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Featured TV on DVD Review: True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season

May 22nd, 2013

True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

The last time I reviewed True Blood, I mentioned the ratings were flat between season four and season three. I also concluded the quality of the show was also flat. Season five saw its ratings drop for the first time during the show's run. Is this drop in ratings accompanied by an equal drop is quality? And if so, is the show no longer worth checking out?

The Show

First a recap of last season, at least the stuff that was too spoilery to reveal. ... Where to begin? A lot went down, but there are two main storylines that were the focus of the cliffhanger ending. Firstly, Debbie Pelt, a werewolf, is angry at Sookie for, well, many reasons, most recently for breaking up her relationship with Alcide, again. She heads over to Sookie's house to shoot Sookie with a shotgun. Tara tries to save Sookie and ends up taking a bullet for her. (I know shotguns don't technically fire bullets.) The other main storyline from season four that carries over to season five involves Bill and Eric. At the end of season four, they killed Nan Flanagan, a high-ranking member of the American Vampire League, a wing of the Authority. The Authority had sentenced her, and Bill and Eric, to death, but she was planning a rebellion against the Authority and tries to recruit Bill and Eric, threatening Sookie if they don't. Instead, they kill Nan. Of course, the Authority still want them dead, so they have to go on the run, with the help of Nora. Neither plan works out so well.

There are more subplots, like Reverend Steve Newlin being turned into a vampire and coming out of the closet as gay. Alcide killed Marcus, his packleader, which technically makes him the new packleader, but he's not interested. This does put Sam in a tough place, firstly because he's blamed for killing Marcus. Secondly, Sam is in love with Luna Garza, whose ex-husband was Marcus, and whose daughter, Emma, may or may not be a werewolf. At the end of season four, Terry gets a visitor, Patrick. The pair were in the war together, but it is not a happy reunion, as it brings back bad memories. These storylines take up a lot of the season, but all of them combined are not as big as the first two individually.

The first of the major storylines works better than the second. Tara has never been a fan of vampires and she's always has a temper, so her being turned into a vampire is bad for a couple reasons. Not only is she angry at being a vampire, angrier that usual, she has super strength and super speed to vent her anger with. Meanwhile, Bill and Eric are caught by the authority so fast that is it almost embarrassing. They are sentenced to death, but negotiate with the leader, Roman Zimojic, that they will find the rebellious Russell Edgington and stop the Sanguinistas. The Sanguinistas are, without getting too much into the egregious / political spoilers, a fundamentalist vampires who believe humans are only on Earth to be a food source. Clearly this puts them at odds with the Authority, which wants peaceful co-existance with humans. Here's a little spoiler, there are some within the Council, the rules of the Authority, whose allegiances lie with the Sanguinistas.

For the most part, Season Five of True Blood is a good season with enough character growth to not feel stale. There are some storylines that kind of fizzle out. I was hoping for more from the Vampire Council, for instance. Jason has slept with just about every woman in the state and this begins to bite him in the ass. His storyline is weak, so weak I didn't even remember to mention it above, but it does at least get a great payoff. Sam's storyline was also not as engaging as it should have been, nor was Alcide's storyline. The pacing and the tone were a little uneven throughout the season. There were too many subplots, some of which were weak, others that were lost in the crowd. Overall the acting helped lift the material, but it is still the weakest season in the show's run so far.

That said, True Blood is still better than most shows out there, even at its weakest, and overall the season is worth checking out. This is especially true for the cliffhanger ending.

The Extras

Sadly, I'm still have technical difficulties, in fact, they got worse as my cell phone died this morning. (I'm assuming that was unrelated. I was unable to check out the Blu-ray extras myself. Going by past seasons and the extensive list of extras, it is clearly a loaded set. For instance, the Enhanced Viewing Mode is back, as is the True Blood Lines. These provide a wealth of information on the characters and the events from the show. There are audio commentary tracks on five episodes, each episode has a short making of featurette, while one episode, Hopeless, has an hour-long making of featurette as well. There are other smaller extras as well. HBO really knows how to back a lot of extras on their Blu-ray releases.

Again, I was only able to see part of the season on high definition before my Blu-ray laser died, but what I saw was impressive. The video is excellent with great details, strong colors, deep blacks. That last part is important, as a lot of the scenes take place at night in the dark. The audio is just as amazing with a very active 5.1 surround sound audio track. The dialog is always clear, there's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including directional effect and a solid bass.

Finally we get to the price. Right now the Blu-ray costs just $5 more than the DVD, and it includes a copy of the show on DVD. (Flipper discs, but still worth something.) This is an amazing deal.

The Verdict

Season five of True Blood is the weakest season so far, but enough works that fans should be satisfied and will want to pick it up. The DVD is worth the money, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the far better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Scott Foley, Ryan Kwanten, Joe Manganiello, Christopher Meloni, Stephen Moyer, Denis O'Hare, Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgård, Jessica Tuck, Rutina Wesley, Brit Morgan, Lucy Griffiths