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True Blood -- A Beginner's Guide Before Season 3

With only a couple days until the season 3 premiere of True Blood, there are no doubt a lot of people out there wondering what all the hype is about. After all, True Blood, like the Sopranos and Dexter, is a cable show, and not everyone has access to pay channels like HBO and Showtime. So, with those potential fans in mind, here’s a run down of everything you need to know as we begin season 3 of True Blood.

What the Hell is This Show About Anyway?

It’s easy to buy into the notion that True Blood is yet another vampire/werewolf show, designed to capitalize on the popularity of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. The comparisons of the two series, both based on popular novels, stop at vampires and supernatural creatures.

One of the show’s unique features is that it takes place on both a global and local level.

Globally, True Blood imagines a world in which vampires have come “out of the coffin” and announced their presence to the world. A Japanese company has created a synthetic blood beverage, called “Tru Blood,” which provides all the nutritional benefits of real blood without the unfortunate consequences to “donors.” As a result, vampires are out and about at night, enjoying their “lives” as real citizens.

Not everyone appreciates the vampires, though. Several religious and political activist groups (namely the Fellowship of the Sun church) have tried to make the vamps go away. This has caused the vampires to fight for equal rights. Throughout the series, we have seen television clips of vampire leaders advocating on television for the Vampire Rights Amendment.

Other supernatural groups exist in this world, too, namely shapeshifters, who are capable of taking the form of various animals. There has also been mention of werewolves, too, although at this point, prior to season 3’s start, we have not actually met any werewolves. In season 2, we were also introduced to a maenad who represented a significant threat to all of the characters. It’s important to note that in Charlaine Harris’ novels, there are a lot of supernatural creatures lurking all over the place – fairies, werepanthers, weretigers, etc.

No Black Lagoon critters, though. Sigh.

On a local level, the story is set in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Bon Temps is a backwoods southern small town, about a half hour or so out of Shreveport. The town is populated by a unique group of people whose lives are affected in dynamic ways by the supernatural presence around them.

Why Bon Temps? Who knows? Maybe there’s something special about this place that draws otherworldly beings.

So True Blood is really about the effect of a political movement on everyday America. If you thought the show had a lot in common with Twilight, you might want to reconsider.

Who ARE These People (and Why Should I Care)?

Like most memorable television shows, True Blood’s value is in its characters. We only care about what’s happening if we care about them. Here are the characters you need to know right away.

Sookie Stackhouse: Sookie is a barmaid at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill. She’s perky, pretty and proud. She’s also telepathic. At first she sees this gift as a disability, but eventually realizes that it can come quite handy. Sookie falls in love with Bill pretty much at first sight, mainly because she can’t read the minds of vampires – something to do with them being dead.

What you need to know most about her is that she is brave and resourceful. Regardless of the odds, Sookie somehow manages to rise above her station in life to stand up for herself and those she loves.

Bill Compton: Bill is a vampire who moves back into his family’s estate in Bon Temps after the vampires made themselves public. Bill is reasonable, intelligent, and – at times – controlling. He hates that he is a vampire and tries his best to be more like humans. His love for Sookie is deep and passionate, and he has nearly sacrificed his life to save hers.

Eric Northman: Eric is a vampire who runs Fangtasia, a vampire bar in Shreveport. He is also the vampire sheriff of Area Five in Louisiana, putting him in charge of every vampire in the vicinity, including Bill. Eric is fair and thoughtful, but ultimately self-serving. Like Bill, though, he is passionate about Sookie, and makes no bones about wanting to jump hers.

Sam Merlotte: Sam is the owner of Merlotte’s Bar & Grill in Bon Temps. Sam is also a shapeshifter. He is rare in that he can take the shape of virtually any animal he chooses, but he usually prefers to be a collie. At his core, Sam is loyal and loving, yet he also has a great internal conflict. He doesn’t seem to know his place in the world and thinks that he needs to discover who his birth parents are in order to answer the question.

Tara Thornton: Tara is Sookie’s best friend. She was raised by an alcoholic mother and harbors a lot of bitterness towards her, although events in season 2 have helped her to let go of some of this resentment. On the surface, Tara is stubborn and tough, but underneath she is quite insecure and afraid of being alone.

