|'in the first season John was, as the voiceover told us, part of a good family who had 'done a bad thing'. But as season two progresses, John becomes more villain than hero'|
Bloodline season two follows a very similar methodology to Bloodline season one. For the first half of the season, the show is all about slow build up. Character allegiances and anxieties are carefully tweaked and played with, as we work our way towards the final two episodes.
The diversion from season one with that approach is that Bloodline is now a series with momentum, which it cannot afford to just put on pause. By the final episodes yes, significant things have happened, but the time it takes to get us there often feels unnecesarily extended, overly pedestrian; a little too happy with stasis.
The things that happen however, to dwell on Bloodline's final two episodes, do show that showrunners Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman can pull satisfaction out of their hat, as shown in season one. During this second run, shortened from thirteen to ten episodes, the writers successfully show the pressure piling on Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) as we advance through, culminating in what appears to be Meg revealing the family secret to Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Kevin killing Marco (Enrique Murciano). Meg has been pulled from her attempted New York escape back to the Keys and put in charge of yet more secrets through running John's (Kyle Chandler) chase of the sheriff's position. Kevin has had to fight addiction, face up to becoming a father and lose the boatyard to the shadowy Roy Gilbert (Beau Bridges). Their conclusions might be sudden and dramatic, but they are well written and setup and, given everything we see in the season, completely believable.
The writing around John also continues to work, calling to mind that most classic of cinematic corruption and 'fall' stories; that of Michael Corleone. In the first season John was, as the voiceover told us, part of a good family who had 'done a bad thing'. But as season two progresses, John becomes more villain than hero, more driver of bad events rather than someone who bad events happen to. His finale too is entirely believable. Diana (Jacinda Barrett, who continues to be one of the best performers here) has all but turned her back, Meg and Kevin are no longer confidants; John is going to drive. Where your sympathies lie is open to interpretation, but for me I was starting to buy the other siblings arguments. It was difficult to look at John at this point as anything other than someone who had helped in Kevin's downfall and could now conceivably benefit from it, depending on how far Meg goes with her reveals.
The problem with all of the above is that it should have happened much sooner. The final two episodes do take the characters on to new precipices, but those episodes leave behind a season that struggled to generate momentum up to that point and relied far too much on getting us interested in new plot threads that didn't always work. Andrea Riseborough as Danny's (Ben Mendelsohn) ex-girlfriend is good and nearly unrecognisable, but she's stuck in a sub plot to do with Eric (Jamie McShane), Danny's son Nolan (Owen Teague) and hoodlum Ozzy (John Leguizamo). Hardly any of it seems to matter. Nolan and Evangeline (Riseborough) have an arc that, like the rest of the series, eventually works, but it lacks real impact on John, Kevin and Meg and Ozzy as the antagonist of the piece, beyond the secrets the Rayburns hold is weak. Marco takes on that role much more during the final five episodes, supported by Aguirre (David Zayas), but even that plays second fiddle to watching the Rayburn's internal struggles. If anything, the series fails to get the balance right between moving those struggles forwards and introducing us to these supplementary elements. I could watch more of Evangeline and Nolan, especially now they seem part of the family, but not at the expense of the main plot and not when Aguirre and Ozzy add nothing at all.
Which leaves us in a position come the final episodes where the core characters have been pushed to their limits, satisfyingly hit them, but moved on hardly at all. The balance is off. If Bloodline wants to survive much longer as a series it has to find a way to make its opening and mid-seasons as compelling as its finales.
Bloodline was streaming on Netflix.