This week’s Netflix pick is the Netflix original series Bloodline. The show came by surprise a couple years ago and the slow start had me nervous. As the story opened up and the characters developed it became a really enjoyable roller coaster carried entirely on the backs of an incredibly talented cast.
In the beautiful back drop of the Florida Keys the Rayburn family seems picture perfect. The setting looks like paradise. The family resort looks immaculate and all the kids are a success in their careers. The family is held in high regard by everyone around. The show peels back a layer and shows what is really going on inside this picturesque family.
When the family patriarch, Robert (Sam Shepard) dies the family’s dark past starts to come out. The embodiment of this past is the black sheep of the family Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) shows up. Danny is really just the beginning of the Rayburns and their ability to bury things and swallow the past. They aren’t so picturesque. They aren’t perfect people. But that doesn’t mean they’re monsters either. The story is much more complicated than that, mostly in great ways.
To go into every last plot detail and waving thread would make this write up longer than a Stephen King novel. The show twists and turns as it dives deeper and deeper. Every character gets some meaty content for the actors to sink their teeth into. The actors is really what the show is all about.
Listening and watching a talented cast deliver subtle yet brilliant performances is where a movie can really connect with its audience. I can’t think of many who do this as well on whole as the cast of Bloodline. Kyle Chandler as the lead is a man who audiences just gravitate to. Becoming famous as Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights was the perfect show case for a man of his talents.
Chandler gets to do a lot of the heavy lifting, especially in the first season, and it’s a delight to watch. While Chandler shoulders a lot of the show he is certainly not alone. This isn’t a hero and villain story, not as it goes on and everyone becomes a shade of gray. But every good story needs an antagonist. Ben Mendelsohn’s Danny is as brilliant as a character can be. You never know where you stand with Danny. Mendelsohn has a unique talent to take any innocuous line and make it say what he actually wants to, regardless of the words. Malice, joy, threats, and other emotions, mostly shady, all can come from the same sequence of words. Mendelsohn is incredible to watch as he slinks his way through the show.
Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sam Shepard round out the cast. Linda Cardellini is sadly underused, especially in the latter seasons, but is delivering one of the best performances of her career.
Bloodline is a series you absolutely can’t jump into someplace. Start at the start. The first season is one of the best individual seasons of a tv series I have ever seen. If you can get to the third episode something clicks with you and you will be craving the next, and the next. It’s ten hours of intricate writing, stellar acting, and gut wrenching twists.
Sadly the review/recommendation comes with a caveat. The series suffers from its own success. Bloodline feels like it should have been a one season deal with an open ending to squirm around in your mind. Bloodline is a show that probably should have stopped and left audiences wanting more.
Season two picks up right after season one. The mysteries continue and the acting is still incredible. The roller coaster ride and layer after layer peeling back slow down. Some of the aftermath of season one is interesting but season two’s biggest hanging point is diminishing returns.
The third season is the last. The series wasn’t canceled but is ended. The show wraps up and the characters get their due. The depending of the justice depends on your point of view, which adds a lot to ending the show. All things considered the final season is… alright. But if you’ve taken the ride this far you should finish out.
Bloodline is a stellar first season and an alright series after that. The writing and acting are top notch. If anything at least watch the first season.