Blu-ray Review: True Blood – The Complete Fifth Season

After a somewhat disappointing fourth season, it seemed as though HBO’s True Blood might be losing its bite. A boring love-triangle subplot and lots of talk about fairies seemed better suited for a daytime soap opera than the world of on Temps, Louisiana we’ve come to know. Thankfully, after a strong ending to the fourth season, the fifth season was a strong one, getting back to the kind of storytelling that has made True Blood an award winning, fan favorite.

The fourth season didn’t end on a single cliffhanger, but several. Everyone was in trouble. Sookie (Anna Paquin) had just killed a woman after seeing her best friend shot in the head. Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) killed an important vampire, and will almost certainly face the Authority, the secret vampire government. Lastly, Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare), the incredibly powerful 3000-year-old vampire who killed Eric Northman’s family many years before has escaped from his concrete prison.

True Blood 5Picking up where the last season left off, Sookie and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) are negotiating a deal with Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) to save Tara (Rutina Wesley). Tara is turned into a vampire, saving her from death. She comes out of her grave completely crazed, and filled with hatred for Sookie. Tara’s new alter-ego is the nail in the coffin of Tara’s tense relationship with Sookie.

Arriving at Authority Headquarters, Bill and Eric are tortured to find out if they’re members of a revolutionary movement threatening the vampires governing body. They quickly realize that whether they confess or not, ‘true death’ will be the outcome. Playing the only card they have, they inform the powers that be that Russell Edgington is still alive. Everyone had assumed he was dead. The Authority decides to send Bill and Eric after Edgington, believing they have the best, albeit slim chance to capture him before Edgington can come after the two people who buried him in the concrete prison. Of course, if they do find him, it won’t be easy to bring him in. If Bill and Eric die, so be it…

Naturally, there are several subplots involving other characters; most of them having some sort of connection to the main story. The only exception is a situation involving Terry (Todd Lowe) and Arlene’s (Carrie Preston) difficulties with an old army buddy (Scott Foley) and the fire demon Ifrit, which only gets in the way of the far more interesting subplots, and slows things down. In contrast, watching Alcide (Joe Manganiello) go back to his wolfpack ways and seeing Sam (Sam Trammell) forced to deal with a hate group are both quite entertaining.

While each episode is entertaining, it’s fair to say that the series doesn’t have the “can’t wait to see it” quality of the first three seasons or so. Nonetheless, it’s a significant improvement over the last season, and the ending, as usual, is a stunning cliffhanger that will leave fans eager for the sixth season premiere.

The twelve episodes that make up this fifth season are spread across five Blu-ray discs. The set also contains a pair of double-sided DVDs that present the series (but not the special features) in standard definition and digital copies.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, HBO has provided a very solid 1080p transfer. The series colorful cinematography really comes to life. Black levels are strong, providing the image with a nice sense of dimensionality. Fine detail is top-notch throughout. There are occasional soft spots, but overall, this is a fine presentation.

Presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, the show sounds fabulous. Dialogue is strong and crystal clear. Surround effects are noticeable throughout, though more so during action scenes. Audio is also available in French and Spanish DTS 5.1 mixes. English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Nederland, Dansk, Suomi, Norsk, and Svenska subtitles are also available.

The following special features are included:

  • Audio Commentaries: Five cast and crew audio commentaries: “We’ll Meet Again” with actor Chris Bauer (Andy), writer Alexander Woo and director Romeo Tirone; “Somebody That I Used to Know” with actor/director Stephen Moyer (Bill) and writer Mark Hudis; “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” with director Dan Attias and actors Denis O’Hare (Russell) and Carrie Preston (Arlene); “Sunset” with co-executive producer/writer Angela Robinson and director Lesli Linka Glatter; and “Save Yourself” with actor Anna Paquin (Sookie), creator/executive producer Alan Ball and director Michael Lehmann.
  • Enhanced Viewing Mode (HD) Each of the twelve episodes includes an optional “enhanced viewing mode.” This allows viewers access to various tidbits, including interviews, featurettes, trivia, etc.
  • Inside the Episodes (HD) Each episode includes an “Inside the Episodes” featurette that offers a quick look at the weekly developments. Warning: spoilers abound!
  • Autopsy: True Blood Episode Six (Disc 3, HD, 63:38) A pivotal episode in the season, we get an in-depth look at “Hopeless.” Along with the episode itself, we are treated to behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
  • True Blood Lines (HD, Disc 5) A character tree that provides information on all the inhabitants of season five.
  •  Authority Confessionals (HD, Disc 5, 31:04) Nora, Steve Newlin, Salome, Kibwe, Rosalyn and Russell discuss their origins and pasts in confessional fashion.

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