30 July 2010

The Gates S1 E3 "Breach"

Spoilers Ahead

Well, The Gates managed to pique my interest a bit with episode 3, although there still isn't enough vampire action. But the situation is improving with the introduction of new character Christian Harper (played by Paul Blackthorne, Leverage, Deadwood)--a vampire who actually acts like one. Hallelujah! Let's hope last episode was simply an anomaly.

So, Christian is an old friend of Claire's--old enough that he remembers when she too acted like a vampire and not a domesticated Gates housewife. In fact, he can't quite believe she's actually happy in The Gates. I can't imagine why, what with all her protesting. It doesn't take long for Claire to be tempted by Christian, and while most people have affairs of the flesh, hers is an affair of the blood. There's an enjoyable scene of her and Christian sharing dinner. Meanwhile, suspicious-but-clueless hubby Dylan is just happy to have the "old" (read: "his") Claire back. Whatever she's doing, he encourages her to keep doing it. Well, all right then--no need to tell her twice. But that's pretty much all the vampire activity for this episode. Maybe we'll be luckier next time.

In other happenings, a hacker gets into the Gates' isolated security network and keeps the cops busy as they follow up what turns out to be multiple false alarms. They soon realize that the false alarms were a diversion to distract them from the numerous real burglaries taking place elsewhere. After a lockdown of the entire community, many questions asked, and accusations thrown about, it takes a fluke to ultimately catch the thief: the high school history/computer science teacher, conveniently introduced this episode (his knowledge of Tudor history was crap anyway). But the real revelation is that Deputy Leigh Turner has some sort of supernatural secret of her own. When her place is burglarized and an ornate box stolen, she's desperate to get it back. That probably has something to do with the fact that being separated from whatever's in the box causes pain, sickness, and (it's implied) really horrible things. Remember the briefcase in Pulp Fiction that belonged to Marcellus Wallace and emitted a strange golden glow when opened? Well, when Leigh is reunited with the box and checks inside, there's a faint white glow. Are we going to find out what's in there, or are they going to Pulp Fiction us? Whatever it is, it's worth killing for as Leigh shoots the teacher/burglar merely for having seen it. Curiouser and curiouser.

The false alarms also give us a chance to find out that another new character, Mrs. McAllister, has some sort of secret of her own. It's only hinted at, but it has her cowering and hiding in her own kitchen from the police. The Gates is just full of secrets.

Meanwhile, after a whole week of dating, Deputy Marcus's new girlfriend, Teresa, manages to finagle her way into his apartment as his new roomie. Suspicions about her were brought up during the episode and quickly dismissed, but I don't think we should forget about them just yet (for one thing, she still doesn't have a last name).

Andie finally breaks up with Brett, sending him into a fury that can only be assuaged by a run in the woods (outside The Gates) with the other young pack members. But when his mom (a woman with the biggest stick you've ever seen up anyone's ass) finds out what he did, she grounds him for a month and forbids him to go running again. It turns out Brett's father and brother were killed by hunters while out running. So mom's got issues. But by the end of the episode Brett is back with the pack. Ah, teenage werewolf rebellion. Meanwhile Andie doesn't waste any time in moving on to Charlie.

I also have to mention the cinematography this episode. Why are filmmakers so afraid of light? I'm at a loss to explain the recent spate of overly dark scenes, forcing me to squint in a pointless attempt to make out what's going on (and no, it's not my vision). There's moody and then there's just dim.

Speaking of dim, the writing could also use some fine-tuning. There's still a feeling of scenes being awkwardly tacked on or forced as a way of moving the story forward. Not good. And a little snappy dialogue never hurt anyone. Hey, I'm not expecting Buffy, but something that I don't forget five minutes later might be nice.

But still, there were a few intriguing developments this time around, no terribly annoying characters, and slightly more to keep us vampire fans entertained. I'm still on the fence about The Gates, but at least I haven't given up just yet.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, with subtle fangs.

Strengths: Ability to suddenly and silently appear and disappear. Possibly the ability to mesmerize the humans they feed on.

Weaknesses: Being married to a self-hating vampire.

Mythology: The one rule is no feeding inside The Gates (but Claire and Dylan--mostly Dylan--have chosen not to feed at all, only drinking blood supplied by the lab he works for).

Sound Bite

Claire: People change.
Christian: People do. We don't.

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 3 "Breach." Written by Richard Hatem. Directed by Terry McDonough. From ABC.

24 July 2010

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

I don't get people. This is nothing new; I've often had trouble understanding why people do the things they do. Lately I'm suffering a lot of consternation trying to figure out why people like the things they like. The Sookie Stackhouse novels, for example. I'm trying to figure out how they can be bestsellers when the characters range between pointless and annoying, the editing is nonexistent, the mysteries are lame, and the writing sucks worse than a hungry vampire. I have to question whether maybe I'm being too hard on these books, whether maybe I should cut them some slack in light of the genre. But no--I've read numerous paranormal/suspense/romance type novels that are actually very good, with interesting characters, decent writing, and actual plots. Maybe it's the appeal of Eric that's got everyone so into these books; I know that sometimes one good character can overcome a lot of flaws. The thing is--I don't think Eric is that good. I mean, he's okay, but there are plenty of other books out there with equally good, if not better, characters. So what's the appeal?

In an attempt to figure it out, I've managed to come up with a list of ten reasons to love (or at least enjoy) the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Maybe the explanation rests somewhere within them.

1. If you've ever wondered what Elvis would be like undead, these books are for you.
2. Reading the books is like reliving the 80s, only with internet.
3. Club Dead (and likely the next books, as well) gives you a chance to swap teams Edward and Jacob for teams Eric and Alcide

4. No matter how bad your life is, you know Sookie's will be worse.
5. If your vocabulary needs work, you might learn something from Sookie's Word-a-Day calendar.
6. These books are perfect for anyone who enjoys finding errors and inconsistencies. In Club Dead you can ponder, among other things, how Bubba got into Alcide's apartment without an invite; or why drinking synthetic blood would possibly help Sookie after massive blood loss; or how Sookie, who is so "well-read" calls it the "Rhyme" of the Ancient Mariner (instead of the correct "Rime").
7. Sookie's willingness to voice and/or indulge every petty impulse she has allows readers to vicariously be shallow through her.
8. Superpowers don't seem so cool after reading these books, so you don't have to feel bad about about being a boring, powerless human.
9. The books are ideal for those with anxiety issues, because there's very little tension and resolutions come quickly.
10. It's hard not to enjoy vampires (and even werewolves), at least on some level.

I still don't get it. But if you want to find out more about Club Dead, read on.

