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

May 28th, 2012

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

When I reviewed the previous season of True Blood, I really enjoyed the show overall, but there were some troubling signs. Much of the show is fantastic; however, the introduction of so many new supernatural elements was troubling. The supernatural elements are what sets this show apart, but by adding to many, it risks going into the realm of self-parody. Does it avoid that pitfall? Or has the show jumped the shark? And if it is the latter, is it a ghost shark? No, they've already done ghosts. Time-traveling cyborg shark.

The Show

We will start with a recap of the show. True Blood takes place in a world just like ours, except vampires exist and are out in the open. This is possible thanks to a synthetic blood substitute that vampires can drink, Tru Blood, so now vampires and humans can co-exist peacefully. Well, not really. There are still those who hunt vampires on religious grounds. Other supernatural elements have been introduced into the show, from shapeshifters, witches, werewolves, and now fairies. Near the end of Season Three, we learned that Sookie Stackhouse was indeed a fairy, and even has a fairy godmother, Claudine. At the end of the season, Claudine takes Sookie to the world of the Faeries.

It's in the world of the Faeries that we start season four. There Sookie meets Grandpa Earl, who's been there for twenty years, although he only thinks he's been there a few hours. The place looks perfect and all of the people are happy, so obviously Sookie realizes something isn't right. It's not paranoia and it isn't long before Sookie and Earl are running for their lives. "Thirty-two." (Fans of Red Dwarf might get that reference. If not, check out the show. The quote comes the season six episode called Legion.) A group of rebel faeries help get them back to the real world. Sookie survives the trip back, her Grandfather does not. When she returns home, she's in for a shock. Her brother, Jason, had sold the house. While she was in the land of the Faeries for less than 15 minutes, over a year had past in the real world and a number of things have changed. Others stayed the same. Bill and Eric arrive that night, having sensed her presence for the first time in over a year. That love triangle will continue throughout the season, but it is especially complicated after we learn Eric bought Sookie's house, and since he owns the house, he doesn't need her permission to come and go. I don't know if he thought that was a romantic gesture, but it came across as stalker-level crazy.

On a side note, Jason tells Sookie not to tell people she went to the land of the Faeries, because people will think she's crazy. There are vampires, werewolves, and various other supernatural things out there. So why would Faeries make her sound crazy?

In the first episode, we also catch up with the lives of a number of Bon Temps residents. Jason has become a cop, a good cop, which is important, as Andy, his boss, is addicted to V. (That's the street name for Vampire Blood, which is a powerful drug to humans.) Jason can't deal with that head on after Crystal, his ex-girlfriend / werepanther returns to town with her crazy brother / husband. They want to make Jason a werepanther so Jason and Crystal can mate. Sam has to deal with the repercussions of shooting younger brother, Tommy, which apparently doesn't include a parade. I would throw him a parade. Arlene and Terry are still together and raising Mikey, who is the son of a serial killer. She's worried that Mikey is evil due to his father's bad genes is more than a little freaked out about this. Tara is off in New Orleans being a Mixed Martial Arts fighter and dating a fellow fighter, but when she learns Sookie is back, she returns. It doesn't take her long before she's stuck right in the middle of it. Lafayette is talked into visiting with a coven by his boyfriend, Jesus, but he really just wants to pretend his doesn't have any gifts. He's even more sure when the coven's leader, Marnie, contacts someone from his past. She later shows powers that are even more impressive, and which put her coven in the sights of the Vampire King. Meanwhile, Jessica and Hoyt's relationship is still going after a year, but it's struggling. The season also continues the political stories from the previous seasons. With the big shake up at the top of the vampire hierarchy, the new leadership is trying an outreach program to get the humans to trust them more, which is necessary after the events of season three. I like the political side of the show better than some of the relationship stories.

As the season progresses, it's clear the coven is more powerful than anyone first imagined, including the head of the coven, and the Vampire's first attempt to stop them goes poorly for the vampires. When Bill learns they are tapping into necromancy, he sends Eric to deal with them. After all, if they can control the dead, they can control vampires. They proof this by wiping Eric's mind. Really? Why not glue a goatee on the actor and cast him as Eric's evil twin? Granted, it does allow us a deeper look into Eric as a character, but still, it's pretty high on the bad cliché list.

Fortunately, the storylines that work outnumber those that don't. This includes some that had very little to do with the overall plot. (Lafayette being possessed by Mavis is a perfect example of that. It was absolutely great.) Some of the relationship drama entered into soap opera territory a little too much and some of the characters are forgettable, at best. That said, overall season four was if not as strong as season three, it was at least very close.

The Extras

There are a ton of extras on the Blu-ray, including some that are exclusive. Things start with audio commentary tracks on five of the twelve episodes. These feature various cast and crew members. There are also recaps for each episode called Inside the Episodes. Individually, they are quite short, but combined they are nearly an hour. True Blood: The Final Touches is a half-hour season long review from the view of the post-production crew. True Blood Lines looks at the various characters by the type (human, vampire, witch, etc.) and their various relationships. Finally, every episode has a Enhanced Viewing Mode, this is exclusive to the Blu-ray, and it makes upgrading 100% worth it. It has a trivia track that talks about all of the characters, their backgrounds, the various relationships, etc. It also has many, many clips that show stuff that has happened previously that is connected to what is currently on screen, as well as stuff that is yet to happen that is the result of what is currently happening. This does mean there's a ton of spoilers, but it adds a huge amount of replay to the shows. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and Digital Copy of the show. They are on flipper discs, but that's better than nothing.

As for the show's technical specs, the show continues to amaze on high definition. The detail level is incredible, the colors pop, the blacks are deep. That last one is especially important, as a lot of the show takes place at night. The audio is just as strong with plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including directional effects, ambient sounds, etc.

The Blu-ray costs just 25% more than the DVD, which would be a good deal for a TV on DVD release even if it didn't have exclusive extras. With exclusive extras, it's a steal.

The Verdict

I mentioned in the last review that the ratings for True Blood shot up from season one to season three. Season four saw that growth stall and the averages for seasons three and four were identical. This is actually a good way to describe the quality of the show as well; season four is on par with season three in terms of quality. Fortunately, that's a strong compliment. The DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack are both worth picking up, while the latter is a contender for Pick of the Week.

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