Even arriving late to the True Blood party in full swing at season three, it doesn’t take too long to get caught up in Alan Ball’s (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) Southern gothic melodrama.  Set mostly in the fictional Louisiana town, Bon Temps, the show revolves around one Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).  Sookie, a telepath, works as a waitress at Merlotte’s roadhouse owned by Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), a shapeshifter. Thanks to a synthetic blood, vampires have revealed themselves.  Thus Civil War veteran and immortal Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) had returned home and he and Sookie fall in love.

“I know what you’re going through.  That first kill, it’s got a way of making you feel like that’s all you are.  But you’ve got to know that you are still a man that is capable of goodness, of heartbreaking, and a generosity of spirit.  And if you can cling to that with everything you got, you’re gonna be all right.” –Terry (Todd Lowe)

As season three picks up, Sookie runs around in a hysterical state of shock as Bill, who had just proposed is kidnapped by villains unknown.  (He spends most of the premier episode being drained by V junkies).  Sookie’s best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) is grieving the death of her lover, Eggs (Mehcad Brooks), a serial killer ordered around by a maenad.  Andy (Chris Bauer) takes the blame for killing Eggs, covering for Sookie’s serial lothario brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten).

Those seem to be the main storylines, though there are many other subplots going on, which is typical not only for an episode, but for the season.  True Blood thrives on cliffhanger endings, sharply drawn characters, strong dialogue, and convoluted, concurrent storylines. So the impact of any one story is dulled by the sheer crowd of stories going on.  Not only that, but season three also introduces werewolves, inflating an already swollen cast even more.

“You wanna really fuck somebody’s life up?  Tell the truth about them.  They ain’t never going to be the same.” –Jason

There seem to be no end of metaphors that vampires can stand in for, though in True Blood, they pretty much cover the less than subtle territory of race, immigration, and any other marginalized people.  Yet one of the continuing sub-themes is how there is no possibility for liberation for anyone.  As Alan Ball does so well, people are trapped in their (dysfunction seems too weak a word) disturbed families.  People are stuck being what they are, telepath, shapeshifter, werewolf.  People cannot escape their blood ties and the obligations that come with them.  So everyone lives in a spiral of captivity and self-loathing, acting out in any of a number of ways, if nothing else, as slaves to their appetites.

“The blood is sacred. Wasting it on anything other than procreation is blasphemy.” –Magister (Zeljko Ivanek, Homicide:  Life on the Streets)

We sometimes feel like we don’t have the strength for the pain of this life. We just want the hurting to stop, if only for a minute.  So we retreat to our old comforts, habits, self-medication in order to deal with the hurts.  We develop addictions, things we become slaves to.  And once we realize we have an addiction, we can get caught up in our struggle with it, allowing that one area to define us and our focus of growth to the exclusion of everything else.   But we don’t have to live in a state of perpetual bondage.

Christ is the freedom-bringer and we were created for freedom.  There is a tradition or story or understanding of how God shares in our suffering (because this is the story of Jesus’ suffering on the cross) as opposed to reaching down with power and rescuing us from our suffering. Jesus’ story is the story of poverty: God humbling himself, becoming poor and weak. Human. In order to free the oppressed from poverty and powerlessness. Becomes a victim in our place (at the hands of a corrupt justice system no less) and transforms the condition of bondage. Providing not only a new vision, but a new paradigm in which to live.

God’s reconciling act is centered on the cross, a gift of freedom. The resurrection is a sign that the powers have been defeated, though still active. The cross transforms our condition while also providing an example of hope.

Look, True Blood makes no pretense at being subtle.  It’s an over-the-top soap opera with a supernatural core.  At turns violent, scary, hysterical, and full of sex, like with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show has a moral center no matter how obscured by blood it may be.  We can forgive its uneven tone and its sometimes meandering plotlines, as the show seems built for short attention spans:  don’t like what’s going on, wait a minute and the show cuts to something new.  Eventually that frenetic pace and the need to continually top its storylines wears on the viewer (or rather, on the writers).  In fact, Alfre Woodard’s appearance drove this reminder home for me.  The last time I saw her was on another over-the-top series, Desperate Housewives, where even her capable skills couldn’t ground the show enough to save it from storylines that no one cared about.  The advantage the show has is that it has Charlaine Harris’ books to mine from and the show remains fairly faithful to the material (and strives to keep the best parts).  Which means it’s not too late to jump on this undead roller coaster and ride it into the land of the not-so-guilty pleasure.