DVD Review: True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season

Created By Alan Ball (Based on the books by Charlaine Harris)
Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Ann Woll and Sam Trammell



It took me a good four years to actually make it past the first episode of True Blood. Chalk it up to vampire fiction fatigue, but the overly familiar love triangle of a small-town Plain Jane torn between two broody, supernatural beaus made it a tough show to get into. Four years later and I’ve finally caught up and, having torn through four seasons in as many weeks, can finally see what the fuss was all about.

Sure, True Blood is derivative as all hell (A supernatural blonde girl caught between a dark, broody veggie-vamp and a cocky, blonde ‘bad boy’ bloodsucker? Someone get Joss Whedon’s lawyer on the phone!), but while it cribs mercilessly from every bit of fang fiction you’ve come across and the romance drama is often soap-level quality, True Blood manages to slather it all with a layer of unashamedly trashy, ridiculously addictive fun that few shows can manage.
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Every installment ends with a shamelessly dramatic cliffhanger that never fails to leave you eager to devour another episode and guy-loving viewers will undoubtedly squeal with excitement at the amount of sweaty, naked manflesh on display in every episode (and guys get Deborah Ann Woll nudity, which might be an undiscovered cure for cancer). The amount of sex scenes that crop up is dizzying and often borders on hilarious parody, but at least True Blood follows through and rewards the drooling fangirls who stick with its vamp melodrama with gratuitous amounts of heaving manbutt, which is more than you can say for Twilight.

Look past the comical amount of sex and nudity, though, and there’s a thick streak of fun, goofy comedy, a few knowing winks at the silliness of the whole genre and plenty of gooey gore-filled violence. It all helps make True Blood one of the more appealing and addictive pieces of entertainment to come out of the recent crop of broody supernatural romance stuff, and the fourth season manages to keep that trait alive with comfortable ease.
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After spending a year trapped in a fairy dimension, telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse slowly settles back into life in reality, but the supernatural drama of Bon Temps quickly crops up again: Sookie is torn between three lovers as broody vamp king Bill (Stephen Moyer), bad boy bloodsucker Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and beefy werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello) are all googly-eyed over her; Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) become tangled up with a wicca group led by a possessed witch hell-bent on ridding the world of vampires, while Eric has his memories erased by witchcraft, leaving the formerly cocky, dangerous vampire a meek, sensitive shell of his former self as Sookie is forced to take care of him.

Elsewhere, Sookie’s cop brother Jason finds himself the target of a deranged group of inbred werepanthers looking to make him one of their own, Arlene (Carrie Preston) and Terry (Todd Lowe) are being terrorized by what appears to be the ghost of serial killer Rene Lenier looking to reclaim his baby, while vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) is finding that the stress of an everyday life with a safe human boyfriend is quickly taking its toll.
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Right off the bat, the fourth season of True Blood piles on the random, convoluted silliness; as if vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters and werepanthers weren’t enough, Sookie’s now a fairy, witches are thrown into the mix, Lafayette has magical medium powers and Tara’s now a lesbian cage fighter (!). It’s all more than a bit silly, and at the rate at which superpowers come to light in the residents of Bon Temps, pretty soon waitress Arlene will pull of her human mask to reveal she was the Loch Ness Monster all along and Sheriff Andy will most likely turn out to be bigfoot.

