True Blood is part fantasy and part melodrama, but it’s the show’s small-town Louisiana characters which have kept it engaging through three seasons, using vampires, werewolves and other creatures of the night to explore prejudice, addiction and corruption. Season 4 returns us to Bon Temps after the initial escape from fairy land.
The series left off with Sookie getting whisked away to the world of her ancestral fairy kin. It’s a world of sweetness and light, or so it seems at first blush. But Sookie has been betrayed too many times not to be a little suspicious and declines a taste of the golden light fruit. That suspicion grows when she finds her grandpa, who believes he’s only been gone from the human world a matter of hours, not two decades. When the fairy queen tries to force her to eat the fruit, she breaks through the illusion, and with a little help from fairy rebels, finds a portal back to Louisiana—a year later.
She finds her brother Jason has made the police force, but he’s also sold Gran’s house. Sherriff Andy’s alcoholism has escalated into a V problem. Lafayette (with a mohawk!) and Jesus have found a coven of witches. Arlene’s baby son (from her serial killer ex-husband) has taken to ripping heads off Barbies. Hoyt and Jessica are fighting like an old married couple. Sam has learned to manage his anger by meeting with other shapeshifters and going for a gallop—as a horse. Hoyt’s mom has taken on Sam’s brother Tommy as her new son. And Tara has become an ultimate fighter and taken a lesbian lover. In other words, business as usual in Bon Temps.
The town has gone a little crazy thinking Sookie was dead. And she’s staggering with the realization that she’s lost a year of her life. But now that she’s back, the real danger begins. Having usurped Queen Sophie Anne, Bill now enjoys a position of power. He and Eric are both still competing for the affections of Sookie (“It was only an hour ago that you broke my heart into a million pieces,” she tells Bill)—and both are trying to repair the images of vampires in a “post-Russell Edgington world.”
But vampires aren’t the only things that go bump in the night here in Season 4. The fairy queen Mab said she’d sowed too many seeds with humans: “Now it is time to harvest.” And closer to home, Jason is still taking care of the inbred werepanther children of the Norris clan in Crystal’s absence, but they lock him in the ice box. And with the addition of Lafeyette, the witches—the brujos—have shown some real power.
The premiere hints at multiple story lines without going very deeply into any. But after the maenad orgies of Season 2, invading fairies from another dimension shouldn’t scare fans off. The series may have moved on from social commentary and long-since killed off its most interesting character (Godric), but it continues to spin entertaining yarns, all rooted in a most memorable place. Fairyland may have been an illusion, but the swamps of Louisiana still feel real.