Review: True Blood's second season is deliciously good

The first season of HBO's immensely satisfying True Blood ended with the discovery of a dead body murdered violently and dumped in Detective Andy's car. Questions swirled about that and other continuing mysteries.

Was the body that of the missing Lafayette? Why has Maryann come to Bon Temps? Will Jason join the vampire-hating Fellowship of the Sun Church? How will Bill Compton deal with his new vampire ward, Jessica?

And why do so many people keep dying around waitress Sookie Stackhouse?

Season two opens up right where season one left off, with a dead body in Andy's car. The identity of the victim is discovered and we're quickly drawn back into the stories of Sookie and her friends. It's obvious that creator Alan Ball is intent on making True Blood one long story that's only slightly inconvenienced by having to break the tale into episodes and seasons.

HBO provided four episodes of the new season and the story takes off and never looks back. If you missed season one, there's no denying it might take a couple of episodes and some patience to catch up on the action and figure out how all the characters fit in. Still, it's worth the effort if you don't mind your storytelling on the dark and sexy side.

Ball's universe, which is loosely based on Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series, is rich and colorful. The one complaint is that in order to maintain the Sookie and Bill love story from the novel series, the universe has become slightly fractured to accommodate Ball's enrichment of the other characters. Tara, Sam, Lafayette, and Jason seem to live separate from Sookie and their paths don't cross often enough. However, that's a minor complaint for a series that will likely blend the stories better as time goes on.

In the mean time, we can revel in the stories of Sookie and Bill's love story, Sam and his mysterious connection to Maryann, Tara's search for love and independence, Lafayette's dark journey, and Jason's struggle to find his purpose in life. There are many delights in the new season from the moments that sneak up on you, such as Bill telling new vampire Jessica that in his house they recycle, to the broader amusements such as Jason's search for redemption with Fellowship of the Sun and its leaders, Steve Newlin and his sexy wife Sarah.

However, the fun is nicely balanced with the thrills and chills that readers of the book series expect. That and the nudity and sex ... and oh, there's lot of that, as Alan Ball makes full use of what he can get away with on HBO.

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