Jason Stackhouse: Sookie’s brother. Jason is thick-headed, foolhardy, and completely self-involved. He’s easily fooled and has a Forrest Gump-esque way of being in the right place at the right time.

Jessica Hamby: Jessica is a 16-year old who was turned into a vampire by Bill as punishment for killing another vamp at Fangtasia. At first, Jessica was timid and scared, but as she has recognized her power, she has developed a hunger and is quite unstable. She fell in love with Jason’s best friend, Hoyt, but heartbreak has only poisoned her.

Lafayette Reynolds: Lafayette is the cook at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill, but he’s much more than that. He’s also a drug dealer (specializing in selling vampire blood, of ‘V’ as it’s called on the street), a male prostitute, and an all-around bad ass. After being taken captive by Eric for illegally selling ‘V,’ Lafayette has become more withdrawn and frightened.

Other characters of note are Pam, Eric’s sarcastic second-in-command, Hoyt, Jason’s best friend, and Andy Bellefleur, the alcoholic local detective. Arlene is Sookie’s co-worker and friend at Merlotte’s, and Terry Bellefleur is a shell-shocked war vet who works for Sam.

What Do I Need To Know, Plot-Wise, Before Starting Season Three?

The toughest part about watching a new television series without having seen any previous episodes is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Some procedural shows make this easy by making each episode self-contained, but True Blood is not procedural. Its story is told in season long arcs, with events from previous seasons coming back to effect the characters and plot.

So, which events are important to know about, since this article can’t replace a more thorough episode guide?

Here are five events you need to keep in mind going into season 3.

1. Sookie has shared the blood of both Bill and Eric. In season 1, Sookie rescued Bill from a couple wicked vampire drainers (looking to score ‘V’ to sell), and was later jumped and beaten to within an inch of her life. Bill gave Sookie his blood to heal her, since vampire blood has healing qualities. Bill also gave Sookie his blood after she was attacked by Maryann the maenad in season 2.

In season 2, after members of the Fellowship of the Sun attacked a group of vampires, Eric was struck by a bullet and encouraged Sookie to remove the bullet from him by sucking it out of him.

Ingesting the blood of a vampire gives them the ability to sense the person’s feelings and location. It also causes the person who took the blood to have heightened senses, and makes them more sexually motivated. Taking Eric’s blood will be a pivotal concern of season 3.

2. Jason killed Tara’s boyfriend, Eggs. It was established early in the series that Tara has a major crush on Sookie’s brother, and has since they were kids. At the end of season 2, though, Tara had finally developed what looked like a positive romantic relationship with Eggs, one of the maenad’s puppets. Eggs, unfortunately, discovered that he had been the maenad’s main murder weapon. In an attempt to turn himself over to Andy Bellefleur, he was shot by Jason. Jason thought that Eggs, who was holding the knife he had used to help Maryann kill her victims, was going to kill Andy, so he took action. Now, Tara’s boyfriend is dead, killed by the one man she has always held a candle for. Expect fireworks here.

3. Sam found out the whereabouts of his birth parents. After nearly getting killed by Maryann in a ritual sacrifice to bring the god Dionysus to Earth, Sam realized he needed to know more about his roots. He returned to his foster parents, from whom he had run away as a teenager, demanding some information. His foster father gave him an address while on his death bed. Sam will be visiting these people. Who know where this is headed…

4. Bill was kidnapped. At the end of season 2, Bill takes Sookie to a fancy French restaurant and proposes marriage. Unsure of what to say, Sookie excuses herself to the restroom. She returns, ready to say “yes,” and finds that Bill is missing. Where is he?

5. Bill was held captive by his maker, Lorena. During season 2, Sookie and Bill went to Dallas to help Eric locate his maker, Godric, who had offered himself as a sacrifice to the Fellowship of the Sun. In Dallas, Bill encountered Lorena, his maker, whom he had not seen in years. We learned that a maker has a remarkable hold on his or her “children,” and that Lorena’s hold on Bill is quite strong. If she calls, he has to come.

Is This Show Any Good?

Would I be writing about it if it weren’t?

Enjoy the start of season 3! I’ll be back Monday with a recap of Sunday’s premiere.

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