The honeymoon seems to be over between Sookie and Bill, even before he runs off with his ex and then gets himself kidnapped and tortured. That's okay, though, because both Eric and Alcide (a werewolf) are there to take Sookie's mind off her problems with Bill. Conflicted about him and wanting to help after finding out he's gone missing, Sookie risks life and limb to save Bill (even as she's tempted to kill him herself). There's a variety of subplots, mostly involving werewolves and/or Bubba. In the end things are up in the air with Bill, Alcide may be a future love interest, and Sookie's set herself up in a power position among the vampires (although that's bound to backfire). Anything could happen next.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with skin that glows (although only Sookie can see it). Glistening white fangs.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Some vampires have the ability to fly. Vampire fangs secrete a healing agent (along with an anticoagulant and a coagulant). Quick healing, if the vampire is well fed.

Weaknesses: Being forced to stay awake during the day, silver, stakes, sunlight, starvation.

Mythology: Vampires almost never have long-term sexual relationships with one another because the "mating" and the blood gives them eternal power over each other. Apparently all vampires are either Celtic or modern pagans since they all celebrate Halloween because it's the ancient festival of Samhain (p. 93). It is considered good etiquette by a human, if they are wounded, to allow any nearby vampires to lick the wound. Vampires need an invitation to enter a private residence, but if the invitation is revoked they are compelled to leave.

Text Bites

Alcide to Sookie: You look like a real woman and not one those sick bitches who get off on hanging around the vamps. [And in one sentence the women's movement is set back 40 years.]

Sookie: Somehow, it had never crossed my mind--I guess since I'm an American--that the vampires who had snatched Bill might be resorting to evil means to get him to talk.

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

22 July 2010

True Blood S3 E4 "9 Crimes"

Spoilers Ahead

Nine Crimes in "9 Crimes": Assault, serving alcohol to minors, blackmail, selling V, using V, uttering threats, kidnapping, forcible confinement, and murder. There's a few more that I think should be crimes, and probably a couple actual crimes I'm missing, but you get the picture--there's a whole lot of misbehavin' going on. Actually, there's a whole lot going on in general. Probably too much.

"9 Crimes" starts off with Sookie patching up Alcide after their little adventure at Lupines last episode. Just as the sexual tension between them starts building, Sookie's phone rings. And it turns out to be Bill! But the excitement is short-lived as he proceeds to tell Sookie he's leaving her for the less-fragile Lorena. He's cold and cruel, and he finishes by telling Sookie not to bother trying to find him because he doesn't want to be found. And yet, after he hangs up he looks heartbroken. And he should--he's just broken Sookie's heart.

Okay, so after that call it seems less likely that Bill's been hallucinating (read my crackpot theory here) everything that's been happening since he was kidnapped (unless he was under compulsion to make the call). Maybe he's just resigned to his fate as Lorena and the King's bitch. Maybe he just gives up way too easily. But it's hard to believe that what we're seeing is the whole story.

Sookie apparently agrees. Even as she's sobbing over her first-ever breakup, she still plans on finding Bill and seeing for herself whether he can look her in the eye and tell her he doesn't love her anymore. And to do that she needs to go back to Lupines to gather intel. And to do that she needs an uncooperative Alcide to come with.

Alcide seems a lot crankier in the show than in the book (I think in the book he was too busy being a "real" man to be cranky). Maybe the producers figured a short fuse would make him more "werewolf-y" or something. But if he's not snapping at Sookie or punching walls, he's giving our heroine smouldering looks (which she returns...so, not too upset about Bill). The character seems pretty one-dimensional, which is disappointing. But at least he finally agrees to take Sookie to Lupines--after she hears his sister's thoughts and finds out that his ex, Debbie, is a V addict, and that her so-called engagement party to Coot is actually an initiation into his gang of wolves. Alcide still thinks Debbie can and should be saved.

Speaking of his sister, Janice gives Sookie an awesome makeover, which I really hope is permanent (at least the hair). Sookie's makeover in the book was so pathetically lame, I was afraid we were heading into similar territory on the show when Janice showed up, but luckily I was wrong. Well done, hair and makeup department!

At Lupines, Sookie blends in nicely, only to be accosted by super skanky Debbie. When both Sookie and Alcide try to talk sense into her, she ignores them both. A moment later she's being carried onto a stage, where she's soon joined by Russell, Vampire King of Mississippi. He gives a rousing speech in German (I know the werewolf cult is supposed to be ancient, but they're definitely channelling the Nazis), followed by the ceremonial doling out of his blood. He then takes his leave so they can celebrate, which they do by downing the blood and branding Debbie. Then they all start shifting, including Alcide (apparently against his will). He growls at Sookie to run, but how far she'll get remains to be seen.

She's not the only one in trouble. Back in Bon Temps, things are getting weirder with Franklin and Tara. After glamouring her into telling him what she knows about Bill and Sookie, Tara tries to get away from Franklin (apparently she doesn't know about de-inviting). Of course he easily stops her, and now that she's not into it, he's happy to get all bitey. He then gags Tara and ties her on the toilet (very thoughtful) for the day. When he returns the next night it's with a bunch of flowers and a dopey, lovesick look on his face. Not that he isn't still scary. He then proceeds to kidnap Tara, taking her along with him to go see his employer--who turns out to be...Russell. That guy gets around. Along the way Franklin claims Tara is his and that she fulfills his emotional needs. But at Russell's mansion, he lets Talbot (Russell's vampire boyfriend) believe Tara is a gift for him.

Okay, so clearly Franklin's a bit on the psycho side. On the one hand, he's obviously a sick puppy; on the other hand, there's something sad and sympathy-inducing about him. I don't know if I'd still call him my new favourite vamp, but he is an intriguing character. And unlike Alcide, Franklin is definitely multi-dimensional. The sad thing is, I have the feeling Franklin will be gone by season's end, while Alcide will stay on. Isn't that always the way?

Anyway, since this is True Blood there's plenty of room for more than one psycho vampire, and Lorena is undisputed queen of the crazies. She seems to think her twisted tryst with Bill was wildly passionate, and she's thrilled that he's back in her life "for good." She just knows he'll love her again. Right. Despite telling Sookie otherwise, Bill still hates Lorena as much as ever, although it's difficult for him to get his message across when telling her doesn't make a difference and getting violent is perceived as romantic.

So, Bill does the next best thing. In return for his loyalty to the King, he tells Russell that he wants Lorena "gone." The King is amenable, so Bill starts proving his loyalty by informing him that Eric is selling V, and he believes it's at the Queen's behest. They then have a weird chat in which Bill theorizes that the Queen is selling V because the IRS is draining her fortune. How would he know that? It wouldn't be my first guess for a motive. And what is up with this whole IRS thing, anyway? Vampires (and their money) existed in secret for millennia--they can't figure out how to keep their money hidden?

