As an avid reader of the books, I often find myself having to put up a mental partition in my brain–one side for “book knowledge” and one side for “show knowledge” while watching the show. It’s harder than it sounds, trust me. But when you come into a TV show that adapts an entire book series into 12-episode seasons, picking and choosing which storylines to stick where, it can become a muddled nightmare in your mind trying to discern what you already know and what you think you know. True Blood has done a beautiful job of constructing a series that is both familiar to those of us who’ve read the books, while still maintaining a sense of mystery and intrigue for those storylines they decide to take some creative liberty with. I’d like to break down a few of the biggest changes from book-to-screen that True Blood has taken on, and instead of critiquing why they didn’t work (as the bookworm inside of me is so wont to do), diving into all of the reasons those changes have made True Blood a much better show.
You heard that right. The firecracker of sassy wit that is Lafayette Reynolds kicks the bucket at the very end of the first book. The season 2 opener follows the end of Dead Until Dark very faithfully, in that Sookie finds a dead body in a cop car in the parking lot of Merlotte’s. However, instead of it being Tara’s cousin Lafayette, it’s Tara’s voodoo exorcist, Miss Jeanette. (Side note: in the books, Tara and Lafayette aren’t even related!)
Could you imagine a Bon Temps without Lafayette? I think this deviation from the books was a smart move for the simple fact that Lafayette (show version) is an increasingly interesting character. With every boyfriend, with every season, a new layer of his past is revealed. Out of all the characters that have come and gone on True Blood, Lafayette is one of the most fleshed out. He’s a perfect balance of totally screwed up and hilarious comic relief. Few other characters on the show pull off both of those roles so beautifully.
Keeping him around gives Tara (another deviation from the book) actual motive for a lot of her actions. He’s the only real family she’s that she can count on. Tara’s character in the books is but a mere background character; her and Lafayette both needed to be created from scratch practically, and the writers made a smart move by giving the two of them one of the strongest connections on the show. Not to mention, Nelsan Ellis and Rutina Wesley are fantastic together.
Jessica Hamby doesn’t exist
Normally I would balk at the idea of just inventing characters willy-nilly, however, Jessica is one of the most enticing characters to come out of the show since its inception. She’s the only “baby vampire” that we’ve really gotten to witness grow up and become accustomed to vampire life. She experiences first hand the discrimination of humans against vampires while trying to tame her own beastly instincts. Inventing Jessica not only gives us a different way to experience vampire living, but it’s also a very nice way to connect both living and undead worlds–her struggle to have a normal life, to date humans, to play the doting girlfriend–these are all things that are inherently human and easy to relate to as an audience. She also exists to give Bill some sort of purpose. Aside from pining over Sookie and looking morose, he finally has a family connection that was lost when he was turned during the war. Bill and Jessica’s relationship has done wonders to soften Bill and make him more amiable as a character, and Jessica’s growing loyalty to him is one of the aspects of her character that makes her not just a wretched, cheating monster, but an interesting character to watch grow.
Godric is not Eric’s Maker
In Harris’ books, Godric (or “Godfrey”) is merely a 1,000 year old vampire who was best known for being a child molester and serial killer (rough, I know). It’s this terrible life of sin and horror that is the catalyst behind him choosing to Meet the Sun. Though the show was faithful in the way that Godric met his true death, the entire storyline of him as Eric Northman’s maker was orchestrated by the show’s writers. I think this was a bloody brilliant (no pun intended) move on their part to seamlessly weave together the story of his that we know from the books with the story from the show–this is that fine line of book & show knowledge I mentioned earlier. Making him Eric’s maker is one of the most solid choices the show has done, as it’s the most human we’ve seen of Eric throughout the entire series. The scene on the rooftop where Eric is begging Godric to not Meet the Sun is one of the most heartbreaking scenes True Blood has ever produced. The loyalty that Eric shows is both one of his weakest and strongest traits–he is blinded by his loyalty to an extent that he would risk everything for him. Out of all the stoic vampires that come and go, Eric has the Viking stoicism down pat. But to see that there is still something out there that would render him a blubbering mess is a nice change of pace, and a great way to make the character that much more 2-dimensional. This story did nothing if not prove that not all vampires are devoid of emotion and are capable of feeling true love and true pain.
Jesus doesn’t exist either
In a recurring theme from the writer’s behind True Blood, Jesus Velasquez is yet another character who does not exist in the book series. I feel like this is an obvious one–Jesus is just freaking fantastic. After a slew of hits and misses on Lafayette’s part, he finally meets his (in my opinion) soulmate in his mother’s nurse, Jesus. Aside from the obvious implications this had for Lafayette’s character, bringing Jesus into the fold introduced us to a new mystery the show was diving head first into–witchcraft. This felt like such natural introduction to that plot, and one that would later come in super handy when Lafayette is discovered to be a medium. The two of them together also represent a solid relationship, something the show is usually totally lacking in. They were to be in it for the long haul (if not for that Marnie bitch).
And as True Blood is so adept at representing, it’s entire premise is one big allegory to the LGBT struggles of this nation–“God hates fangs,” no Vampire-human marriages, etc. To find two incredibly strong individuals who represent the human aspect of the show and the gay aspect as well, True Blood had struck a goldmine. Jesus was sent to show Lafayette love and stability, but to also show us his true nature–a discovery that might not have happened at all without him.
Tara is not a main character
Oh Tara Thornton exists in the books, but like I said before, she’s barely even blip on the Bon Temps map. She’s always there in the peripherals of Sookie’s life, but she is in no way as integral a part as she is on the TV show. This is one of the few times where I really wonder how Tara’s role in the books isn’t exactly like her role on the show. I can’t imagine Sookie without a (human) best friend. And that’s precisely why I think keeping Tara around and making her central to Sookie’s life is imperative to the story. Sookie is already isolated, and really has been her whole life. Her gift, and now her knack for hanging around the dangerous supernatural crowd has caused her to be an outsider, always on the cusp of normal life. Having Tara exist to be there as Sookie’s one true human pillar of support (besides her brother) is necessary to keep Sookie grounded in the real world. She needs someone she can count on–daytime, nighttime, anytime–and one that couldn’t care less about her fairy blood or mindreading powers. Not to mention the connection I previously discussed between her and Lafayette. Tara is all around a sassy, honest portrayal of the friend everyone needs somewhere in their life (I mean, she did take a bullet for Sookie, didn’t she? Weep.).
Naturally, these are not the only ways the television show has differed from Harris’ books, but in order to keep this short (and not nitpick the differences into oblivion), I chose a few key plot moves and shakers that I feel really enhanced the dynamic of the show. Sure there are characters that haven’t shown up yet (Quinn, anyone?), people who met their ends prematurely (Queen Sophie-Anne, Claudine), but alas, those things are bound to happen. Casualties of TV adaptation, if you will.
What do you think? Do you agree? Do you wish they would stick more closely with the books or are you a fan of the TV-only storylines they’ve been cooking up?