After four seasons, viewers finally enter the sacred confines of the Vampire Authority in HBO’s entertaining, supernatural melodrama. The quality of the Blu-ray release is on par with past season sets, though video quality can be a touch inconsistent.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DTS, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Run Time: 10 Hr. 43 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/21/2013
There’s little that Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the citizens of Bon Temps haven’t seen since vampires declared their existence to the world, the announcement opening a door for all manner of supernatural beings to come out in kind. Shifters, maenads, faeries, werewolves and witches have all crossed paths with humans at some point, either terrorizing or protecting our comparatively fragile species. But even though the paranormal world has been outed, there’s still plenty of mystery left to explore in its myriad cultures, not least of which is the one that first came forward, the Vampire Nation.
The Production Rating: 4/5
In True Blood’s fifth season the curtain finally pulls back to reveal the inner workings of the Vampire Authority, the ruling body governing the likes of King of Louisiana Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and his sheriff, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard). Captured by the Authority after killing its political spokesperson Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck), Bill and Eric soon learn a fundamentalist faction opposed to coexistence with humans is threatening to overthrow the leadership that favors mainstreaming to ensure the survival of the species. Led by die hard Guardian Roman Zimojic (Christopher Meloni), the Authority will use any means to stamp out its would-be usurpers, not to mention those who jeopardize the tenuous relationship it has built with humankind. Bill and Eric’s off-book antics have put them in line for execution as a result, but their knowledge of an even greater threat to the Authority gives them a valuable bargaining chip.
Meanwhile, Sookie is wandering in a wilderness of sorts, having sworn off both Bill and Eric. Her affections seem to be turning towards the werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello), but the fact she killed his ex-wife Debbie (mostly in self-defense), has created a potential rift. Sookie is also responsible for best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) being turned into a vampire, a measure taken to save her life, but one that may have irrevocably changed their friendship. The only person she can turn to anymore is her brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who seems to be a lost soul himself these days, finding less and less satisfaction with his go-to, party-boy lifestyle (even though he remains a cop for the Bon Temps Police). A chance encounter with a group of faeries provides him some purpose, however, as well as for Sookie as she returns to the world responsible for her powers.
Not surprisingly, Tara is not adjusting well to her new, vampiric existence. Her self-destructive tendencies and volatile nature have only gotten worse in the wake of her transformation. To add insult to injury, her maker is the sardonic vampire Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten), who would just as soon stake her as mentor her. But as strange a pair as they make, they’ll find they’re good for each other, and may even need each other in the long run. It’s just ironic that Tara had to become the thing she's so long despised to finally get past her lifetime of pain and exploitation.
Other Bon Tempers take a less physically transformative approach to their personal issues, but their experiences are no less raw and confrontational. War veteran Terry (Todd Lowe) finally faces the consequences of his tour of duty in Iraq; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) mourns the death of boyfriend Jesus (Kevin Alejandro) while trying to squash the lingering demons he left behind; and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) continues his downward spiral after breaking up with vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). Alcide also must deal with the consequences of killing Shreveport Pack Master Marcus (Dan Buran), an act that puts him in line to be the new leader, but with more than a few reservations.
In contrast, Sam (Sam Trammell) has finally come to terms with and embraced his shifter heritage, but now must face a gang of bigots targeting his kind and any other being they deem unhuman. Tracking them down, with the help of Sheriff Andy (Chris Bauer), will ultimately lead Sam and girlfriend Luna (Janina Gavankar) across the threshold of the Vampire Authority, where, as it turns out, Sookie and the others will also find their way. Coming together in the vampires’ most highly guarded stronghold, they’ll encounter some familiar faces, but also fight a rather unexpected enemy.
Though True Blood has always been entertaining for its camp and high drama, it’s often struggled with feeling cohesive given the variety of characters and storylines. The fourth season was noticeably different because its “A” plot was able to bring in a usually “B” character like Lafayette without requiring convenient coincidence to get him there. The narrative felt more organic as it was based on character and relationship development, rather than a series of (sometimes unfortunate) events.
The fifth season isn’t quite as skilled at creating these natural, character-based points of integration. Sam’s arc leading him to the Vampire Authority uses similar coincidental measures as before, though one could argue the circumstances that bring him to that place result from a development that’s been brewing since the first season.
By comparison, Sookie has always been a little frustrating because her love affairs have taken priority over character growth. In the fifth season she finally has a chance to figure herself out, free of romantic entanglements, but unfortunately there isn’t much progress there, other than revisiting her family heritage, which doesn’t go especially deep and, in the end, is mostly used to get her from point A to point B. As the show’s central figure, Sookie remains the common element for all the characters and stories, but she doesn’t provide a true unifying effect, just a “six degrees of separation” string of circumstances. Though I won’t go as far to say Sookie’s become a mere plot device, the character is getting dangerously close to being one.