In case you're feeling sorry for Eric being ratted out by Bill, he returns the favour. Getting a panicked call from Pam saying Fangtasia is being raided by the Magister, Eric ignores her pleas to save himself and stay away. Rushing back to the club, he heroically bursts in on the Magister as he's torturing Pam with silver. Eric takes responsibility--but not the blame; he claims he's been framed and that the blood wasn't sold on his orders. Pam suddenly bursts out that Bill Compton is behind it, and Eric concurs, saying he's been investigating Bill, who has recently disappeared. He claims he needs more time to finish his investigation, so the Magister gives him two days--or else Pam dies, permanent-like.

In less dramatic Bon Temps happenings:

Sam offers his newly found birth family a place to stay (that is, not in their van in his parking lot) until they get back on their feet. In exchange, Joe Lee has to stop drinking and Tommy has to stop stealing. It's not that Sam is suddenly feeling warm and fuzzy toward the Mickenses, but after some brotherly bonding with Tommy, he realizes he can help the kid avoid the same mistakes he made. How does that saying go? No good deed goes unpunished? Sam should prepare himself.

Sam also kills two birds with one stone (his lack of staff and Sookie's request for him to keep an eye on Jessica) by hiring Jessica as hostess at Merlotte's. Um, since when did Merlotte's have a hostess? Since when did any backwater bar have hostesses? The excuse for not making Jessica a waitress is just silly (you have to be 18 to serve alcohol in Louisiana). If people are willing to suspend disbelief enough to accept vampires and shapeshifters (among other things), maybe they can also accept Jessica as a waitress. In any case, we still get to hear Arlene whine about having to share tips. I really think screen time would have been better spent on other storylines.

But not this storyline. Lafayette is all enamoured of his new car, and apparently has no problem getting even more deeply involved with Eric as his prime V pusher. I have to say, I don't like this abrupt about-face of one of my favourite characters. Suddenly he's forgotten the torture Eric put him through (not to mention the post-traumatic stress that was plaguing him) and working together with his tormentor? All for the sake of a flashy car and extra spending money? No car is that nice. Not to mention that he suddenly seems less-than-concerned about his recently suicidal cousin. I suspect the writers are just trying to give him something to do this season, since he is such a popular character. But it feels forced. When it comes to Lafayette I'd much rather have quality than quantity. Especially with so much going on elsewhere (didn't I say this last time too?)

Oh, and Jason realizes he needs to do something with his life and so blackmails newly appointed Sheriff Andy, threatening to come clean about the lie over who killed Eggs, if Andy doesn't make him a cop (you know, without all those pesky forms and tests everyone has to fill out).

Back in Mississippi, the King is in a celebratory mood, so he takes Lorena and Bill to a strip club, sending Bill inside to procure them something "ethnic" for dinner. Conveniently he quickly finds just such a girl--and she's got no family and hates life! What vampire could ask for more? As Bill leads her back to the limo, he suddenly senses Sookie's fear as she runs from the weres at Lupines. There's no one holding him, nothing to keep him from taking off. But he ignores Sookie's distress and gets in the limo. Inside the vehicle, Lorena and Russell start biting the girl before Russell invites Bill to join them. He hesitates a moment and then dives in. As the girl screams, we see a pool of blood forming underneath the car. Cut to credits.

So, this might just be the most depressing True Blood episode so far. Some characters are in serious danger, others are turning out to be not what they seemed, and the bad guys look pretty smug. Where can it go from here? I don't know, but I have a hard time believing it'll be anyplace good.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that extend or retract at will.

Strengths: Ability to glamour (hypnotize) humans. Apparently some vampires (Franklin) are so good at this they can control what the human says. Some vampires also have the ability to fly. Super strength, speed.

Weaknesses: Silver.

Mythology: A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private residence, but if that invitation is revoked, the vampire will be compelled to immediately leave. Once a human has consumed vampire blood, the vampire can then always sense and locate them. Vampire blood is a potent (and illegal) drug; humans and weres can become addicted.

Sound Bites

Bill: [to Sookie] I am death. I will bring you only suffering.

Eric: Take the deal.
Redneck: You'll have to kill me first.
Eric: No, I think I'll kill all your brother-cousins first.

Tara: This is kidnapping.
Franklin: This is opportunity.

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 4 "9 Crimes." Written by Kate Barnow and Elizabeth R. Finch. Directed by David Petrarca. From HBO.

14 July 2010

Moonlight S1 E5 "Arrested Development"

Spoilers Ahead

This episode of Moonlight is brought to you by Fate: bringing people together since time immemorial!

Did Mick really think he could keep avoiding Beth? Well, he might have but apparently the universe has other ideas. Much better ideas...

After ignoring her calls, Mick accidentally runs into Beth (and Josh) when he goes to pick up blood (she, ironically, just finished having bloodwork done). After a bit of awkwardness, Josh invites Mick to the party he and Beth are having the next night--for their one-year anniversary. Mick would go but, alas, he already has plans. Silly vampire thinks he's foiled fate and can go back to avoiding the girl he loves.

Fate, however, is not so easily subdued. Beth's boss sends her to report on the possible serial murder of an escort, while Mick is hired by a couple looking for their daughter--who recently turned up on the internet as an escort. Abandoning her anniversary party to head to the morgue while the window of opportunity is open (and upsetting Josh in the process), Beth runs into Mick again, this time when he brings his clients to the morgue to ID the body. Although the dead girl turns out not to be the daughter of Mick's clients (but was her close friend), Beth manages to convince Mick that they should work together to find the killer, who happens to be a vampire.

Beth's no stranger to fate herself. She points out to Mick that it's no mere coincidence that they keep running into each other. And even her relationship with Josh was, as her obnoxious friend Marissa reminds her, by Beth's own admission fated (they collided in a parking lot). Marisa is weirdly pushy about Beth getting serious with Josh (they've been together for a year and still aren't living together. Horrors!), so when Beth's phone suddenly rings, Marissa is quick to point out that fate (aka Josh) is calling and it's up to Beth to answer. Sorry, Marissa--the caller is Mick, not Josh.

There's some fine acting in "Arrested Development." When Beth calls the dead escort's clients in hopes of finding the killer, her reactions are completely natural and believable--exactly how you'd expect anyone to react in a similar situation (not that most people would ever be in a similar situation, but still...) And Alex O'Loughlin (Mick) is particularly skilled at subtle emotional expression. The coldness in his eyes contrasting with an otherwise impassive face as he's being reamed out by an FBI agent is great. And the way he looks confused even as he longingly leans forward after Beth kisses him... but that's not until later.

