Sliding Backwards

I don’t know that I have a whole lot to say about the current, final season of True Blood, but a tiny little detail in this past week’s episode gave my process-brain a bit of a tickle. Don’t worry, this is completely non-spoilery.

All you need to know is that, in the episode, Sookie is reading aloud from someone’s diary. At first, I thought it odd, since she’s trying to find out recent information, but the entry she starts with is from late in 2010. Then she flips to entries near the end of the diary, and those are from 2011.

Then I realized what was happening. You see, with two big exceptions, True Blood has no time gaps between its season finales and its season premieres. In fact, quite a few season premieres happen mere seconds after the finales, even though it’s a year–or more–between seasons.

Like I said, there are two exceptions to this. There’s a gap of a year that occurs at the start of season 4 (though even this feels like it’s immediate to at least one character), and then, the end of last season involved another jump, this time of 6 months.

Honestly, I’d not thought much of it. I suppose I might just be used to corporate super-hero comics, where the exact When of things sort of exists on a sliding scale. Otherwise, Spider-Man and Batman would be ready for retirement.

But, yes: if we assume that Bill and Sookie met in 2008, when that episode first aired, then the active structure of the narrative really would build up several years’ worth of lag behind the present.

I guess the interesting thing to me about this past weekend, then, is that the writers chose to raise their hands and draw attention to that gap. It wouldn’t have been particularly difficult to have Sookie say “this entry is from October of last year … this one is from last month.” Actually, that likely would have caught my attention less than the way they chose to structure it.

Clearly the dates weren’t accidental. Someone had to sit down and work out a timeline there so that the diary entries synched up with at least a rough approximation of the progression of time in the series as presented.

Given that it seems like a fair amount of effort to do that calculating, I wonder if there’s more purpose to it. I wonder what’s happened between then and now that might effect the writing. Are they trying to avoid one or more developments in the world? If they’re keeping track of dates like that, does it make pop-cultural references more difficult? Is that also something that’s being vetted?

It’s possible it’s nothing more than the writers waving to the audience and saying “yes, we’ve been paying attention. Have you?” I just found it an interesting choice for the writers to draw attention to the discrepancy, to effectively announce that the series takes place in the recent past. And I wonder how that does or doesn’t impact the writers and the production choices being made.

Something like The Newsroom is intentionally designed to take place in the recent past. It’s been that way from the beginning. True Blood, though, has sort of slowly slid its way into that temporal space, and I’m curious to see if there are any other noticeable effects still waiting to crop up as the season progresses.

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