In spite of longstanding story and character issues, the fifth season’s overall appeal lies in its central plot, thanks to the resurrection of the series’ best villain. The peek at the inner workings (and conflicts) of the Vampire Authority and the culture’s foundational mythology were also long overdue. Though none of what’s revealed is that surprising (though the gore factor remains high), finally getting to the inner sanctum shows how much time the series spent on lesser concerns, like Season Two’s malevolent maenad takeover of Bon Temps. As the fifth season illustrates, if a bit unevenly, the series proves most interesting when focused on its reason for being, the vampires who provide the show its real life blood.
True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season includes the 12 episodes that aired on HBO in June and July 2012:
- Turn! Turn! Turn! (52:02)
- Authority Always Wins (55:04)
- Whatever I Am, You Made Me (59:05)
- We’ll Meet Again (56:04)
- Let’s Boot and Rally (47:09)
- Hopeless (51:58)
- In the Beginning (57:36)
- Somebody That I Used to Know (53:49)
- Everybody Wants to Rule the World (57:09)
- Gone, Gone, Gone (48:37)
- Sunset (50:09)
- Save Yourself (53:45)
Accurately framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the series episodes feature impeccable black levels and color depth, but contrast can be noticeably compressed at the lower range, giving the image boldness at the cost of shadow detail. Sharpness and fine object detail can look incredible, especially in close ups, but the picture can also look over crisp, brittle and noticeably “digital.” This season more than any other also has some obvious image scaling, as if the composition needed to be reframed in post-production, creating some jarring shifts in resolution and clarity. Grain can also be quite heavy in some episodes, which may be an aesthetic choice, but seems a bit inconsistent when viewing the season as a whole.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track features consistently clean and intelligible dialogue. Surround channels create an enveloping mix that seamlessly blend atmospheric, environmental and directional effects. LFE is used a sparingly, but is clean and robust; higher frequency bass levels also give the track a consistent depth and dynamic range.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
As with previous releases, HBO doesn’t hold back on the depth and variety of extras.
Special Features Rating: 5/5
Recaps and Previews: Episodes include the "previously on" and "next on" broadcast promos, generally running just under 40 seconds each.
Enhanced Viewing: Included with all 12 episodes, the picture-in-picture feature includes interviews with members of the Vampire Authority, which provide background on motives and plot points; a flashback and flash forward video feature that jogs the memory or teases what's to come; and mythologies, character bios and story hints. Given the quantity of material being splashed across the screen at any given time, it can be pretty distracting, so the feature plays best with second viewings of the season.
- Episode 4 with Chris Bauer (Andy), Alexander Woo (Writer), and Romeo Tirone (Director)
- Episode 8 with Stephen Moyer (Bill/Director) and Mark Hudis (Writer)
- Episode 9 with Dennis O’Hare (Russell), Carrie Preston (Arlene), and Dan Attias (Director)
- Episode 11 with Angela Robinson (Co-Executive Producer/Writer) and Lesli Linka Glatter (Director)
- Episode 12 with Anna Paquin (Sookie), Alan Ball (Creator and Executive Producer), and Michael Lehmann (Director)
- Episode 1 (3:59, HD)
- Episode 2 (3:36, HD)
- Episode 3 (4:07, HD)
- Episode 4 (4:17, HD)
- Episode 5 (3:16, HD)
- Episode 6 (3:00, HD)
- Episode 7 (3:07, HD)
- Episode 8 (3:11, HD)
- Episode 9 (3:11, HD)
- Episode 10 (4:06, HD)
- Episode 11 (3:47, HD)
- Episode 12 (4:01, HD)
Authority Confessionals: Video clips from the Enhanced Viewing Mode available to viewed on their own.
- Nora: Episode 1 (2:01, HD) / Episode 7 (2:06, HD)
- Kibwe: Episode 2 (2:40, HD) / Episode 9 (3:54, HD)
- Steve Newlin: Episode 3 (2:08, HD) / Episode 10 (2:08, HD)
- Rosalyn: Episode 4 (2:42, HD) / Episode 6 (2:52, HD)
- Salome: Episode 5 (3:05, HD) / Episode 12 (2:21, HD)
- Russell: Episode 8 (2:11, HD) / Episode 11 (2:51, HD)
Digital Copy: Choose between iTunes, Vudu or UltraViolet formats. Redeem by May 21, 2015
DVD Copy: The 12 episodes in standard definition format are spread across two DVD flipper discs.
HBO Home Entertainment delivers another fine Blu-ray release for True Blood’s fifth season, getting high marks again in audio quality and special features, but taking a slight step back with video quality. Still, longtime fans of the series should have no reservations picking up the title.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
Support HTF when you buy this title: