'True Blood' producer Brian Buckner answers burning finale questions
This post contains plot details of the True Blood series finale, “Thank You,” which aired on Aug. 24. Read the recap.
True Blood showrunner Brian Buckner has done some post-finale reading and knows fans have questions. During a conference call with reporters, he answered some of them. Here’s what you need to know:
• Why did we not see the face of the man Sookie ended up with? “The idea was that we wanted Bill to be correct when he said that Sookie could have a normal life, the twist, of course, being that Sookie chose to keep her power and specialness and persevere—despite his belief that she couldn’t be okay without giving up her powers,” Buckner says. “Charlaine [Harris] took a lot of abuse for choosing Sam [in the novels]. We felt like it was irrelevant, honestly, who Sookie wound up with. What we wanted to know was that she was happy and living the life that she wanted to lead, and to introduce some other stranger in the last five minutes of the finale wouldn’t have made a lot of sense. So we made a choice it’s everyman, it doesn’t matter. So we didn’t have a version where we revealed him. I mean, we basically cast the man with the best arms from our stunt crew.” His name is Tim Eulich, trivia buffs.
• But why didn’t it come down to the Bill-Sookie-Eric love triangle? “I think I’ve actually honored all the writers that have been here, in terms of it not being, ‘Which man will Sookie choose?’ That was the thing we were pretty leery of because you immediately alienate everybody who likes the other guy. So we chose to have it Sookie marries any man, because it doesn’t really matter who it was. It’s a story of Sookie overcoming her own demons so that she can lead a life that she wanted without giving herself up.”
• How does Buckner reconcile True Blood‘s gay metaphor with vampire Jessica’s wedding to Hoyt with vampire Bill killing himself? “Yes, True Blood is an allegory about otherness, but when you read a novel that is allegorical, it is usually about one character, right? To maintain allegorical correctness across the board with 20 characters is sometimes impossible. You have to pick a center,” he said. “So for us, in this story line, I think it’s obvious from the seven years that Sookie and Bill were not meant to be true love forever. So now you’ve got to pick whose otherness you’re gonna protect. And the truth is, there was a version of this finale that I pitched to HBO earlier this year, before we got started in production, where we tried to be very postmodern and had Sookie give away her powers. That felt real wrong. And I eventually came around to the point of view that it was wrong. But the allegory to be protected, I think, is Sookie’s.”
• Is Bill a hero in the end? Here’s where Buckner believes the situation gets confusing: “Sookie has been asking for a normal life, to be normal. She has felt inflicted but also empowered with her power. So I don’t think Bill was being a weasel for suggesting to Sookie,’Use your light.’ I don’t think it was weak. I don’t think it was, ‘If I can’t have you, no vampire can have you.’ I don’t think it was any of those things. I do believe it was heroic. But he also had to have a secondary reason for wanting to go, because when Sookie puts away her light, Bill has to still want to die. Otherwise, let’s get over to Fangtasia right now,” he said. “I think what Bill came around to, similar to what Godric came around to, is that a human life is extraordinary, too.” It’s what Niall, Bill, and Gran (via flashback in the finale) all told Sookie. “I think he was meant to feel heroic. I’m not confused by it, but it is certainly made more complex because it’s ultimately a Sookie story, not a Bill story.” And again, the moral of Sookie’s story goes back to what Gran told her: “You don’t have to change yourself in order to have everything you want. You are the obstacle. That’s what I was hoping people were carrying forward when Sookie makes her ultimate decision not to give [her light] up in the finale,” Buckner said.
• Why wasn’t the ending darker? “I think that [Sookie] was the center of the show again in a way that I don’t think she has been in a bit of time. I wanted to give her and our fans a happy ending. I know that this show has made its living on sex and gore and violence. But without story, all that starts to take on the feeling of a snuff film,” he said. “The director [of the finale], Scott Winant, actually said to me, ‘I get what you’re doing here, because if you’re going to go bigger and bolder than you’ve ever been, where are you gonna go?’ So the more surprising ending for this is this intimate, small beautiful story of these people in a small town…. To me, you want to know these people are gonna be okay. A lot of our fans who aren’t journalists, frankly,” he said, laughing, “are going to appreciate knowing that we parked these people in a good place. At least that’s my hope. But it was certainly the intention. It’s not really being out of gory moments, but you kinda go, ‘To what end?’ Like, it’s not all that fun to explode vampires over and over again. So if you want to do something that is unexpected, you kinda have to go the other way.”
• Did they ever think about killing off any main characters aside from Tara, Alcide, and Bill this season? No.
• Why isn’t there more Eric in the finale? In short, Alexander Skarsgard had commitments in London for the filming of Tarzan. “His story, as originally conceived, honestly ended somewhere around episode 8. And then when I started to write 9 and 10, I realized I needed more complications, and I thought it really fitting to sell Sookie out at the end of episode 9 and then to rescue her at the top of 10…. For a while, we weren’t even sure that we would have him for our finale because of dates and stuff, and then there were adjustments.” (And though Buckner didn’t want to take the bait when asked if there was a story he thought could be explored in a spinoff, he did: “I believe that there is life in Eric and Pam running a multinational corporation.”)
• Why do people like Hoyt and Brigette get so much screen time? “Hoyt—that’s a Jessica story. Brigette was a Jason story. You can’t break episodes by saying, ‘Every character’s gonna get five minutes of screen time.’ It’s not the way you can approach writing a script. You gotta be telling the stories, and let the stories dictate who gets the screen time,” he said. Would he have liked to have more Lafayette in the end? Yes. But Lafayette and James getting together was the catalyst for the Jessica and Jason, Jessica and Hoyt, Jason and Brigette story lines to come, which were simply meatier. “I learned this when I was writing on Friends—Ross and Rachel together wasn’t quite as much fun as Ross and Rachel sparring,” he said. “I don’t know what the scenes would be if we just did scenes of James and Lafayette being happy together. I’m thrilled that we got Lafayette true love, but it sorta peaked by episodes five and six. So there was closure for that character. I love him, too.”
• Why spend so much time on Lettie Mae? When they filmed the season six finale, Buckner had no intention of killing off Tara. But then realizing they had to have a casualty to make the H-Vamp threat real, and not knowing how he’d top that season six finale scene between Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), he thought it made sense for Tara to be the one to go. “I didn’t know what to do with that for 10 more episodes. The writers chose to tell a story about the redemption of Lettie Mae. I understand that people feel like, ‘Why would we tell the story of Lettie Mae and not the story of Tara.’ I get it, but you have to make certain choices, and I think that this season there are characters who got more explored than they’ve ever been explored—like Andy and Holly. And other characters who people have come to love but have already been thoroughly explored, who at the end of the day may have been short-shrifted. We have a massive cast, and it is both a curse and a blessing.”
• Is Ginger still at Fangtasia? “Yeah, I think Ginger is definitely still at Fangtasia. As a matter of fact, we actually recorded some additional dialogue as Pam goes up those stairs, where she called off to Ginger, ‘Open the safe!’ But we just decided for speed’s sake just to vamp speed Pam up the stairs, so there was no room for the dialogue. They stole the whole thing from her—I think there’s gonna be some loyalty there.”