Bloodline: Burying Secrets That Won’t Stay Dead


[Spoiler free]

Do we ever really reconcile our past? Those darkest parts of ourselves that we desperately try to keep hidden? That’s what Bloodline confronts its characters (and viewers) with.

The Netflix original revolves around a close-knit family of four adult siblings whose secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep brother, Danny (the incomparable Ben Mendelsohn), returns to their home in the Florida Keys.

Says eldest son, John (Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler) in the pilot’s opening moments: “Sometimes you know something’s coming. You can feel it. In the air. In your gut. And you don’t sleep at night. The voice in your head is telling you that something is going to go terribly wrong and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. That’s how I felt when my brother came home.”

John’s feelings of tension, uncertainty and fear aren’t solely his own to carry. They haunt all of these characters, draping over them like a sticky morning dew. When we first meet the Rayburns, they seem like a perfectly happy family: Maw and Paw own a cute little seaside hotel, daughter Meg (Linda Cadellini) is a lawyer, John, a cop, and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), a marina owner. But Danny. What will the Rayburns do about Danny?

If this blog seems to be vague, the intention is purposeful. Bloodline sinks its hook into you and gently, slowly tugs the line. It peels the layers of family drama like an onion. Because of Danny, the Rayburns are forced to confront their past discretions, no longer capable of hiding behind their good standing with the town in which they live. They can no longer remain repressive of their guilt, either. Insert some drug trafficking and murder, and man, does their situation escalate quickly. At the end of season one, John, Meg and Kevin do something they can never take back or escape from, only to sink deeper and deeper into their proverbial graves from there.

The show is led by an ensemble cast who deliver powerhouse performances episode to episode. Chandler perfectly plays into John’s stoicism, as the character attempts to keep his family united. Over the course of two seasons, we see John slowly start to crack, his hidden rougher edges peeking out little by little. Chandler nails what is turning out to be a more complex character than we were originally shown.

Mendelsohn handles the darker Danny like a pro – the black yin to John’s yang. We’re distrustful of Danny at first, and reasonably so, yet once the Rayburns’ past is brought to light, Mendelsohn transforms Danny into a sympathetic type, one who caught a rough break, despite his continued sour feelings towards his kin and further illegal activities. The actors’ recent Emmy nods are beyond deserved; they’re the anchors of this Keys-set boat, whose performances only heighten the tightly wound tension of their small-town microcosm.

So forgive this perhaps too generalized recommendation because the less you know the better. If you haven’t yet plunged into one of the darkest and best familial dramas airing now, now’s the perfect time—the show’s been renewed for Season 3 and there’s plenty of time to catch up. Bloodline‘s subtle intrigue will win you over. It’s a show where no single character is unscathed or innocent—they’re all just different shades of gray.

Remember: they’re not bad people…they just did a bad thing.

Grade: A-

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