- "True Blood" begins its seventh and final season Sunday night
- Hit HBO show has dealt with relationship between humans, vampires and other creatures
- Final season should wrap up a number of story lines
Bon Temps is out of time.
Of course, in many ways, the strange Louisiana hamlet of HBO's "True Blood" has been for ages. It's an old, ghostly community removed from nearby Shreveport by murky woods and two-lane blacktop, a world away from more earthly concerns. (HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Time Warner.)
But now it's really out of time. The seventh and final season of the vampire drama begins Sunday night.
"True Blood" started with the conceit that vampires already lived among us, but they'd kept their existence secret until a product called TruBlood -- an artificial plasma -- allowed them to "come out of the coffin." Waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepath, falls in love with vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), and suddenly humans and vampires find out a lot more about each other.
Creator Alan Ball was attracted to the material, based on Charlaine Harris' series of novels, because of the issues that could be explored through the different types of beings.
"The books are so rich, and (Harris) opens so many doors," he told CNN in 2008, just prior to the show's premiere. "If it's just a story device with fangs, I'm not that interested."
He turned over the production reins after the fifth season. Mark Hudis handled a chunk of season six and then was replaced by Brian Buckner.
Over the years, the show grew incredibly complex. Shape-shifters, werewolves and other supernatural visitors showed up in Bon Temps. The series branched out to peripheral characters who appeared and disappeared with little explanation.
The community divided into factions pitting the undead against the humans -- and against one another. The sex was graphic; so was the violence.
Now that the show's conclusion beckons, here are a few items to watch for:
1. Concentration. Buckner told TV Guide that a lot of story branches have been sawed off. "The hope is ... that by putting all of our characters essentially into one story, now it's Bon Temps vs. the world, the characters people love will get more screen time because these stories don't have separate demands," he said. "We just get to tell a simpler story and then experience them through our characters."
2. The future of Hepatitis V. The virus that infected TruBlood -- and got into the vampires' systems -- had no cure at the end of season six. Will a solution be found, or will it devastate the community? Vampires want more blood -- or they'll die. That can't be good for anybody.
3. Don't mess with Bill -- or Eric. Compton's transformation into Billith took off in the sixth season -- but where do you go after you partake of the vampire god's blood? In Compton's case, you lose much of your power. On the other hand, he could use a little more compassion.
As for Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), the old vampire sheriff may not be completely dead, Buckner said.
"We've obviously promised a 'Where is Eric?' story and it would feel incredibly cheap to deliver the goods right away," he told TV Guide. "We sent Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) off in search of him and if she were to find him right away, we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and to the audience."
But will he appear nude again? Skarsgard doesn't mind.
"He's Swedish," Buckner told TV Guide. "There was no discussion whatsoever."
4. The coming of war. Louisiana's now very ex-governor, Truman Burrell (Arliss Howard), was no friend to the vampires. (In fact, you might say he lost his head over the situation.) But the anger he felt is shared by many fearful humans. There are many who would just as soon see the vampires return to the underground -- or be vanquished completely.
5. The role of Sam. Bar owner Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) may have given up his restaurant, but he's now mayor of Bon Temps -- and he's making a play for Sookie, too. Author Harris paired the two in a book, and it didn't go over well with fans, but on TV the story could be different.
Either way, in real life Paquin is still firmly paired up with Moyer -- they've been married for nearly four years.
What "True Blood" development are you looking forward to?