What Mick has already discerned, and what his clients' daughter finds out on her date with the killer, is that the vampire is a perpetual teenager, complete with cracking voice and acne (played by Wes Robinson, American Dreams). As if that wasn't bad enough, he's been a virgin for 197 years! No wonder he's feeling homicidal. Interestingly, when he suggests they hang out and go on some of the rides (they're on the boardwalk by the beach), suddenly the escort claims she doesn't have time for this. Hey, if I were getting paid $500 an hour to go on roller coasters, I wouldn't complain. I guess the killer teen agrees; he suddenly starts getting nasty.

Mick and Beth show up in time to save the girl. Mick tries to reason with the teen, I suppose the way hostage negotiators try to reason with human kidnappers. It doesn't go well. The fight scene that ensues, making good use of some of the boardwalk rides, is enjoyable. It's choreographed well to the background music too. And fate intervenes once more, saving Mick from an unpleasant death and handing it over to the teen instead. Maybe his life would have gone better if he'd found himself a similarly awkward teen girlfriend instead of going after hookers.

After arranging a reunion at Beth's office between his clients and their daughter, Mick tries to quietly slip away while Beth talks to her boss. Beth notices he's gone and goes after him, catching up with him in the parking lot (see--fate's still at it). She's hurt that he left without even saying goodbye. Seemingly at a loss over how to deal with her, Mick starts saying goodbye, only to be interrupted by a kiss. I really do love his reaction, and the way he can't quite pull away. Beth kisses him again and scampers off (leaving me with the distinct impression that a teenager does, in fact, continue to exist within everyone). Mick is still looking confused, and then he smiles.

Sometimes Fate just gets it right.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans until the vampire emerges, then ghostly white eyes, and elegant fangs. They also have sharp claws that extend at will.

Strengths: Enhanced hearing, sense of smell. Super speed, strength. Ability to jump to a great height.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, roller coasters, cockiness.

Mythology: Vampires aren't always recognizable as such, even by people who are familiar with them. Vampires and humans can have sex; it just doesn't usually end well. Vampires remain in the same condition (physical and apparently emotional) as when they were turned.

Sound Bites

Josef: Another casualty of the digital age. Now it's categories: blondes, Asians, busty, mature. Equestrian. Hm. Choice, choice, choice. It's very efficient. Very... American.
Mick: You sound almost nostalgic.
Josef: Whatever happened to the good old days of four girls on a street corner undercutting each other?

Mick: [responding to Beth's question about sex between vampires and humans] You want to know how it works? It doesn't. It doesn't work.
Beth: So it's impossible.
Mick: It's not impossible. It's inadvisable--it never ends well.
Beth: Never?

Teen Vamp: Have you ever loved someone completely? So that she was your whole world. You'd do anything she asked, anything at all. Have you ever loved someone that way? So you forgot about yourself and all you thought about was her.
Mick: [flashing back to Coraline] Yes.
Teen Vamp: See, I never have. [punches Mick]

Mick: [voiceover] What we want doesn't always matter. Then again, sometimes it's all that does.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 5 "Arrested Development." Written by Chip Johannessen. Directed by Michael Fields.

12 July 2010

The Gates S1 E2 "What Lies Beneath"

He could swear that was a group of TV execs clutching cancellation notices coming toward him...

Spoilers Ahead

Well, I've now watched "What Lies Beneath" twice and if I had to describe it in one word, it would be "yawn."

Okay, maybe I'm being a little harsh; we're only two episodes in to The Gates. But while I thought the pilot episode showed promise, episode 2 does not bode well. Think stupider characters, forced drama, and the inexplicable loss of the subtlety and mystery this show so desperately needs. The dialogue is uninteresting (I had to struggle to find any kind of Sound Bite) and the acting suddenly seems so much worse (maybe due to the larger onscreen presence of annoying kids and Devon). Did I also mention that the opening scene--which could have been awesome--was ruined by poor directing and cinematography (it was confusing and badly lit)? Yeah.

Let's see, Chief of Police Nick Monohan investigates the murder of the former Chief (even though it's not in his jurisdiction). Along the way he discovers that the ex-Chief was taking substantial bribes in order to suppress reports of Gates residents' (including werewolves Lukas Ford and dad, Simon, as well as vampire Claire) misdeeds. Nick ultimately arrests a former deputy, Chad Taylor (played by Devon Gummersall, My So-Called Life), on the flimsiest of evidence. Chad protests that he hasn't even been in The Gates in the last year, which prompts Nick to get suspicious when he sees a box of "Vine of the Soul" tea from Devon's spa. You'd think this would make Nick suspicious about the guy's claim to not have been inside The Gates, but instead he becomes suspicious of Devon. Right reaction, wrong reason, since poor Chad is obviously under one of Devon's spells. When Nick starts poking around the spa and asking Devon questions, she brushes him off by claiming Chad ordered the tea online and had it shipped. Then she gives him a box of the pricey teas. He claims he's prohibited from accepting gifts, but when Devon suggests it's for his wife, suddenly it's fine. Um... no... gifts (aka bribes) to cops are not okay, whether they're for him, his wife, or his great-aunt Ruth. See--stupid.

Meanwhile Devon's been busy threatening Claire over the murder of the contractor. She claims the memory spell she cast on the only witness (Mrs. Cooper) could slip at any time. If only Claire would give her a vial of her vampire blood--for the spell, of course--she could make the spell permanent. Why Claire doesn't rip her throat out, I have no idea. Oh yeah--because of the flimsy premise the show's put in place. Right. More on that in a bit.

The love triangle between high-school cutie Andie, her werewolf boyfriend Brett, and Nick's son Charlie continues. Andie is stressed and confused, so she tries ignoring Charlie--at which point they get partnered on a project. Brett tells Andie he loves her, she's still stressed and confused so she doesn't respond. At all. Brett is angry at Charlie for his obvious interest in Andie but still saves him from getting his ass kicked by Lukas. Charlie ignores Andie, but then instantly agrees to cutting school and going horseback riding with her when she suggests it. Charlie fakes and injury and then kisses her. She kisses him back but then suddenly feels weird and takes off. Got all that? Good, because now you have to process the fact that Andie is half-succubus. A disgusting looking dark vein on her back sent Andie to the doctor, Peg, (I thought she was a witch/herbalist?) Some bloodwork later and it's confirmed that Andie unknowingly took after her dead mom, and is turning into a Succubus "Paramour." Anyone else get the feeling the show is trying way too hard? But I guess they should get some kind of points for originality--I can't think of any other show that includes a succubus. Perhaps for good reason. Anyway, Peg tells Andie's dad (so much for doctor-patient confidentiality) and insists he has to tell Andie right away, or any man she comes in contact with could be in "mortal danger." Of course dad doesn't tell her.

