'True Blood' still bloody good for HBO

A scene of Stephen Moyer in the third

A scene of Stephen Moyer in the third season premiere of "True Blood." (Credit: HBO)

THE SHOW "True Blood"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO

CATCHING UP Last we saw Tara (Rutina Wesley) she had been shot by vengeful wacko werewolf Debbie (Brit Morgan). The other plot point: Someone has released former vampire Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) from his cold grave. Ol' Russ -- not seen in season four at all -- is probably in a very bad mood, and searching for Eric Northman (Alexander SkarsgÄrd), who put him in the ground in the first place.

But revenge must wait because Eric and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) are wanted by the Vampire Authority. Sookie (Anna Paquin)? She's trying to cool things with mega-werewolf Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello), but the more pressing concern is best friend Tara. She and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) don't have a clue what to do.

WHAT SUNDAY'S ABOUT The fifth-season launch adds some fresh layers to that sticky love affair between Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) and vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). And under the heading, "You Can Run From the VA but You Cannot Hide," something reasonably shocking happens to Eric and Bill. Meanwhile, the werewolf pack comes looking for shape-shifter Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), wondering if he knows anything about the disappearance of pack leader Marcus Bozeman (Dan Buran). He does. Plus, Christopher Meloni joins next week.

MY SAY As of this writing -- and probably as of next week and the week after that and the one after that -- "True Blood" remains far and away the biggest hit in HBO's arsenal. Doesn't get much press or Emmy love anymore, and that may simply be that the dead who walk the earth on AMC's "The Walking Dead" are currently hotter than the undead who do. But after having sampled the first two episodes, there's nothing here to even remotely suggest "Blood" fans will be disappointed. Everything appears present and accounted for: A densely packed, well-paced gothic horror soap with surprisingly funny twists placed at the worst -- which is to say best -- possible moments. There's at least one massive game-changer that I can't tell you about because of course you'd have to kill me and probably would. But you'll get a dramatic inkling of this on Sunday. And who dug up Russell -- kind of "True Blood's" own "Who Shot J. R.?" You're kidding, right?

GRADE A (for fans; everyone else will be hopelessly lost.)

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