You can't handle the True.
With the series finale of True Blood airing Sunday, Aug. 24 on HBO Canada, it got me thinking about a TV perception that is becoming less true with each passing year.
Still today, I often hear complaints from viewers that they're scared to commit to shows because those shows might get cancelled before there's proper closure. I can make a wider point about how, in many aspects of life, we should enjoy the journey rather than focusing so intently on the result, but let's stick to specifics.
Nowadays, only the shows on the big broadcast networks are at risk of disappearing before their time. And even when that happens, the modest viewing numbers that weren't good enough for network TV might be a boon for an online outlet (Community is heading to Yahoo! Screen, for example).
Far more often, TV shows in the 21st century overstay their welcome.
True Blood is wrapping up after seven seasons. It once was the hottest show on television, and its influence should not be understated. Debuting in 2008, it was a key player in the cable revolution that has exposed much network fare as mindless gunk while simultaneously pushing the envelope in terms of story-telling and fantasy and violence and sex.
Could we have had Game of Thrones without True Blood?
But, like Dexter before it, True Blood has lingered past its expiration date. This final season, at best, has been occasionally okay. There also have been entire episodes where virtually nothing of consequence happened. Lots of long speeches, many pointless flashbacks. Some of those flashbacks to when currently sick vampire Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer) still was a human look conspicuously like unused, leftover footage from previous seasons.
Anyway, with one episode left (consider this a SPOILER ALERT if you aren't caught up), there isn't really a big-picture story to resolve. The powerful conglomerate headed by Mr. Gus (Will Yun Lee) has emerged this season merely as an “evil device.” We all know they aren't going to “win,” so the only drama left is of a personal nature for the main characters.
Bill is dying from “hepatitis V,” which he contracted from Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). But Bill has refused to munch on the cure – which exists in the blood of Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp) – because he had a disturbing “fever dream.” In the dream, Bill and Sookie appear to have had a baby, but when Bill looks over Sookie's shoulder, she isn't holding an infant, but rather a black void. Sookie has given birth to “death.”
As Bill explained to Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) in the penultimate episode last weekend, because Sookie is a fairy, she always will be drawn to vampires, and them to her. It's the definitive example of “opposites attract.” So Bill claims he is allowing himself to die FOR Sookie, to let her be free of him once and for all.
Mr. Gus is headed to Sookie's house, because Sookie knows about Sarah, and he does not want that information getting out. Bill has just arrived at Sookie's door, hoping to explain himself. My assumption would be, Bill either is going to wind up cured, or he's going to die heroically, saving Sookie from Mr. Gus and his henchmen.
True Blood started to feel false for me a few seasons ago, when they couldn't think of anything to do except make the good characters bad, and the bad characters good. Inching it back the other way never quite works.
I am watching True Blood because I want to know how it ends, but my thoughts wander to what it was, rather than what it is. With the proper amount of distance, True Blood will be remembered as one of the most important TV shows of this era, even though it is clotting unevenly.