Now back to Claire. First of all, let me just say that one short scene where the vampires extend their fangs is not enough to keep any vampire fan interested. Secondly, there's nothing less impressive than an uptight vampire (Claire's husband, Dylan) who wants to suppress all aspects of being a vampire--except maybe a vampire that wants to unleash but instead conforms to please her husband. Thirdly, no wonder Claire is so disenchanted with the suburban housewife role: she insists on dressing and acting like it's the 1950s (and not in a good way). The role she's chosen to submerge herself in might not be quite so onerous if she acted like a person rather than a stereotype (some of the coolest people I know are suburban housewives).

Now, here's my big problem: Dylan and Claire keep going on about how they moved to The Gates to be in a "safe" place for the sake of their daughter. Why would a pair of vampires think a super small community, under constant surveillance, where everybody knows everybody else's business is any kind of safe environment? Why wouldn't they go to the safest place for a vampire: a big, anonymous city? And if they put their kid in a nice boarding school they could take off if necessary and easily settle somewhere else, leaving the kid none the wiser and unaffected. The Gates is obviously not a safe place for them, so why are they so hung up on living there? Because if they weren't there wouldn't be a show. Sigh.

Remember that vial of blood Devon asked for? Well, to preserve her marriage and make sure things are okay (sorry, safe) for her family, Claire goes ahead and gives it to her. The agreement is that if Claire gives Devon her blood, then Devon will make everything bad stop. Uh-huh. And for good measure, Claire says that if Devon is lying she'll kill her. The fact that a powerful and unscrupulous witch has a vial of her blood--which she can now use to perform any kind of spell, including the kind that will put Claire under her control--somehow didn't occur to Claire. Monumentally stupid. There is no excuse for a vampire this dim--unless she was turned last week, which seems unlikely, Claire should be able to think things through and find solutions to problems like Devon. It's called survival instinct, and vampires are all about survival. Well, most of them, anyway. Most aren't obsessed with staying safe, either. I'm suddenly really missing Damon from The Vampire Diaries.

I'm no longer holding out any hope for The Gates. There's barely any vampire (or paranormal) action, it's rife with forced drama, characters are unlikable and selectively stupid, and worst of all, the vampires are boring. This is a drama/soap opera that's trying to be different by adding a paranormal element. So why does it still seem like every other melodramatic TV show out there? Do yourselves a favour, ABC--stick with Desperate Housewives-type shows. At least people expect those to be lame.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, with small sharp fangs that occasionally descend.

Weaknesses: Their own self-hatred, stupidity, and obsession with staying safe.

Mythology: Apparently they do feel pain.

Sound Bites

Charlie: All we did last night was talk. How is that stressful?
Andie: I... I don't know. I'm a girl; I can be complicated without reason or explanation.

Devon: [to Claire] If you ever find yourself in a jam I'm great with kids, and I know how important this little girl is to you. Have a nice day.

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 2 "What Lies Beneath." Written by Grant Scharbo. Directed by David Barrett. From ABC.

10 July 2010

Trailer: Vampires Suck

Okay, so I'm not generally a fan of parody movies but watching the trailer for Vampires Suck had me giggling maniacally. This one looks like it could be a lot of fun, and if there's anything the vampire universe could use, it's more fun. Enjoy!

08 July 2010

True Blood Season 3 Episode 3 "It Hurts Me Too"

Spoilers Ahead

Warning: Those of you who are squeamish and/or morally conservative should avoid "It Hurts Me Too"--more than you already should be avoiding True Blood. This is one bizarre, twisted (at one point, literally) episode. Even I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm not even sure I want to make anything of it.

So, we start off in typical True Blood fashion, picking up where the previous episode left off. As Sookie's bullet rockets toward the werewolf, Eric suddenly leaps in front of it, taking it in the chest. Ouch. He still manages to get a choke hold on the were, though, demanding to know who he works for. The were's more interested in getting a taste of vampire blood to be too forthcoming, and when Eric gets the upper hand the tight-lipped werewolf tells him he'd might as well kill him because there's no way he's telling Eric anything. So Eric obliges, which I found somewhat surprising, not only because he killed the were when it made more sense to keep him alive and question him, but also because I wouldn't have thought vampires would want to feed on werewolf blood.

Apparently Sookie was thinking similar thoughts because as they're burying the body she questions why Eric killed the were so quickly, noting that he did it after he saw the brand on the were's neck. Eric's less-than-satisfying response is that it brought back too many memories, although he does allow that werewolves have no fear of death and that when they've had some vampire blood their strength can be a challenge--even for him. Now this begs the question, since Bill managed to kill or maim several werewolves that had feasted on his blood, is Eric lying or is there something more to what's going on with Bill? Hold that thought.

Sookie did manage to catch the word "Jackson" in the were's thoughts though, and as Eric recognized a Mississippi accent, it doesn't take long for Sookie to conclude that there's a chance of finding Bill in Jackson, Mississippi. She's all set to go, but Eric refuses, claiming there's more going on than she knows about. He also warns her not to risk herself by going alone, and convinces her to wait a day before leaving. He might be able to feel if she's in trouble but he probably won't be able to get to Mississippi in time to help her.

Not to worry, though--he sends along Alcide (great name) Herveaux (played by Joe Manganiello, How I Met Your Mother) in his place. Alcide's father owes Eric money, so Alcide is helping work off his father's debt. He's a werewolf, although not part of the reckless, violent pack that has recently invaded Mississippi--but his ex is "banging" their leader (good old Cooter, kidnapper of Bill). Since Sookie needs protection and will never get anywhere with the werewolves without an "in," Alcide's help is particularly useful.

When they finally get to Mississippi's oldest werewolf bar ("Lupines"--for creatures that are supposed to be uber-secretive, you'd think they wouldn't be so obvious with the name and decor), there's something of an underwhelming scene as Sookie flirts with the locals in order to get info via their thoughts. Grabbing one were's attention, she catches glimpses of him in a car with Bill. That's pretty much all the info she gets (although Alcide finds out his ex and Cooter are having an engagement party at the bar the next night). But, as with Eric's statement that he can barely handle a werewolf who's consumed vampire blood, Sookie's insight also raises questions. Didn't Bill dispatch all the weres in the car other than Coot? Did this guy escape unnoticed or, again, is there something else going on? This scene might not have given Sookie much of a clue, but there could be something in there for us.

