Poor Sookie Stackhouse. When we last saw Louisiana's sexiest telepathic waitress, she was devastated to learn that her lover, Vampire Bill, had been ordered to seduce Sookie (Anna Paquin). It didn't matter that Bill (Paquin's husband, Stephen Moyer) had fallen in love with her – the betrayal was real. And so Sookie is poised to fall into the arms of Vampire Eric, played by Alexander Skarsgård.
If a love triangle between vampires and a small-town waitress sounds over-the-top, then you probably weren't one of the 11.8 million viewers who watched the True Blood Season Three finale. "It's easy to wonder, 'Oh, who is Sookie gonna pick?' " says Alan Ball, the show's creator. "I know it's female wish fulfillment, but it's also like, 'Well, who gets the prize?' All the vampires are going, 'She's mine, she's mine,' but why should she be anybody's? Why shouldn't they be hers? Why do men always get to make all the rules?"
Whatever Sookie's choice proves to be, she will also certainly be contending with a coven of witches who arrive to wreak havoc in town. "The big thing this year is witchcraft," says Ball, "and looking at how, in our world, certain humans are able to access magic."
"We've got witches, Wiccans and warlords, all things that begin with 'w' and are quite a dark influence," says Moyer.
Season Four also promises to have lots more glimpses into the distant pasts of the immortal characters. "There's some great historical flashbacks this season," says Moyer, whose character is 173 years old and fought in the Civil War. "We go way back in history in order to move the story along. There's a quite surprising flashback that takes Bill back to a place where I really wasn't expecting him to have been."
Ball is sanguine about how many seasons of the schlocky, sexually charged soap opera he has left in him. "I am negotiating for a season past this one," he says. "But I don't believe True Blood is 100 percent dependent on my participation. It has a very strong following and a really strong cast, and there could be a future where I step back and the show would continue."
In the meantime, though, Sookie, Eric and Bill undoubtedly have a lot more sucking, schtupping and killing to do. "That's part of the appeal," says Ball. "In a very safe environment, you can vicariously feel the power that one might feel if one were to solve one's problems in such a brutal way."
Sundays, 9 p.m., HBO
This article appears in the June 23, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.