Lacey Terrell/HBO
People TV Critic Tom Gliatto
June 09, 2012 03:15 PM

A mix of gore, sex and camp humor, True Blood is constitutionally so unstable, it never has to worry about jumping the shark: It could waltz with a penguin too, and who’d know?

The first episodes of season 5 are a mess, with little of the cohesion provided by last summer’s strong, seizing guest performance by Fiona Shaw. But the show is still crazily entertaining.

Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) are pawns in the growing fundamentalist vampire war. We’re ushered into oppressively corporate vampire headquarters and learn all sorts of silly arcana about these monsters. For example, did you know vampires can suffer developmental disabilities? This is revealed in a bizarre plot twist that plays like a sick joke.

Cast newcomer Christopher Meloni emerges from the shadows looking like a barrel-chested mobster, then retracts his fangs with an amusingly delicate click. As one of the show’s many vaguely defined ber-vampires, he seems to be having a sly good time.

Beyond that, the plot just sloshes around. The werewolves, who are about as scary as pack dogs waiting for a sled, return for a funeral. And indefatigable Sookie Stackhouse (the terrific Anna Paquin) gets on with the business of dealing with the supernatural freaks crowding her porch.

Planning a True Blood viewing party? Try these cocktails!

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