But at least it feels like True Blood is in on the joke most of the time, undercutting the romantic melodrama and dafter supernatural elements with a playful wink and plenty of giggles. The first half of the season focuses on Sookie as she slowly falls for a bewitched Eric. It certainly helps that he’s the focal point of the season’s romance – even if he is the stereotypical bad boy, Eric is a much more layered and interesting character than the painfully bland, verbose Bill who had been at the centre of the last three seasons, and we get to see a totally different side of him this season. With a spell cast on him and without the memories of his violent, murderous past, Eric’s a shell of his former self and many of the show’s funniest moments (and girly audience swoons) come from Alexander Skarsgard’s wonderfully goofy and gigglesome performance, playing everything for laughs as he constantly looks like a sweet, sad dope following around Sookie like a playful, innocent puppy.
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While a hillbilly rape subplot is a little tonally weird amongst the lighter stuff going on, ditzy cop Jason Stackhouse steals every scene he’s in yet again, and as the comic relief, Ryan Kwanten gets all the best lines (“I might be parrot-phrasing a little”, “You’ve reached Officer Jason Stackhouse. If this is an emergency, dial 911 and ask for me”). There’s a few choice nods and jabs at the vamp-loving fanbase (perpetually petulant, moody teen vampire Jessica is seen with a copy of Twilight) and the show’s writers know their viewers like the back of their hands, teasing drooling fangirls with sexy guy threesome dream sequences and enough gratuitous nude scenes to make for a liver-crippling drinking game.

The second half of the season, where Eric inevitably reclaims his memory, doesn’t hold up quite as well, as the laughs dwindle a little and season’s main villain plot and less interesting character sub-stories pile up. The year’s big bad – meek wiccan Marnie, turned into a power-hungry monster as she’s possessed by an ages-old murdered countess – gives the season a strong villain and a blithely sinister performance from Fiona Shaw, but the plot does drag on a little with a few silly gaps in logic to pad it out. And while Alcide is the show’s most likeable romantic suitor, he’s not given much of anything to do for most of the season, and not much effort is made to make Tara or Bill any more interesting this year, either (90% of the vampire’s screentime is shots of the dead dullard staring broodily into the distance). The finale does end things on a strong note, though, with a great, bloody cliffhanger or two quickly leaving you chomping at the bit for season five to come along.

It’s still Buffy-lite, and far from an original show, but while it’s not going to convert newcomers, with plenty of laughs, bloodshed and enough sex scenes to fill a dozen softcore porn movies, it’s the funniest, goriest, sexiest season of True Blood yet.
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The fourth season DVD set comes with the following special features:

  • Inside The Episodes
  • True Blood: The Final Touches
  • Audio Commentaries

The audio commentaries will be the biggest draw for fans, since most of the major cast and crew pop in to chat over six episodes. While it’d be great to have a full joke-filled group track with everyone in the same room, the alternative of pairing up an actor or two with a crew member or two for a more focused discussion is still a worthwhile, engaging one. Each track boasts plenty of informative behind-the-scenes tidbits and a host of jovial, chatty banter that’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Co-executive producer/writer Brian Buckner and actors Stephen Moyer and Deborah Ann Woll talk over “You Smell Like Dinner”, “If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin’?” features commentary from with creator Alan Ball and actress Anna Paquin, director Michael Lehmann and actor Alexander Skarsgard chat about “I’m Alive and on Fire”, “I Wish I Was the Moon” features co-executive producer/writer Raelle Tucker and executive producer Gregg Fienberg, director Romeo Tirone and actor Sam Trammell talk about “Let’s Get Out of Here”, and “Burning Down the House” has director Lesli Linka Glatter talking with co-executive producer/writer Nancy Oliver and actress Fiona Shaw.
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The ‘Inside The Episodes’ featurettes are available for all 12 episodes and give a short 3-5 minute recap of each one while some of the crew offer brief thoughts and info about that particular installment. There’s nothing particularly amazing or revelatory, though, and being the standard promotional fluff, they’re worth skipping unless you’re a die-hard fan eager to lap up anything concerning the show. Much better is the nearly 30 minute ‘True Blood: The Final Touches’ feature, which offers a surprisingly substantial and entertaining roundtable discussion with Alan Ball and the show’s post-production crew, covering everything from the special effects to song choices.

The only other real downside is that a show this addictive and filled with cliffhangers is just begging for a ‘Play All Episodes’ button, but there’s none to be found on the menus despite them being an obligatory inclusion for TV shows on DVD now.

The Season:

The DVD:




True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.