10, 2012

Ah, Bon Temps, how we have missed you and your crazy inhabitants, vampire, werewolf, shapeshifter, ghost, telepath and plain old loony human. They are all back with a vengeance (some literally) in TRUE BLOOD’s fifth season opener “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The episode takes its title from the Byrds’ pop/folk song of that name, but it also refers to what happens to quite a few of the characters.

This reviewer is ashamed for ever fearing that the TRUE BLOOD production team would be so foolish as to get rid of Rutina Wesley’s splendid Tara. That’s not to say they haven’t killed her off – the episode opens with a slight recap, reminding us thatTara has been shot in the head by angry werewolf Debbie Pelt (Brit Morgan), who was gunning for Sookie (Anna Paquin). Sookie in turn shot and killed Debbie, then cradled Tara in her arms, begging for help.

Help arrives in the unlikely person of vampire Pam (Kristen Bauer Von Straten), who is seeking her maker Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) after they fell out. Eric isn’t here, but Sookie and Tara’s cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) beg Pam to make Tara a vampire. Pam grumpily agrees to do it if Sookie will arrange to make things right between Pam and Eric. Pam drips her blood into the dying-or-dead Tara’s mouth. And all this is before the opening credits. And turns out we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Sookie and Lafayette bury Pam and Tara together (new vampires get buried with their makers), hoping they’ll both rise at the next sunset. Sookie is still reeling from the fact that she deliberately chose to kill Debbie rather than let her live, and Lafayette is devastated by Tara’s death and the fact that, while possessed by the ghost of a witch, he was made to kill his lover Jesus. Adding to Lafayette’s anguish is the fact that Jesus’ body has vanished and his spirit now won’t appear, despite Lafayette (a medium) trying to call him forth.

Alcide (Joe Manganiello) comes by with bad news – crazy ancient vampire king Russell Edgington is still alive after all and no doubt coming for Sookie. Alcide wants Sookie to stay at his place for safety. Sookie is afraid that Alcide won’t want her to come over because she shot Debbie, his former fiancée, but before she can confess, she hearsLafayette’s thoughts that they’ll both wind up in jail. Sookie doesn’t tell Alcide after all and says she’ll stay in her home.

Alcide has other problems to deal with anyway. Unfortunate shape-shifter Sam (Sam Trammell) is blamed by the local werewolves for killing their pack master Marcus. Sam feels he owes werewolf Alcide for saving his life, so he can’t say that Alcide actually did the deed. Threatening Sam’s lover Luna (Janina Gavankar) and her little girl Emma if Sam tries to run/fly for it, the werewolves torture Sam. He leads them to Marcus’ body, but Alcide shows up and proclaims himself the real killer – which, in werewolf society, makes him the new pack master. Some of the werewolves kneel, while others insist they will never accept Alcide.

Sookie’s brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) has quite a night as well. He is visited by former anti-vampire zealot/current vampire Reverend Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), who compels Jason to let him in so that he can profess his love. Jason is touched but tries to explain that he’s not into men. Steve starts to lose his temper, but Jason is saved by the arrival of vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), who tosses out Steve, proclaiming of Jason, “He’s mine!” Jessica later walks this sentiment back, telling Jason she just said that for Steve’s benefit.

Terry Bellefleur (Todd Lowe) is visited by old Army comrade Patrick (Scott Foley), who references fatal fires that have claimed the lives of others in their squadron. Terry wants Patrick gone, though Patrick insists they try to find another former squad mate.

When Debbie attacks Sookie, Sookie’s vampire exes Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) both feel her peril while they’re in the midst of cleaning up the mess made by the Vampire Authority reps they’ve just killed. Bill runs out to rescue Sookie, Eric runs out to stop them, and they’re both caught in silver nets by Authority troops. Bill and Eric wind up stuck in a trunk together. They manage to kick it open and kill one of the Vampire Authority reps in the front seat. The other rep turns out to be Eric’s “sister” (they have the same sire) Nora (Lucy Griffiths). Nora would do anything for Eric and promises to get them both new identities to escape the Authority, but they can never resume their old existences.

While waiting for fake passports, Eric and Nora have passionate sex inside a shipyard storage container while Bill waits outside. However, right after their papers show up, a huge contingent of Authority troops arrives and takes aim. Eric and Bill have no choice but to surrender.

At the next sunset, Sookie and Lafayette dig up an annoyed Pam and a seemingly still dead Tara – until Tara zips out of the grave with vampire speed and heads for Sookie.

Almost every scene in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” is punctuated with a moment where we want to exclaim. We have a pretty good idea that Tara will awaken as a vampire, but the suddenness of it still startles. The possibilities of scenes between Tara and her reluctant maker Pam are so enormous that we can only hope the show lives up to them. There are no concerns about the actresses, since Wesley seems to be able to roll with anything she gets and Bauer Von Straten once again demonstrates that she can kill with a line delivery. When Pam, irked that her helpfulness should be questioned by Sookie and Lafayette, defends herself with, “I’m wearing a tracksuit from Wal-Mart,” the effect is seismic.

While we’re at it, McMillian’s combination of shiny fake innocence, guile and fury as newbie vamp Steve Newlin makes him an astonishing font of (for now) comedy. At this stage, it’s impossible to tell whether the ex-Rev’s newfound openness about his feelings will help bring forth his better nature, or if he’ll come up with some new way to make everybody miserable, but it’s a great characterization either way.

Paquin continues to impress with her honesty and warmth as Sookie and Ellis is wrenching in Lafayette’s grief. And then there’s the Bill and Eric road show, which is preposterously entertaining. Sure, anybody who watches TV (or movies, or stage) has seen odd couples before, but watching Moyer and Skarsgard balance the two proud vampires’ senses of suspicion, resignation and grudging acceptance with one another is very funny.

With vengeful werewolves, a mysterious pyromaniac force, a jealous Rev. Newlin, Taraas a hungry new vampire, an angry Authority and (yay!) Russell Edgington on the loose, it feels like anything could happen on this season of TRUE BLOOD. We can’t predict where it’s going, and that’s a great start for the new season.


Related: Exclusive Photos from the TRUE BLOOD Season 5 Premiere Screening
Related: TV Review – TRUE BLOOD – Season 5 – “Authority Always Wins”

Related: Interview with THE DOUBLE and TRUE BLOOD star Stephen Moyer
Click on Link:Review – TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “And When I Die” – Season Finale

Click on link: Review of TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Soul on Fire”
Click on link: Review of TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Burning Down the House”
Click on link: Review of TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Let’s Get Out of Here”
Click on link: Review of TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Spellbound”
Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Cold Grey Light of Dawn”
Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “I Wish I Was The Moon”
Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 – “Me and the Devil”

Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4  review – “I’m Alive and On Fire”
Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 review – “If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin”

Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 review – “You Smell Like Dinner”
Click on link:
TRUE BLOOD – Season 4 premiere review – “She’s Not There”

Click on link: TRUE BLOOD – THE COMPLETE SEASON 3 DVD review
Click on link:
Exclusive photos from the TRUE BLOOD Paley Fest screening
Click on link:
Exclusive photos from the TRUE BLOOD comic book signing featuring some of the cast

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