‘True Blood’ returns with a vengeance

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True Blood

• 8 p.m. Sunday

• HBO


Posted 10:24am on Sunday, Jun. 16, 2013

In the Season 6 premiere of True Blood, a soaked-in-blood Sookie Stackhouse takes a moment to pine for the good old days, before her life in Bon Temps, La., was overrun with vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, faeries and more.

When this acclaimed HBO serial launched in 2008, Sookie (played by Anna Paquin) was a naive waitress with the unexplained ability to hear people’s thoughts.

Then she met and fell in love with a dashing Southern vampire by the name of Bill Compton and everything changed. Now Sookie and her friends keep getting sucked into an unending series of battles for power and survival involving all sorts of supernatural creatures.

“My life is so different from how I thought it would turn out,” Sookie says in the return episode, at 8 p.m. Sunday, in a story that picks up right after a bloodbath battle at the Vampire Authority compound in the Season 5 finale. “I’m not who I thought I would turn out to be.… I want my life back.”

So Sookie, who herself is part faerie, resolves to make a course correction. She washes away all the blood and gets a refreshing night’s rest, only to get pulled right back into new misadventures almost as soon as she wakes.

She should know by now. There’s simply no going back for any of the inhabitants of Bon Temps.

True Blood, based on a series of bestselling novels by Charlaine Harris, is a runaway train. It relentlessly hurtles forward, always on the verge of jumping the tracks. If you want to survive the ride, you had better hang on with all your might.

Based on an advance screening of the first three lightning-paced episodes, this season’s journey into darkness, laced with moments of humor when you least expect them, looks like it will be a doozy.

The big story introduces vampire-hating Gov. Truman Burrell (Arliss Howard). After years of an uneasy peace between humans and vamps, he declares all-out war. “It’s time for humans to bite back,” he says. And he’s got an arsenal of technologically advanced weaponry to make vampires the underdogs.

Eric, a vamp played by Alexander Skarsgård, will retaliate by abducting the governor’s daughter — raising the stakes, so to speak, even more than before. “If the humans want war,” Eric says, “we’ll give them war.”

Meanwhile, Bill (Stephen Moyer, who directed the season premiere) has transformed into a more powerful being after swigging the blood of vamp goddess Lilith. Now he’s a dark-hearted wild card in the equation who can’t be stopped even by the trusty old stake through the heart.

Everyone fears him, even his devoted progeny Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). But once Bill foresees a massacre of the vampire species, he’ll want to jump into the fray as well.

Also, other until-now “closeted” creatures are likely to be forced into taking a stand as well, no matter how badly shapeshifter Sam (Sam Trammell) and werewolf pack leader Alcide (Joe Manganiello) wish to keep their existence hidden from the human population.

And elsewhere, Sookie, brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and their “faerie grandfather” (Rutger Hauer) will have problems of their own facing off against Warlow, the powerful vampire who killed the Stackhouse siblings’ parents years ago.

Once all of these storylines collide, as inevitably happens every season on True Blood, there’s sure to be fireworks galore.

Series creator Alan Ball stepped down as showrunner after Season 5, but there is no reason for concern — even in light of the news that his replacement, Mark Hudis, cut out after just three episodes, to be replaced by Brian Buckner, a writer-producer on the show since the first season.

These changes behind the scenes seem to have had no noticeable impact, for better or worse, on what we’ll see on the screen, both in terms of the show’s style and its ongoing narrative.

Some of the lesser storylines, for example, particularly the goofy one involving Sheriff Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) and his overnight brood of faerie children, will continue uninterrupted.

That’s just something you have to learn to live with when watching True Blood.

This is a show that takes chances, telling escapist stories with fantasy characters while simultaneously addressing very real contemporary issues, such as discrimination and equal rights.

When you aim high, so high that you’re often over the top, as is the True Blood way, sometimes you fall short.

Most of the time, though, there’s no better place to spend an hour every Sunday night.

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