Bloodline, Season 1, Episodes 7-13
Created by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, and Daniel Zelman
Premiered on Friday, March 20th on Netflix Instant
This review contains spoilers for the last seven episodes of Bloodline
“Sometimes things happen and you get clear in your mind. You know who you are, you know what you want, and you know what you have to do.”
For its first six episodes, Netflix’s new family drama/mystery Bloodline is the compelling, richly told story of the Rayburns, a wealthy and influential Florida Keys family with a mountain of lies and painful secrets. One of the greatest accomplishments of this first season has been its willingness to let the story unfold slowly, allowing this family and their secrets to develop naturally. By the time the viewer gets to the midway point of the season, they are wrapped up in this family and their wrenching drama.
“You were trying to protect your dad. The problem was no one was protecting your brother,” Detective Lenny Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor) tells John (Kyle Chandler) early in “Part 6”. As the truth about the Rayburn lies starts to unfold, it becomes obvious that the first impression of Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) being the family’s trouble maker isn’t entirely accurate. He is troubled, but his father’s brutal beating of him, and Danny’s guilt over his sister Sarah’s death (and the knowledge that his siblings lied for their father) seem to be the main sources of his issues. Danny’s real problem, though, is that he’s not able to let go of those secrets. “I guess that’s why people love working for us—loyalty,” he tells Meg (Linda Cardellini) in episode seven. He feels like he’s owed something and he’s already dangerous, which is a bad combination.
“Part 7” centers on each of the Rayburns trying to right their past mistakes. John tries to rebuild his relationship with Danny and solve his case, Meg tries to help an old employee, and Kevin tries to move on from his wife and buy the boatyard adjacent to his. Danny, however, seems determined to change the direction of his family and their business—for better or for worse. Over the course of the next few episodes, he begins chipping away at his siblings’ lives, having Kevin assaulted, influencing Meg’s case, and playing on John’s guilt.
“I just think that you want things to be better with him so badly that you don’t see him clearly,” Diana (Jacinda Barrett) says late in episode eight. Like the viewer, John’s wife is able to see Danny clearly. He has his own agenda, and makes “a big mistake,” as John calls it. “Part 10” also lets us see Sally as more than a passive bystander. Learning her part in Sarah’s death, and the guilt she has over ruining Danny’s life, puts her entire character in perspective. Her scenes, particularly at the end of episode 12, are a devastating portrait of a woman who’s made terrible mistakes and terrible decisions, and is now forced to answer for them.
In addition to its incredible cast, Bloodline’s greatest accomplishments are its pacing and tone. The characters are never rushed, developing slowly and naturally right along with the plot. The first episodes of the season highlight that none of these characters are particularly likable; the last episodes highlight a fractured family trying to suppress their guilt and forget their past. What the audience sees in the last seven episodes is a family clinging to the normalcy they created.
The final three episodes are perhaps the most tense ones of the entire season. While most of the first season sets up the world that the Rayburns live in and struggle to keep, the final episodes find John, Meg, and Kevin backed into a corner and turning on their brother. With the final episodes, the series’ theme comes into focus—choice. “I tried to get ahead of a bad situation and right now I feel about a thousand miles behind,” John says late in episode 11. Bloodline is ultimately about a family who has made horrendous choices and been forced to deal with them. The ramifications that these choices have on these characters’ lives are fascinating.
There is potential for an exciting second season, with just as many secrets. What exactly will Potts tell Sally? Is that really Danny’s son, and how did he find the Rayburns? And who saw John and Kevin leaving Danny’s apartment in Miami? The first season is so stellar, so perfectly constructed and acted, that it will be very hard to reproduce in a second season, especially as Mendelsohn, one of the biggest surprises of this show, will presumably not be involved (though there is always a chance that he could appear in flashbacks). What makes Bloodline season one so incredible is the dynamic created by the actors, with Mendelsohn’s Danny being the unstable driving force. Whether or not this can be replicated in a second season, this first set of thirteen episodes is some of the best content Netflix has produced, tightly wound and emotionally wrenching.
“We never say it in this family.”
“I love you.”
– Tressa Eckermann