“We’re not bad people. But we did a bad thing”
Bloodline debuted on Netflix last year, a Florida Keys set drama/thriller centering around the Rayburn family. Prodigal son Danny returned home, secrets were uncovered and sons and daughters all covered up a very bad thing. A slow-burning, humid and dense first season was hailed as the normative successor to Breaking Bad and the perfect example in how a story can be most effectively told in a 13 episode, binge-ready format.
Head here for an excellent read to recap or catch-up for Season 2, just released, and here and here for superb video refreshers, before diving into the decidedly muddy waters of the Rayburns once more.
For those not familiar with Bloodline, the recaps above can bring you up to speed quickly and efficiently. Those of us that were fully immersed in the dysfunctional Rayburn family last year will need no reminder. The Rayburns are not bad people. But they did a bad thing. The very first episode dropped the mic on what that bad thing was – the murder of wayward son Danny (the superb Ben Mendelsohn) and in 13 tense, tightly plotted episodes we saw what happened between the return to his family and his death, drowned by patriarch-in-waiting elder son and local police chief John (Kyle Chandler). It took in deep family secrets, the drowning of a Rayburn sister whilst a child, drug running and hitmen, all played out against the beautiful white sands and turquoise seas of the Florida Keys.
It was a brave move to show the first season’s denouement at its start and, considering how good Ben Mendelsohn was and what frisson Danny Rayburn brought to every scene he was in, it’s reasonable to wonder how his absence would affect season 2. Well, Danny’s still here, in flashback, still causing much trouble for the Rayburn clan. At the end of the last series, with John, along with cohorts and siblings Meg and Kevin, thinking they had got away with Danny’s murder, another prodigal son returned to the fold – Danny’s own child Nolan (a perfectly cast Owen Teague). What more secrets are yet to be revealed? And will John’s fratricide be uncovered?
Episode 1 is a gentle start, re-establishing our core characters and showing how Danny’s death has affected the family. Successfully (so far) pinning his murder on a drug deal gone bad, John is coping best and beginning to push ahead with plans to stand for County Mayor whilst sister Meg has run away to New York, a high powered lawyer job and the bottle. Haunted by what they did, she’s drinking to excess – in front of and with clients, somewhat unprofessionally – and passing out in her office. Bandana-loving brother Kevin, never the most centered of people, is back with his pregnant wife but incompetent when it comes to running his boat yard and is beginning to get increasingly paranoid, a situation exacerbated by the continuing investigations of detective Marco Diaz who just wants to dot his ‘i’s and cross his ‘t’s. He copes the best way he knows how and always has, by hoovering up large quantities of cocaine.
As the siblings try and fail to hold it all together, Rayburn matriarch Sally (Sissy Spacek) has got back in touch with ex detective Lenny Potts. He investigated the drowning of Sarah Rayburn all those years ago, a drowning at which Danny was present but not culpable. That didn’t stop father Robert (Sam Shepard) from beating the hell out of the scared boy and blaming him, a situation the family entire covered up from Lenny. Sally has tasked Lenny with investigating Danny’s death and he has somberly informed her that “your children are lying to you”. Along with the mysterious Nolan being secretly in cahoots with Danny’s old friend and partner Eric O’Bannon (Jamie McShane), there’s also the small matter of drug kingpin Wayne Lowry (Glenn Morshower) being in possession of a tape from the late Danny, implicating John and his family and putting the man John wants framed for his murder firmly in charge for now.
Bloodline plowed it’s own field in season 1, developing a story you knew the end to at the beginning in a slow, languid and wonderfully atmospheric way that mirrored the gorgeous ‘Keys setting and Episode 2.1 (or Chapter 14 if you prefer) was an excellent opener, catering for hard-boiled fans and newcomers alike. It will have to work hard to rise above the loss of Danny and Mendelsohn, although he’s very much a presence still, but in Nolan and Lenny, plus the (seemingly) imminent downfall of one or more Rayburns, we’ve got perfect spring viewing. Follow it all here at XO.TV.
Bloodline Seasons 1 & 2 are now available on Netflix.