Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A bloody good send-off

Plenty at stake as HBO vampire series ends its seven-year run in typical fashion with horror, humour, sex and death

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It's true. There's blood.

Buckets of it.

Along with, of course, flashing fangs, flying fur, steamy sex and all the other elements required to give HBO's long-running True Blood a fitting seventh-season send-off.

If you've followed the series, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, through its first half-dozen seasons, you know exactly what to expect. And you probably have very definite ideas about what you hope the show's producers will accomplish in this last set of original episodes.

The betting here, based on a preview of the first two instalments, is that you won't be disappointed.

True Blood, which returns Sunday, June 22, on HBO Canada (check listings for time), finds itself grappling with a daunting challenge as its farewell season debuts. Its writers have to resolve the tricky storyline twist that ended Season 6, maintain the show's overall flavour and bring closure to the onscreen lives of a large group of characters whom True Blood lovers have grown to love (and/or hate) with equal amounts of passion.

When last season ended, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the rest of the population of Bon Temps were in grave danger after vamp-hating humans contaminated the Tru Blood supply with a deadly and highly contagious disease called Hep V.

The virus turned infected vampires into savage, blood-crazed killers who must feed much more frequently than ordinary vamps. And given the lack of a safe synthetic blood supply, humans in small, hard-to-defend towns like Bon Temps have become the primary targets of their feeding frenzies.

At the outset, Mayor Sam Merlotte's (Sam Trammell) plan to pair non-infected vampires with humans in a novel blood-for-protection agreement seems to be working, but an ill-considered human-vampire social mixer at Bellefleur's goes horribly awry when, hardly surprisingly, a band of roving H-vamps crashes the party.

Cue the blood.

In the aftermath of the attack, many residents are dead and others have gone missing -- presumably hauled away by the H-vamps as future food -- and Bon Temps descends into a combination of fear, outrage and panic. Pockets of the old anti-vamp racism begin to flare up, and vigilante groups start looking for ways to take the law into their own hands.

As tensions rise, Sookie has increasing difficulty dealing with what her thought-reading ability is allowing her to "hear" -- many in Bon Temps, it seems, blame her directly for the desperate situation they're in, and it isn't long before Sookie decides she's had enough. How and where she directs her anger will have a big impact on the town's ability to survive the crisis.

The pacing of the first two episodes of True Blood's send-off season is a bit uneven -- not unusual for this series -- as the show's producers try to give the complex, multi-layered storyline the breathing room it deserves, while still rushing to give all the familiar and popular characters the screen time they deserve before things wrap up.

While Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) finds himself in a very uneasy alliance as Bon Temps' (relatively) cooler heads try to quell the redneck insurrection led by wanna-be lawman Vince (Brett Rickaby), the fate of True Blood's other fan-favourite vampire, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsg*rd), remains a mystery in the early going.

The usual whip-smart combination of horror and humour is on display throughout the first couple of episodes, with borderline clueless deputy Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) more than carrying his weight in both categories.

It's fun. And frightening. If you're a True Blood fan, brace yourself for a bloody good final-season ride.

Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2014 D7

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