Alan Ball's pop supernatural series True Blood
expands its scope to an epic scale with its fourth season, which spreads its vast network of characters, human and otherwise, across the map while bringing aboard a host of new personalities, including a magic store owner-cum-white witch (Fiona Shaw) with a dangerous secret. Shaw's transformation from a mousy magic practitioner to vessel for the soul of a long-dead Spanish sorceress is the most intriguing storyline in the fourth season, which also concerns the return of Sookie (Anna Paquin) from the Faerie Kingdom and her subsequent romantic yearnings for Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), which naturally upset her beau and newly minted vampire king of Louisiana, Bill (Stephen Moyer). Though these two arcs alone would be sufficient for most series, season four also manages to fit in a fairly ridiculous bit of business involving Sookie's brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who becomes a sort of stud for a commune of were-panther women seeking offspring, as well as the fate of Arlene's (Carrie Preston) baby, which begins to share some personality traits with its father, deceased serial killer Rene. It's a lot to pack into just 12 episodes, and as a result, some storylines that deserve to be fleshed out, like the relationship between fledgling vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and human Hoyt (Jim Parrack), are left on the back burner while less effective but flashier ones, like Jason's bout with the were-panthers, are granted a larger spotlight. The result is an uneven season in comparison to its predecessors, but that shouldn't bother die-hard True Blood
fans, as the show's steady diet of sex, death, and morbid humor is still operating on full blast.
The five-disc Blu-ray edition of True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season is fleshed out by a wealth of informative and entertainment extras that provide a detailed look at the series' execution from the perspective of creator-executive producer Alan Ball, as well as key members of the cast and crew. Ball is front and center on the majority of the supplemental features, from commentary with Anna Paquin on "If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin'?" to the 28-minute Final Touches, a postproduction documentary roundtable that explores the central themes and creative requirements of the season. Moyer, Skarsgård, Woll, Shaw, and Sam Trammell, who plays shapeshifter Sam, also contribute to five additional commentary tracks, and a vast number of the show's supporting cast reprise their characters in the Enhanced Viewing mode, which offers both video and text commentary on individual episodes. Much of this is quite amusing and well crafted, though they can only be accessed through the Enhanced Viewing option and not separate from their respective episodes. The little details are also key to the True Blood Lines, a thumbnail encyclopedia of the show's immense cast of characters, organized by their particular species (human, vampire, etc.), that traces how each are connected to the rest of the Bon Temps population. Each episode also gets a brief summation from the show's writers and producers in the Inside the Episode featurettes. A pair of double-sided DVD copies and digital copies rounds out this impressive set. --Paul Gaita