I’m still Monday morning quarterbacking the series finale of The X-Files.
That should tell you something about my love/hate relationship with the final episodes of my favorite TV shows. This implies, of course, that the show has an actual finale, something not all shows—even the good ones—have the luxury to do these days. But in those rare cases that they do, I giddily watch final episodes to see how the writers decide to end the series.
So I watched the finale of True Blood on Sunday after a season-long hatewatch.
I’ve been falling out of love with True Blood for a while, but this season tested my patience like a dying vampire in a lawyer’s waiting room. I was having flashbacks to the nightmarish-in-a-bad-way final season of Dexter. SHUDDER.
T.J. introduced me to True Blood a few years ago. The first episode I saw was the season finale with Maryann the maenad. I had no clue what was going on — wild and crazy dancing; claw handed monsters — but I was immediately hooked. I’d always loved the show’s unapologetic, crazy, throw-everything-on-the-wall weirdness, with storylines that meander and characters that inexplicably take screen time. And this was well before American Horror Story, so WTF? moments were genuine. Alan Ball was the pre-Ryan Murphy.
Even if it was 50 shades of soapy Southern Gothic fantasy, the show had relevance. It was an ostentatious feather in pop culture’s cap. It even earned a place as a punch line on Family Guy.
Brian: What is that?
Stewie: It’s True Blood.
Brian: Yeah, no one knows what that is.
Stewie: Rich gay people do.
And True Blood paraphernalia litter our house: Fangtasia and Merlotte’s pint glasses, a Bon Temps Football shirt, even a cookbook.
Remember this cover? Of course you do.
But over the years, TV storytelling evolved, and more interesting characters were doing more interesting things on other shows. True Blood didn’t seem to notice that the TV landscape was changing until it was too late. Alan Ball left after five seasons, and it became obvious that Brian Buckner, the new show runner, wasn’t quite as audacious.
Even though his character was completely wasted, here’s Robert Kazinsky as Warlow, shirtless and tied to a tree, because of course:
The show picked up on the zombie storyline (marauding Hep V-infected vamps) about three years too late. They kept focusing on new characters we don’t care about (Violet, Adilyn, Bridget), when more interesting stuff could have been mined with characters we’ve loved for a long time (ahem, Lafayette). They painted themselves into corners so there was practically nowhere left to take once-compelling characters (Bill/Billith, Alcide, Tara, and poor, poor Sam). And don’t get me started on Bill’s death wish and supposed motivation for not taking the vaccine — and then asking Sookie to be complicit in his death when he could have walked out into the sun and turned to goo all by himself.
So what we got was an episode of lost opportunities, a bland mishmash of rote, “finale” events (wedding, death, a party, even a forthcoming baby) that had few stakes (ha!) and therefore packed very little emotional impact. I yelled “Finally!” when Sookie staked Bill.
In the final analysis, the last nail on the show’s coffin (!) was a proverbial whimper. I’m sad that we’ll no longer see the crazy residents of Bon Temps, but it seems they’ve run out of compelling crazy. True Blood will continue to exist in my pop culture lexicon for sure, but I’ll remember it as a fun, glorious, and sly expression of excess instead of the steaming, bloody pile of goo it was reduced to.