In the midst of a hugely popular vampire phenomenon, “True Blood” emerged as the vampire series to watch. Created by Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”) and brought to life by HBO, the series is as much a statement about contemporary society as it is an ass-kicking, blood-sucking thrill ride.

True Blood

Season 4 Finale
Sundays at 9 p.m.

Season four begins a year after the finale of season three, providing a much-needed time lapse. Previous seasons have returned to the story only about a week later, leaving little room for character growth. In jumping a year ahead, the series is finally allowing the characters to move on with their lives.

Not that the leap forward didn’t have its blind spots: It produced several inane and ultimately meaningless plot threads, with characters meandering in all sorts of directions. Two of the worst: Jason’s (Ryan Kwanten) run-in with the vagrant werepanther addicts is almost too uncomfortable to watch, while Arlene’s (Carrie Preston) baby mama drama is nothing short of ridiculous.

The addition of so many new characters has the vampires taking a back seat for most of the fourth season, with Eric’s (Alexander Skarsgard) loss of memory and subsequent irrational kindness as the only major twist. At least it’s a change of pace, but it’s easy to miss the throat-ripping, skull-crushing, Viking badass. And who wouldn’t? Eric’s total rejection of anything resembling sentimentality is what made him so enjoyable to watch in the first place.

The romance between Eric and Sookie finally comes to a head but is ultimately unexciting. With new story arcs popping up all the time, the love triangle drama between Eric, Sookie and Bill (Stephan Moyer) feels tired and overworked. When Sookie finally makes her non-choice and cuts ties with both, the whole drawn-out mess just proves extra pointless. A lot of similarly pointless storylines weigh the season down, most of which are not completely wrapped up in the season finale. This leaves a lot of loose threads to deal with in season five.

As compared to previous “True Blood” season finales, this one is a bit anticlimactic, with a lot of talk but minimal action. The most notable scene in the episode is the death of Tara. Since she’s not a beloved character, it’s almost a relief to see her go. The finale also wraps up the conflict with Marnie (Fiona Shaw, “Harry Potter”) the necromancer, but doesn’t give enough credence to the death of Jesus (Kevin Alejandro, “Southland”), who emerged as a season hero of sorts. In the end, it elicits more laughable moments than was probably intended, especially with the emergence of the ghosts, which goes beyond cheesy.

Previously, “True Blood” has been much more believable. While the premise is pure fantasy, the beauty of previous seasons lay in their ability to set up this fictional world in a fairly realistic setting. The original starting point of the series was that vampires had “come out of the coffin” into normal society. In that way, “True Blood” worked as a satire on modern culture as well as an over-the-top mash of blood, sex and violence.

Though season four did prove entertaining, it stretched itself a little too far and ended up losing that all-important connection to reality. And though “True Blood” remains the epitome of a guilty pleasure, the uninspired season four proved even HBO isn’t immune to a misstep.

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