Meanwhile, Eric toddles off to pay Lafayette a visit. Apparently it's not an issue that he still hasn't sold all the V he was told to unload. It's so not a problem that Eric calls him his best salesman and gives him a car. A nice one. Anyone else thinking WTF? Well, other than Lafayette, of course. Eric tells him he's got great value and then suggests he could be "quite wealthy" if he wanted to be. After gently mocking Lafayette's poverty, Eric gets him to agree to "think about" working with Eric. Funny--I thought Lafayette was a survivor first and a hooker dead last. Getting himself further involved with Eric--his one-time kidnapper--makes no sense. And I guess he's over his post-traumatic stress over the incident too--seeing Eric at his house didn't even elicit a twitch.

I was hoping I'd get to see more of my new favourite vampire, Franklin, but the strange sex scene between him and Tara is not what I had in mind. Okay, so clearly they're both lost in the intensity of the moment, but really, they look possessed. It's creepy. And when Tara regains herself a little she seems terrified. But supposedly it's the best sex evar, and she doesn't seem afraid of Franklin at any other point. I didn't love where they went with this.

Speaking of Franklin, something about him reminds me a lot of Spike (from Buffy), and no, it's not the accent (which I do love, by the way). Maybe it has something to do with the way he obviously revels in chaos. Or the hurt look on his face when Tara abruptly leaves after their tryst, refusing to even tell him her name. Okay, and maybe it's the accent too. In any case, even though I know he's a bad, or at least ambivalent, guy who's ultimately after Bill, I'm still drawn to him.

Tara, on the other hand, feels otherwise. She reconciles with Sookie after Sookie secretly pays for a nice funeral for Eggs, and moves back into Gran's house. Which is where Franklin finds her after he blackmails Jessica into telling him all she knows about Bill (Franklin's the one who disposed of Jessica's dead redneck... well, most of him...) Tara is less than pleased to see Franklin again and absolutely refuses to let him in. Too bad no one told her not to look vampires in the eye. It doesn't take Franklin long to glamour her into inviting him in (Sookie should really rethink having Tara as a roommate!)

Speaking of rethinking decisions, Sam's probably wishing he'd never sought out his birth family. He confronts Tommy about nearly getting him killed, but then backs down when he realizes the kid's got issues. I have the feeling he's already figuring out where those issues come from. After returning to Bon Temps, the family pays him a surprise visit at Merlotte's. He's not exactly happy about it but he tries to make them feel welcome--until he notices dad supplying underage Tommy with shots of liquor. It turns out Joe Lee is a mean drunk, but when things start looking nasty Melinda steps in to calm things down and usher her boys out of there. Melinda seems to be the voice of reason and the nice one in the family. I'm willing to bet she's the one actually running the Mickens show--and all the unpleasantness that comes along with it. Not only do I suspect she was the reason Joe Lee spent time in jail, but I'm positive she's behind Tommy breaking into the Merlotte's office in the middle of the night. Sam catches him at it, but since he's in bird form Tommy gets away before Sam can stop him. These shifters are definitely shifty.

With so much going on, it's easy to overlook Arlene and her surprise pregnancy, but it's worth mentioning, mainly because after getting checked by a doctor, she finds out she's further along than she realized. As in, she was pregnant before she hooked up with Terry. As in, this is psycho-killer Rene's baby. But when Terry is ecstatic at finding out she's going to have "his" baby, she doesn't lessen his joy with anything as depressing as the truth. How long before this blows up in her face?

I also need to thank the director for making the scene at the doctor's office unnecessarily gross. Yes, we all need to see Arlene being probed. I was under the impression that doctors just used an ultrasound on the mother-to-be's belly to get an image of the fetus, but then that wouldn't fit in with this episode's theme of weird and disturbing. If that doesn't put women off from having children, I don't know what will.

And then there's Bill. He is so not in a good place. Much to his chagrin (and mine) the King manages to put Lorena out before the flames cause too much damage (ruining a priceless Celtic tapestry in the process--what a waste). The thing is, Lorena was engulfed when we last saw her--how is it she can walk away with only slight charring? Are vampires flame resistant or is it related to all the other hints that something's not quite right with Bill? But wait--there's more.

The King seems strangely calm and understanding about Bill's homicidal arson attempt, sitting him down for a chat. After telling Bill that it was Lorena who recommended him to the King, he mentions that she wants him to make Bill watch as she kills Sookie (but don't worry--he's not going to keep that promise). The King then asks Bill why he doesn't protect Sookie from such threats by turning her. When Bill claims it's impossible, the King makes an interesting point as he asks Bill whether he cares about his human's welfare or his own desires, because he can't have both.

After a restless night of bad dreams (involving his wife, dead son, and Lorena), Bill wakes up and decides to renounce Louisiana and the Queen and pledge his loyalty to the King of Mississippi. That makes the King happy and gets Sookie out of danger. Convenient.

Lorena thinks so too. She's sure Bill is putting on an act, and tells him so when she follows him into his room, closing the silver doors behind her. Bill has nothing but scorn for his maker, and that soon turns to anger and violence. Lorena, being insane, thinks it's romantic when he attacks and bites her (who knew vamps could feed on one another?) She tells him to "make love" to her, and because she is his maker he's compelled to do as he's told, although what ensues can hardly be called making love. And then comes the most disturbing scene of the entire episode, and probably one of the most disturbing scenes ever: Bill twists Lorena's head all the way around. Her neck breaks and blood starts oozing out of her mouth, but she's not dead. She's still conscious and talking. And he doesn't stop with the "lovemaking." So he's having violent sex with a mangled body, and then she tells him she still loves him. No wonder his response is to scream; I would too. I have a pretty high tolerance for weirdness, violence, and the various and sundry things that require viewer discretion, but this was way too much. Seriously. But there could possibly be a good reason for this scene.

Now, I've only just started Charlaine Harris's third Sookie Stackhouse novel, Club Dead, but I've been informed by someone who's already read it that Bill spends most of his time in that book tortured (mainly by Lorena) and hallucinating. I'm convinced that the same thing is going on in the show. His effortless triumph over his werewolf captors; the ease with which he saves Sookie from the threat of the King; and his extreme (and extremely messed up) attempts to hurt and kill Lorena, all of which end the same way, with her coming back again and again, like some movie villain that just won't die--they all make a pretty good case for torture-induced hallucinations. And I really hope that is what's going on. I'd hate to think Bill is that deeply disturbed in reality, or that the writers are including such sick scenes simply for the sake of shocking viewers.

So what do I think of "It Hurts Me Too"? I still don't know. If there's some hidden purpose to all this bizarreness, then I like it a lot more than if it turns out someone was just in the mood for gratuitous shock value. I'm also thinking the show needs to start resolving some of the lesser storylines--and not replacing them with new ones. A lot of the scenes seemed rushed and not fully developed (Sookie at the were bar is a prime example). There's a fine line between layered storytelling and excess; I'm worried True Blood may have just crossed that line.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will. Vampires cry blood.

