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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fangtastic. (I'll get me coat)

A vampire themed Quest this time out, because I've recently seen a couple of Episode Ones in that particular sub-genre. But first, a question. What do all of the following have in common?

It's mortal woman, vampire man. Every time. Has there ever been a show where it's the other way around? I'm hard pushed to think of one. The Vampire Diaries did something last year with a couple of its supporting characters but that wasn't allowed to last when she was pretty thoroughly killed off in the finale. Could it work as the central relationship of a show? Is the problem the perception that women ,or girls, fall harder and faster, are more invested, so the relationship feels artificially heightened? Or that women percieve 'bad' men as someone to be redeemed whereas men see 'bad' women as potentially guilt free opportunities for no-strings dalliances? Of course it could be that writers still feel beholden, even if it's unconsciously, to the Dracula/Mina template of woman seduced by vampire. Just something I've been wondering. Anyway...

I recently saw the 2nd season premiere of True Blood and the 1st episode (really half of the first episode, given it's a sliced up 2hr pilot) of Blade : The Series. True Blood is currently airing on C4 (thanks to FX only having 1st run, rather than exclusive rights) and Blade on one of Fives freeview subordinates. Blade has been available on a number of occasions in the relatively short period of time it's been in existence but there has always been something getting in the way of my seing it. This is as close as I've come and I'm determined to see the whole series this time out.

Without further ado let us now indulge in a little in-depth critical analysis of True Blood S2 Episode 1.

Sookie gets her norks out.


Okay, having brought the whole Rene storyline to a head and immediately setting up the fact that there is another killer operating in Bon Temps with the body in Andys car in the S1 finale the show just pretty much picks up right where it left off. I'd guess there is about a half hour time jump, just long enough for emergency services to arrive at the scene. From there it really is business as usual with Jason being a bit dim, Sam mooning around, Marianne being mysterious, Eric being vicious, Andy being a bit rubbish (at his job, Chris Bauer is a god among actors), and Sookie continues to get on Bills case about killing people before jumping into bed with him. And getting her norks out.

It occurred to me while watching this that HBO has managed to make the sensational banal. In that, all the sex, violence and foul language that they used to such great effect in their early days of scripted drama to court press coverage are now so commonplace that they no longer raise comment. We accept them, no questions asked, as part and parcel of a HBO show, without even really noticing them. It's well documented on here that I have a healthy(?) respect for the female form but joking aside, the Sookie/Bill sex scene in this episode was nothing at all to do with tittilation at Ana Paquin baring her breasts and everything to do with the state of their relationship and Sookies further acceptance of and descent into (despite her protestations to the contrary) Bills world. Sex and violence (and violence plays a big part in their sexual relations, in that she submits willingly to his biting her, drawing blood from her, even seeming to derive pleasure of her own from it) can be used and are used as narrative tools rather than sensationalist stunts. It's a fact that I feel certain other groups, keen to capitalise on HBO's taboo breaking, would do well to take note of.

On to Blade now and I'll be honest with you, I go into this series with some pretty low expectations. The fact that it was cancelled after only one season doesn't raise too many red flags given the early deaths meted out to so many shows in these days of 'succeed instantly or die' commissioning decisions, but the fact that no-one seems particularly sorry to see it go does. The show aired in 2006 which means it's long enough ago that people aren't discussing specifics (if they ever were) but recent enough that it occasionally comes up in conversation so I've been able to get a rough idea of peoples opinions without worrying about spoilers and the consencus seems to be that it was a bit meh and didn't really try to do anything particularly fresh or ambitious with it's set up.

Fom what I can gather so far, and remember this is still very early days for the show, the main problem for me is that Kirk Jones simply doesn't convince as Blade, and thats when he finally appears, because the focus seems to be almost entirely on the character of Krista (Jill Wagner), a military type who returns home from Iraq and sets out to discover the truth about her brothers death, which leads her into contact with vampires and, eventually Blade. The episode 'cliffhanger' if you can call it that (2hr eps never break properly do they?) is even based around her, as she walks into danger at a party attended by vampires.

I'll be honest with you, given Jones' limitations in the role, and his sidekick isn't much better, I wouldn't be at all sorry to see the focus stay on her. Wagner can act, seems capable of acquitting herself well in action sequences and is easy on the eye. A lot of shows have had worse leads. I can say that though because I know the show to already be cancelled and just want it to be as good as it can be for as long as it lasts. Had I been watching when it was still on the air I'd have been singing a different tune. The show is called Blade and for it to have any chance of forging a strong identity for itself and hopefully prosper I'd have been calling for a much stronger focus on the so called lead, ideally following a post pilot re-casting.

One thing this show does have going for it is the lack of any kind of sexual frisson between Blade and Krista. I hope they keep it that way, although I'm not pinning my hopes on it. (In doing some image searches after writing this post I came across a number of shots of Blade and Krista looking a bit 'close'. Say it aint so. Not to mention looking suspiciously like Krista with fangs. Have I just spoiled myself?)

So anyway, heres to the next 3months of vampire action, some of it classy, some of it not so, but all of it, if nothing else, necessary for the Quest.

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