Let’s talk about “True Blood” for a moment. It seems that the current cultural conception of the show is that it’s fun trash. It is, but it is also much, much more. There are deep, complex themes embedded in the pulpy narrative - themes of repression and abandon, grief and loss, prejudice, innocence, and the simultaneous desire to change as a person, and the impossibility of actually doing so. The recaps at TWoP pull out some of these themes, as well as the intricate way “True Blood” draws parallels and shows subtle distinctions.
Because of this complexity - under that flashy fun surface - the acting on this show is a harder task than it looks like. It’s different than a traditional drama; it requires a deep grounding in the character, but a simultaneous ability to pull off soapy melodrama. That’s why the actors who have been consistently great (Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse, Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica) are doing a harder task than it seems.
Into this odd mix comes Denis O’Hare - a consummate Hey! It’s That Guy - as Russell Edgington, the King of Mississippi, and not only is he trying to stay afloat in a series that even fans criticize for bad acting due to the difficulty of the tone and subject matter, but he’s a new character, and people are NOT kind to new characters on their beloved shows.
So what does he do? He nails it. O’Hare nails the part to the wall, and is the most fascinating, watchable, insane part of an over-the-top series that is stuffed to the brim with intrigue and suspense. He is more watchable than Alexander Sarsgaard, who looks like this.
O’Hare gleefully chewed his way through the scenery of this show, cackling wildly when he discovered Sookie’s strange gifts, and still kept the part grounded. He kept the part so grounded that he made Talbot - Talbot, for the love - seem interesting after his death. As Russell rolled around in that pile of goo that used to be Talbot, then lovingly cradled the jar of goo in his arms, he made it seem like there was a reason he would be missed, rather than that he was the most one-note, queeny, bitchy stereotype of a gay man ever put onto film. I would love to know whether the little gesture of turning the jar of goo around so ‘Talbot’ can see what Russell is describing was O’Hare’s idea, the writer’s, or the director’s, but it’s brilliant no matter what. When O’Hare’s face was covered in an inch of black ash, leaving him to act with his voice and his body only, he was still fascinating and perfect. He’s so good, that his spine-ripping, child-eating climax of the season, while wholly gripping and awesome, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Hat tip to James Frain, so wonderful as Franklin; Ryan Kwanten as Jason and Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica, still consistently showing the depths of their characters; and Alexander Sarsgaard, growing into his role as Eric more each season.