Strengths: Super speed, strength. Fast healing. Ability to glamour (hypnotize) humans. The power of sexual awesomeness.

Weaknesses: Fire, sunlight, silver.

Mythology: A vampire can always sense and locate a human who has consumed their blood. Vampires are compelled to obey their makers, no matter what their personal feelings may be. A vampire needs an invitation to enter a private, human-occupied, residence; they can enter another vampire's home at will.

Sound Bites

Eric: (to Sookie after killing the werewolf) Got your rug all wet.

Tara: What the hell? I said you could bite me.
Franklin: No.
Tara: Why not?
Franklin: Because you want me to.

Pam: So the problem you have is that there's no dead body at your house?
Jessica: ...Yeah.

Jason: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who got no dreams, people who got dreams and don't do nothing about it, and people who go out and fulfill their dreams. I don't know about you, but I'm the third kind.

Lorena: The only way to show your love for a human is to stay away. Forever.

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 3 "It Hurts Me Too." Written by Alexander Woo. Directed by Michael Lehmann. From HBO.

07 July 2010

Moonlight S1 E4 "Fever"

Spoilers Ahead

Even if I weren't a vampire fan, I would like Moonlight. The writers obviously not only know and understand their characters, but they have a pretty good grasp on relationships and--dare I say it?--the nature of love. Yeah, I know--deep stuff for TV. Maybe that's why the show suffered an early cancellation; deep and subtle doesn't quite capture the ratings as well as shallow and over-the-top.

Not that Moonlight never indulges in a bit of excess; I mean this episode does feature a chase scene involving a helicopter and missiles. But more on that in a bit.

"Fever" starts with Mick in an ice-filled bathtub, looking wretched. Then, in a voiceover, he starts telling us how he got there (it seems the road to hell really is paved with good intentions). It's an intriguing start to the episode. I also have to give props for the excellent camera work; not only does it look good, but it reflects Mick's state rather nicely, I think.

The tale of how Mick ended up in a trashy motel's ice-filled bathtub starts two days beforehand. After the star witness in the murder trial of a known arms dealer ends up running for her life thanks to a leak in the police department, Mick hears from Beth for the first time since he told her the traumatic story of how he was turned (more here). But instead of getting some alone time with her, it turns out Beth was calling because her boyfriend, Deputy DA Josh, wants to hire Mick to help find said witness and bring her back safely in order to testify. Wacky fun ensues.

The scene involving the witness's safe house (and police guards) getting shot up is fairly impressive. It's brutal and frightening and surprising. I haven't seen a hitman that effective probably since Leon. Or maybe The Bride. Not bad for a minor television character with limited screen time.

Mick also makes an interesting point, which for some reason never occurred to me, and which I don't think I've seen brought up in other vampire venues, either. He claims that blood is life to both humans and vampires, but that vampires are jealous of humans because we can make our own. To me, his comment sheds new light on what a vampire is (at least in Moonlight's mythology), making them more tragic than monstrous. I find this take on vampires rather appealing.

The real story doesn't begin, however, until Mick and the witness (Leni) try to outrun the hitman who, thanks to the leak, has caught up with them outside LA, arriving in the guise of a local police officer. As Mick and Leni take off in the police car stolen by the hitman, a helicopter suddenly appears behind them. And then it starts firing off missiles. When I first saw this scene I had to roll my eyes. It just seemed so excessive and out of place in this show. But after thinking about it I decided it was fine. Hey, if the producers have the means to include a missile-firing helicopter in their show, why the hell shouldn't they go for it? In fact, every show should include such a thing at some point. Come on--wouldn't that make your television-viewing experience infinitely more fun? You know it would. And as Mick points out, Leni did piss off an arms dealer.

Anyway, after some quick thinking Mick gets himself and Leni out of harm's way while making the bad guys think they succeeded in killing them. The only problem is they're out of cellphone signal range, and the only way to get somewhere safe is by walking through the desert. The very sunny, very hot desert. As Mick puts it, he spent six weeks living in a trench in winter during the Battle of the Bulge and he'd thought that was hell. He was wrong.

When Beth finds out that Mick is "dead," her reaction is telling. Tears and recriminations don't usually follow the death of a mere friend, or someone you haven't known very long. But she's clearly shattered at the news. And when Leni finally gets a signal and calls Beth at Mick's behest, Beth can't get to the motel they've holed themselves up in fast enough. She's also unreservedly willing to let Mick feed on her once she realizes how badly he needs the blood. The average acquaintance probably wouldn't be so willing to risk their life to help someone capable of killing them without a second thought. But even after Mick argues against it and then, finally giving in, tells Beth that at some point she'll have to stop him, she isn't dissuaded. The scene of Mick feeding from Beth's wrist is kind of beautiful. The way they're holding on to each other, and the pained look in Beth's eyes (which doesn't seem to be stemming from physical pain) really is touching. And this, my friends, is why women swoon over vampires.

I also noticed that when Mick was arguing with Beth over taking her blood, his comment was "Not yours--not like this." Which instantly made me think "like how, then?" Did Mick have a vision in his mind of how he might one day get intimately acquainted with Beth? Despite his protests that they're not meant to be together, it seems some part of him still believes they are. Fantasy is the refuge of the unrequited lover. Only, in this case, there's definitely some requiting involved.

After the bad guy is dispatched (in a Shining-esque moment) and the day is saved, Beth returns to life with Josh. And while things seem fine on the surface, Beth is clearly conflicted, which is confirmed when she heads over to Mick's place. He either senses or hears that she's there and approaches the door. As she knocks, he watches her on the video monitor. Then, as they each rest against opposite sides of the door, Mick's voiceover lets us know that he's decided she can't be near him anymore because it puts her in danger. I so wanted him to open that door, but instead Beth turns and walks away and then he follows suit.

The more I think about it, the more I think this might be the best human-vampire relationship ever portrayed. There seems to be real emotion between them, but also valid reluctance. There's also none of those creepy 'centuries-old vampire obsessed with teenaged girl' overtones (hey, I love Buffy, but I can't help being a little grossed out by the Slayer's relationship with Angel). I love the tension between Mick and Beth, and the slow pacing of the way it's being played out. This is why I'd be into this show even if Mick was as human as anyone.

I have no idea where the next episode is going to take us, but I can't wait to find out. Here's to subtlety, with just enough excess thrown in to make it fun.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then ghostly white eyes and elegant fangs. A sun-sickened vampire's eyes will turn yellow (the whites, not the irises).

Strengths: Heightened sense of smell and hearing. Ability to easily jump from heights. Super strength. Fast healing.

Weaknesses: Sunlight: the longer a vampire is in the sun, the sicker he gets. Eventually, if there's a source of blood nearby, survival instincts kick in and the vampire won't be able to stop himself from feeding.

Sound Bites

Mick: What would you do if the one thing you need to save your life is the one thing that would make life unbearable?

Mick: Some couples just aren't meant to be together. Take me and Beth; she has a very real boyfriend and, well, after Coraline I understandably have trust issues. Still, when I see it's Beth calling I always pick up.

Beth: So, how long can you stay outside? Like how much sun is too much?
Mick: Any is too much.
Beth: You're a delicate flower, Mick St. John.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 4 "Fever." Written by Jill Blotevogel. Directed by Fred Toye. From CBS/The CW.

05 July 2010

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

I can't believe it's been an entire week since I last posted. Unfortunately the day job required all my attention these past few days. But have no fear--I'll be catching up now. Keep an eye out for posts on Moonlight, The Gates, and, of course, True Blood. But first...

Spoilers Ahead

So Living Dead in Dallas is where True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse books start diverging (although not quite as much as I expected). You'll recognize the characters and even some of the storylines, but unfortunately the books are a pale imitation of the show. Really unfortunate, in fact, since the books came first! Is it just me or have movies and TV shows become better than the books in the last few years? And as a lifelong reading addict, that's saying something coming from me. But I digress.

Living Dead in Dallas bears a passing resemblance to Season 2 of True Blood. There's a trip to Dallas to look for a missing vampire, a crazy vampire-hating "church," and a maenad. But the differences between the two are almost entirely in favour of the show. I think the books are really only for the hardcore Sookie and Eric fans. Everyone else will just be disappointed.

After going on a bender, Andy Bellefleur's car remains in the Merlotte's parking lot all night. The next morning when Sookie shows up for work she discovers a body in the car. The good: there's much less silly screaming in the book than there is in the show. The bad: the body belongs to Lafayette. At least he lives on in the show. The murder sets Sookie reluctantly off on a hunt for the real killer (until then, Andy is the main suspect).

But before she can deal with that, Sookie is obligated to go to Dallas (she's "rented out" by Eric to the Dallas vamps who need her telepathic abilities) to look for a missing vampire (not Godric, although he does make a disturbing appearance). There's also a sub-plot about the maenad.

I have a few problems with the book--mainly that it's dull. Harris tends to go on about the most tedious, irrelevant details (often involving the tragic clothing everyone seems to wear). There's too much exposition, particularly in the dialogue (show, don't tell!) And just when things look like they're starting to get interesting... they're resolved... in the laziest manner imaginable. I know people love, love, love Charlaine Harris's work, but this is a woman who has no concept of building tension (except possibly between Sookie and Eric). We all know Sookie won't be killed off, but at least make us believe she's in real danger. And you know when an orgy scene makes you yawn, there's something wrong with the writing. Never mind that the most fantastic creatures (vampires, weres, telepaths, shifters...) are consistently put into completely mundane situations. Why?

There also seems to be a fair amount of racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and vampire-phobia in the books that is taken for granted. In the show it's at least questioned, if not portrayed as outright negative. In the books, for the most part, it just is. I have no doubt this is a reflection of the way things are in the South, but it further puts me off the books. As does Sookie herself; there's only so many fake grins, self-righteousness, and plain ignorance I can put up with in a character before I start actively despising them. Constantly telling us how hot and smart and "well-read" she is doesn't make up for it. The utter lack of character development doesn't help, either (learning to use a pay phone does not count).

I also really need to start compiling a list of cheesy sex-euphemisms from romance novels. My favourite this time: "We reached the end of the tunnel." *Snort* By the way, why do silly euphemisms need to be used for body parts ("manhood") but the phrase "ball a vampire" is okay? Who makes up these rules?

And it wouldn't be one of my reviews without a mention of the editing, which is just as bad this time as it was in the last book. Check out page 119 for the amazing gender-switching cop and reporter! Also, you'd think somebody would have caught that someone named "Chow" would not be part of the Yakuza (one is Japanese, one isn't--or maybe it's just reflective of the racism I already mentioned; what's the difference--it's all Asian, right?)

But I think the biggest reason I'm starting to really dislike the Sookie Stackhouse books is that Charlaine Harris clearly has no love for vampires or the people who are into them. I believe I already touched on some of the anti-vampire sentiments in my review of the last book. The generally negative outlook toward vampires continues here, as well as some newly expressed derision toward people obsessed with vampires, who apparently are "pathetic" (pg 86). Oh really? If Harris doesn't like vampires, or the people who do, why is she writing these books? Quite frankly, I'd rather give my money to authors (and moviemakers, musicians, artists...) who actually have love for what they're creating. If they don't even believe in what they're doing, why should we?

My instant adoration of the show left me eager to read the books on which it's based. Unfortunately, they're turning out to be a huge disappointment (not to mention, on occasion, downright insulting). In a perfect world, books wouldn't get published unless they were actually worth reading. In this world, you can at least save your money for something more worthwhile.

Fangs Files

Appearance: Pale humans with glistening white fangs that descend or retract at will (particularly when vampires are excited). A vampire who's recently fed looks pinker. Some vampires have glowing eyes. Vampires cry bloody tears.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Some vampires can communicate telepathically with other vampires. Ability to glamour (hypnotize) humans. There is a connection between vampires and humans who have consumed their blood.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, garlic, the need to sleep in coffins even in windowless rooms.

Mythology: In the books, vampires have "equal rights" (mainly because Congress figured out they could make them pay taxes if that was the case), but they still can't legally be married. Synthetic blood in the books is called "True Blood." Vampires won't allow themselves to be examined by doctors, and they won't let themselves be pressed into military service; in exchange all vampire doctors and nurses were asked to retire. No one (except the vampires) really knows what causes vampirism: the theory this time around is an extreme multiple-allergic reaction. Some vampires are "renouncers"--self-haters who team up with radical humans who help them commit suicide while making a point about how evil they are.

There are also rogue vampires. They never wanted to come out of the coffin, refuse to drink synthetic blood, and want to return to secrecy and invisibility. They're willing to openly slaughter humans, simply to force vampires back into hiding.

Text Bites

"Portia ain't as tough as everyone thinks she is," Terry told me [Sookie]. "You, on the other hand, are a sweet little eclair on the outside and a pit bull on the inside."

Sookie: What's on the agenda for tonight? Business or pleasure?
Bill: Being with you is always a pleasure.

Eric: Angelic Sookie, vision of love and beauty, I am prostrate that the wicked, evil maenad violated your smooth and voluptuous body, in an attempt to deliver a message to me.

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).