HBO's popular supernatural drama, True Blood, has just entered its fifth season. The fourth season box set hit retail late May in impressive form.
I'll admit, from the outset, that I am not a typical True Blood fan. While I have seen most of the first three seasons to this point, I did not watch the episodes chronologically or sometimes even closely. Furthermore, I had not seen any True Blood recently. So entering season four was, honestly, a challenge. True Blood has a massive cast, and more story arcs than I can keep track of. It's no wonder the show is as compelling and addictive as it is for those that started the series from the get-go, and got hooked by the allure of the vampires, sex, and violence. True Blood is that type of show that if you're into it, you know it -- and your lust for more episodes is only satiated with a new season. For me, this was like Fox's Prison Break, at least through the first two seasons. That True Blood has managed to keep so many folks hooked, dearly, this long, is impressive and a testament to the quality of the production.
A myriad of talented actors is backed by a well written script that cast and crew execute very well. From a production standpoint, it's hard to fault True Blood -- this season or the others that I have seen. What gets tiring for me, though, as someone who isn't completely immersed in the swampy Bon Temps drama, is the tedium of some stories and the sheer volume of the sub-plots in general. The tedium comes from storylines like Sookie's ever-deepening and more convoluted love affairs. A lot of female viewers eat this stuff up, which is why it continues, but I wouldn't be upset to see that arc play out to a conclusion. The volume of other matters is exhausting; every episode is loaded to the brim, to the final second with developments. It's a pacing that you either love or struggle with.
For detailed synopsis' on each episode, I will have to refer you to other parts of the interwebs. Frankly, it'd be hard for me to put together a coherent, accurate synopsis of the episodes given my so-so understanding of the series. That said, to tie-back to a point I said earlier, I may not understand everything that's going on in season four, but I can at least see the production quality hasn't changed. Then again, if you're reading this review, you're probably just looking for another opinion on what this box set offers, not what I think about the show. In that regard I'm happy to say that HBO has put together a very impressive package. A thick, sturdy outerbox contains two removable cases, one that contains the series on DVD and Digital, and the other, thicker case containing the Blu-ray discs. "Seamless Play" menus help bridge the physical gap between changing discs, too, which is a small but appreciated perk.
Attention to aesthetics are welcomed, but ultimately it's the image and sound quality that matters most when judging presentation. Not surprisingly, True Blood's fourth season is a visual treat in 1080p. Details pop off screen with the clarity you would come to expect from a modern, high quality production from a studio like HBO. Expect vivid colors (like blood) and skin so detailed you (or one of the many vampire characters) could sink their teeth into. Even in the shadowy scenes, the dark and black areas stay sharp, free of any technical flaws. 5.1 DTS-HD audio in English, Spanish, and French is also more than up to the task. True Blood is a show with a significant amount of variance in pitch and tone; soft conversations between two characters in one scene, and werewolves and upset witches screaming and biting in others (you get the point). No matter the occasion, I thought the sound mix was impeccably done, enveloping the viewer in the intense drama.
DVD and Digital Copy versions are included with this Blu-ray set, but there are lots of other extra features too. These include:
-Audio Commentary with cast and crew (Alan Ball, Alexander Skarsgard, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Deborah Ann Woll, Sam Trammell, Fiona Shaw, and others) - There are six of these spread throughout the season that ardent fans may want to check out.
-Enhanced Viewing - The coolest feature of the bunch, and this alone may warrant a second viewing of the entire season. Enhanced Viewing is different for each episode; it focuses on specific characters and provides details on their backstories. You know, those backstories and tidbits that there isn't enough time to cover in the regular show.
-Inside the Episodes - To supplement each episode, you might check out these three and four minute summary videos that help you process everything that was presented. Quite helpful!
-True Blood Lines - Another feature that more serious fans will like and casual fans can benefit from with a bit of effort. This is an interactive feature that allows you to scroll and click through the relations between the many characters in the series.
-True Blood: The Final Touches - For more technically, behind the scenes minded folks, this is a solid half hour where series creator Alan Ball shows us what goes on post production to get the shows ready for air.
The extras are catered to the people most likely to buy this set -- the true fans, and I think that's great to see. With that, to the summary...