|'The real attraction here though is Mendelsohn's whirlwind creation of coldness and chaos, a character who achieves calculating sentience in the latter half of the show.'|
A 'below the surface' Netflix production, Bloodline has enjoyed a much lower profile than tentpoles like Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards, but that does not mean that it is not as worthy of your binge-watching time as its more visible alternatives. Created by the team behind Damages (Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman), the series is one of many examples of Netflix making good on its HBO-like promise to give talented producers the opportunity to make the shows that they want to and then leave them alone. Bloodline isn't a House Of Cards in waiting, but it will find a niche and that niche will pay Netflix to watch their show. Netflix's vast potential profitability begins to look clearer with each series like this one.
Beginning with a killer pilot, which looks forwards to a Terrible Event in the future of the Rayburn family, Bloodline is at heart a big-budget soap opera, with the Rayburn's centre stage. Led by middle son John (Kyle Chandler, fantastic), the series pivots on the relationship between three Rayburn siblings (John, younger brother Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and sister Meg (Linda Cardellini)) and their newly returned black sheep brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn). With John initially defensive of Danny in order to keep an idyllic family life in tact (parents Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Robert (Sam Shepard) own a luxury hotel in the Florida keys), it isn't long before Danny starts to act up, apparently partially driven on by an event in the family's past.
At the series' weaker moments (episode five in particular) Bloodline is a waiting game to see the form and impact of Danny's next bout of familial haemorrhaging. He is the walking conflict in Kessler, Kessler and Zelman's creation (although others are also available) and, at times, it is painful to watch and wait for his next dumb move. Episode Five's problem is that, having shown us several already, it puts us in an explicit waiting game, at a major event for the family, and invites us to believe that Danny's interruption is only a sentence away. In actuality, the episode is handled well, but the spectre looms distractingly, conjured up by the slightly inane interruptions of the first few episodes.
Thankfully, this is one of the only noticeable problems with Bloodline, which is always reliably entertaining and, towards the final three-to-four episodes, completely compelling. Kessler, Kessler and Zelman keep the narrative interesting by giving the side characters more of import to do than just worry about Danny. Meg is in a will-they-won't-they marital relationship with John's police partner Marco (Enrique Murciano, typecast once again, but good). John and Marco are investigating the appearance of a burned body in the mangroves. Robert, very early on, develops health problems, whilst Sally attempts to manage the hotel. Kevin is running a struggling boat yard, under threat from his neighbour's sale of their's to a big conglomerate. He also latterly becomes a bit too entangled in Danny's relationship with brother/sister combo Chelsea (Chloë Sevigny, who is excellent) and Eric (Jamie McShane). John also, as the centre of attention, has children Jane (Taylor Rouviere) and Ben (Brandon Larracuente) to wrangle and wife Diana (Jacinda Barrett) to confide in. In amongst all of the drama, John's relatively stable home life is actually one of the great joys to spend time with, something played on to good effect in the final episodes.
The real attraction here though is Mendelsohn's whirlwind creation of coldness and chaos, a character who achieves calculating sentience in the latter half of the show. Danny and John's relationship plays on the love/hate brotherly love angle, which makes it even more rewarding when the reveals happen. And do they happen. There are early ones, mid ones, a later one where the two face off in a police cell and a very late one which finally tells us what was going on during the scenes from the pilot. It's satisfying to watch; sofa-gripping, anger-inspiring and tragic in one; the make-up of a Shakespearan family tome.
There's perhaps a miss-step when it comes to setting up Season Two. The scene painted has been seen before and offers little to the season it concludes. Not that that will stop me from watching when the Rayburn's story continues.
Bloodline is currently playing on Netflix.