True death: Even Eric Northman can't save this show.
Spoiler warning: do not read unless you're up to date with season seven.
After seven blood and sex-soaked seasons, True Blood is about to meet the true death, with the supernatural series finale airing on Foxtel Showtime tonight.
The loss of Alcide (centre) was a major blow for fans in True Blood season 7.
The series achieved levels of high camp and explosive gore never before seen on television, and shamelessly pandered to its female and gay male fans with a buffet of manscaped eye candy.
But it's time to put a stake through its heart and bury it at the crossroads.
The vampire series based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries novels has been slowly drained of life. It's been sucked dry. It's bitten the dust. The stakes are no longer high. How many more tortured vampire puns can I give you?
Will Bill survive the True Blood finale?
Put it this way – when someone with Alcide's level of abdominal perfection is killed off (while saving the undeserving Sookie, of course) and you find yourself not really caring, something is wrong.
The series was created by Alan Ball who was responsible for Six Feet Under and, before that, American Beauty. Its first season set up the premise that a synthetic blood drink called Tru Blood allowed vampires to "come out of the coffin" and live openly in society.
Under this guise, vampirism (and eventually lots of other supernatural abilities) became a metaphor through which issues of race, creed, sexuality, family, addiction, capitalism and terrorism could be explored. It was a premise far more intriguing than your average vampire fare.
True Blood also allowed its vampire leads to develop as characters. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vampires were cardboard cut-out evil. The two who became "good" were acted upon externally (Angel by a curse that returned his soul; Spike by having a chip inserted into his brain).
By contrast, vampirism in True Blood was something that gave you more power, but you could choose how you wielded it. Bill Compton, the Civil War veteran whose love affair with Sookie Stackhouse was the foundation of the whole series, spent much of the first few series regretting the terror he unleashed in his first few decades of vampire life.
True Blood's home on HBO meant it could also ramp up the gore, replacing Buffy's convenient "dusting" of vampires with bloody, sticky, ichorous messes. And there was nudity. So much nudity. It got to a point where Alcide's werewolf morphs got so erotic I was banned from a local dog park.
The first three seasons let us explore the fictional town of Bon Temps and meet its characters, including Sookie's sex-crazed brother Jason, her feisty-but-damaged best friend Tara and shapeshifter boss Sam. We fell in love with Eric Northman, surely the most entrancing bad boy since John Shea's take on Lex Luthor in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (the ladies will back me on this), and revelled in the sharp witticisms of his progeny Pam.
The show also developed its high-camp flamboyance. It devised vigorous sexual escapades and eye-poppingly violent encounters that bested even the most dedicated fan-fiction writer. At its height, it had maniacal vampire king Russell Edgington tear a newsreader's spine out through his lower back live on air, deliver a terrifying speech about the true nature of vampires, then throw to the weather girl. It was genius.
But then Sookie became a fairy, Lafayette a medium and Tara a vampire. A witches coven cursed Eric with no memory, which although rendered him completely adorable (and allowed numerous welcome scenes with his shirt off), did remove the quivering sense of unpredictable danger that made Eric so… Eric.
The Sookie/Bill/Eric/Alcide love quadrilateral became a pentagon with the addition of Warlow, an uninspiring vampire/fairy hybrid who was obsessed with Sookie. Join the queue, bro. Bill also went off the rails after drinking the blood of Lilith, the legendary creator of the vampire race who was conveniently played by a ragingly beautiful naked woman with an impeccable merkin.
And Jason shagged were-panthers. Ugh, I thought I'd forgotten about that.
By season six, a lot about True Blood was just…. dumb. Although many elements in the series never made sense, they didn't lack purpose . Towards the end, nonsensical character developments overshadowed the show's plot.
Anti-vampire governor Truman Burrell was an energetic adversary, but he was killed off too early (albeit spectacularly). That left his lover, the Christian zealot Sarah Newlin, trying to pretend that big, bad Burrell was just camera shy. Not even in the hickest of hick Southern towns would that fly for more than 10 minutes.
Eric turned Burrell's daughter Willa into a vampire, although she had little reason to be there. Andy Bellefleur had four fairy babies that grew up in a week, were promptly eaten by Bill's progeny Jessica. Did anybody care about that? And Sam Merlotte's habit of falling in love with any woman who gave him a sideways glance and taking stupid risks to save them just got dull. Sam's sensitivity had always been a point of difference, but he became so wet you needed to watch his scenes in a plastic poncho.
The vampire internment camp and the development of the blood-borne virus Hep V were interesting concepts, touching on eugenics and Dr Mengele-style experimentation. By now we were all so firmly on the side of the vampire characters that posing the question, "Who are the real monsters?", had us all firmly saying: "Humans, yes, we get it, we're awful".
It would have been interesting to see this arc play out in an earlier season, but then, the earlier shows were taken up with vampires on a micro hicktown level, which then expanded to a broader national scope. Problem is, they don't seem to have the budget for it. According to Jason the world is falling apart due to rampaging packs of Hep V vampires, but apart from one Hurricane Katrina-referencing trip to a ghost town, there's been no sign of it.
The need to tie up storylines in season seven has played out similarly to the Hep V virus itself - a mostly painful slog to an inevitable end.
High points included finally discovering how two such worldly vampires as Eric and Pam came to be running a nightclub in the Deep South, and the opportunity for '80s and '90s flashbacks. Eric's slow-motion appearance in a full 1996 Backstreet Boys-style blowy shirt with a gelled up-do was perfection. Pam has had all of the most memorable lines this series, including "Look, I'm a Republic---!" when dressing for a dinner with Texan tycoons. Bill finally had a great moment when he killed his lawyer in anger over her pricing structure. Insert lawyer/vampire analogy joke here, am I right?
Low points included Tara getting staked offscreen in the first episode during the fight at the vampire/human mixer. Her subsequent appearance as a spectral angel to her mother was no doubt designed to keep people guessing as to whether she's really dead, but oh no, she just needed to find peace. Blergh. Tara was always a fighter. Why couldn't we see her go out kicking arse?
Also, Sookie? So upset over Tara's initial death that she had Pam turn her, but then when her bestest childhood friend meets the true death? Nothing. Mind you, she was trying to track down Arlene and Holly, who had been captured by Hep V vampires. You'd think they might try looking at Fangtasia first, but no, it takes them three episodes to figure it out. Gah! And why does Hep V make most vampires raving, bloodthirsty junkies, but Eric and Bill just get all introspective? Does glamouring work on anybody anymore? And why, in response to the tragic death of Alcide's abs (and all of his other beautiful parts) does Lafayette decide to throw a party?
Hoyt Fortenberry returned, as we knew he would, to reunite with Jessica, conveniently bringing a hot but dumpable fiance who could be a new love interest for Jason Stackhouse, who all of a sudden wants a white picket fence future.
And now Bill is dying, and has refused the cure contained in Sarah Newlin's blood. I can understand why: Eric drank the cure and now seems to have absolutely nothing to do except be errand boy for Bill, Sookie and the Tru Blood corporation/Yakuza. He even had sex with the perennially ignored Ginger just to pass some time (admittedly a fun scene).
So there is one episode left, in which Sookie and Bill will have to beat the bad guys, whoever they are, and rekindle their love, or whatever. I haven't read the books, but my guess is Sookie will use up the last of her fairy light, die, then Bill will bring her back as a vampire. I'm not anticipating an incredibly satisfying finale, but who knows, maybe they'll fluke one. At the very least, it will all be over, and finally the series can rest in peace.