Season three of 'True Blood' pulls out all the stops

The third — and very wild — season of HBO's True Blood ended with a cliff-hanger. Key characters are presumed dead. And we mean dead dead, since vampires are already dead.

Who stays forever dead — or at least isn't coming back — and who isn't will be revealed in the premiere of season four on June 26. We know that Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) will be back at least in some form because he's in the previews, but who knows after that? Which is the way we like it.

No soap opera has anything on True Blood in terms of twisted plot lines and outlandish characters. Think of the series, created by Alan Ball, as the anti-Twilight. There is more life (and sex) in 15 minutes in the world of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) than in that movie franchise and all the CW shows combined.

Here are a few examples from season three: A hot teen vampire, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), is trying to come to grips with her sexuality and bloodlust, and not kill her boyfriend. The high school's human star quarterback is "juicing" (drinking vampire blood) and setting all kinds of passing records. (Think steroids.) Werewolves are working for vampires, and shapeshifters are running wild.

The cool side of True Blood is that even as the series flies off on its crazy tangents, the writers are able to anchor things. Despite the fangs, relationships and situations are recognizable. But even as it explores the dark side, it's meant to be an amusing, crazy funhouse, albeit grisly and sex-filled. No series pulls out all the stops like True Blood, which is why we love it.

The season three box set includes some bonus material called "minisodes," which are short scenes that are back stories to the plot, as well as featurettes and audio commentary.

True Blood: The Complete Third Season retails for $59.99 and $79.98 Blu-ray.