I hate to admit it. But for quite a long time, I hated HBO's vampire drama, True Blood.
For many episodes, this quirky show about a small Louisiana town filled with publicly known vampires, covert shape shifters, a serial killer and a mind-reading waitress felt like a sloppy collision of pointlessly dysfunctional characters.
Wide-eyed optimist Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) found romance with the only person whose mind she couldn't read in backwoods Bon Temps, 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). And though creator Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) had developed an amazing concept — Compton and other vampires come out of hiding, claiming to live on a synthetic blood substitute called True Blood — it took him forever to explore the cool supernatural angles.
But as the show kicks off its second season at 9 tonight, a slow start is the last problem at hand. Indeed, tonight starts with a grisly murder — a woman's heart is removed from her body outside the bar where Stackhouse and her pals work. Several crises ensue.
Stackhouse learns her man was forced to turn a human into a vampire and now must mentor her. What other secrets is he keeping? (Fans know that answer centers on the fate of her abusive uncle.) Shape-shifting bar owner Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) has a seriously long history with mysterious party girl Maryanne Forrester (Michelle Forbes); why does he want her to leave town so badly?
And the area's powerful vampire sheriff Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) wants Stackhouse's help in tracking down a missing vampire in Texas, a quest Compton wants no part of. One question I'm still waiting to see answered: Where are all these mind-reading, shape-shifting, ageless people coming from anyway?
True Blood has emerged as an intriguing blend of hothouse Southern drama and backwoods supernatural goings-on. Here's a look at what some of the main characters have in store this season.
• Shaken after just escaping a serial killer last season, Stackhouse asserts herself more this season, demanding Compton share painful truths with her about his past. Her mind reading seems to emerge only in convenient bursts — such as when she's looking for best friend Tara's missing relative.
• Compton finds his anger threatening his relationship with Stackhouse. Still, when she's attacked on a dark road by a mysterious, supernatural being, guess who leaps into action to save her life? Again.
• Turns out Merlotte met party girl Maryanne 20 years ago when he was a teenager and she looked the same. As Maryanne begins throwing wild, orgiastic parties for the town folks — and feeding on the hedonistic energy they create — questions arise about who, or what, this woman really is. And what did Merlotte do with her, back when he was a young pup?