Netflix’s Bloodline: Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Bloodline centres around the lives of the Rayburn family. They are loved in their neighbourhood and they own an oceanfront hotel in the Florida Keys. When the family outcast Danny Rayburn, returns home for his parents’ hotel celebration, he swiftly evokes disorder amongst his family. The family have a dark past and when he gets caught up in the criminal underworld, he threatens to throw the purity of the Rayburns into the public eye. Danny’s arrival is a threat to his entire family and the legacy that his parents created. The worst kind of politics isn’t in the halls of Washington like in House Of Cards. Things like that aren’t on your doorstep. The worst kind of politics is within the ranks, inside your family. That touches us all and you should never give up on family.

Netflix have pulled off some absolute crackers of late with their original programming. These include shows like the political drama House Of Cards to the dark corners of Hell’s Kitchen with shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones but then we can go back in time to 13th century Mongolia to Kublia Khan’s court with Marco Polo. They have also concocted great comedies like Master Of None and Fuller House to dark and gritty crime dramas like Narcos and The Killing as well as the more trippy shows like Sense8. The list goes on, and year after year, their list of original shows increases. They keep coming up with quality shows, and Bloodline is no different.

Left & Right: John & Danny Rayburn (Kyle Chandler & Ben Mendelsohn) (Bloodline, Netflix)

Left & Right: John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) & Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn)
(Bloodline, Netflix)

Much alike many of Netflix’s masterclass dramas, it takes a few episodes to get into. I’d say it takes around three or four episodes to really get moving but once it gets moving, it doesn’t stop. It’s haunting and gripping from then on in. After three episodes, it sucks the audience into the humid and sticky nature of family politics and drama within the Rayburn family unit. Once the initial groundwork is set in the first triage of episodes, you begin to immerse yourself in The Florida Keys in the lives of our characters. Bloodline is a scary love affair that the Rayburn family have each other, even the black sheep Danny. The show has very interesting characters and an Emmy worthy performance from Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises). He’s a good guy in a bad situation. He’s mentally broken and he’s trying to get out of his current predicament yet his personality is very destructive. He hurts all he touches.

Danny is the outcast of the family but he’s also the oldest sibling of the well to-do Rayburn family. They are a close family who dwell in the Florida Keys. Not a dynasty that can be traced back centuries but an affluent family nonetheless who value creating a legacy more than anything else. The series follows each character’s point of view, of Danny. But also the heartbreak, torment and hurt that he carries with him in addition to the painful memories of days past. To be honest, it sounds like an episode of Eastenders in terms of my description but it’s much deeper than the goings-ons of Albert Square with the family secrets and all. It’s perfectly executed and it’s much darker than the hallways of the Mitchell clan of the BBC soap opera.

John & Meg Rayburn (Kyle Chandler & Linda Cardelleni) (Bloodline, Netflix)

Left & Right: John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) & Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardelleni)
(Bloodline, Netflix)

The Rayburns are wealthy but not the wealthy that makes them look down their noses at their local society. In fact, they do whatever they can to help others out. Their power isn’t from money, it’s from the setting of the show. They were born and bred in The Keys. They breathe its air and the air resonates with them like nobody else. The area of America is like a wild west movie. It hangs onto this cynical insider and outsider ideology. If you’re not from The Keys, you can’t be trusted. What happens in the Keys, stays in The Keys. I like settings like this. It creates a real aura of togetherness, family and the location has its own cultural identity. You could say the Keys is as alive as you and I are. It lives, breathes and it’s alive and kicking.

Kyle Chandler (Wolf Of Wall Street) plays the mediator of the family. He fixes the problems within the family. He’s the second son and is a homicide detective. He does his utmost to keep the peace which is kind of ironic since he’s a cop. Linda Cardelline (Age Of Ultron) and Norbert Leo Butz (Mercy Street) play Meg and Kevin Rayburn, the two youngest siblings. They are grounded in their roles, and it’s great viewing. It’s hard to get a grasp on any member of the family until we find out what the big secret is. This secret moulds each character into something else entirely. We all have skeletons in the closet but this family has more than most, including parents Sally and Robert Rayburn (Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard).  They’re not the flawless family that they’d have everyone believe. Everyone has a dark side, and the Rayburns finally play theirs.

Mother of the family, Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek)
(Bloodline, Netflix)

At times, I feel sorry for Danny but then at others, I feel like saying “what a selfish arsehole”. He’s that kind of character that you want to help but at the same time, his personality is so destructive you don’t want to be anywhere near him. The tragedies of this series loom with Danny. They attach to him like a leech. He feels like a lost puppy trying to find his family but then he finds his family, and lashes out. He’s an abyss of emotions. He wants everything, and nothing. He wants to change for his family but at the same time, he want to run away and never look back. He’s a drug addict undeserving of attention but the guy needs a friend, and help…FAST. The coin keeps flipping from heads to tails, and you start to care for him a little. Mendelsohn’s performance is pure excellence. It’s complex and meanders through his dark, twisted and sparkling personas. You never know when he’s lying or telling truthful. He’s got a great poker face.

Where Danny goes, tragedy is not normally more than a few steps behind. Danny arrives at his family’s home as a tortured person beyond repair. He’s constantly playing this role and he begins to slowly play his family like musical instruments. His parents and siblings are just people with their own motivations, beliefs and ambitions. He unravels them until they break. He slowly manipulates each member over the whole season so that each person is hurt in different ways. It’s soul-destroying to see this happen but at the same time, we are witness to the epic acting skills of Ben Mendelsohn.

Left & Right: Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz) & Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini) (Bloodline, Netflix)

Left & Right: Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz) & Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini)
(Bloodline, Netflix)

The season is thirteen episodes long as are many of shows in Netflix’s original programming roster. Thirteen episodes is a good number and it doesn’t wander off into melodrama like many shows do on cable television. I’m talking about shows with twenty-two episodes or more, like shows on CBS or the CW. The culture of bingewatching latches onto Netflix shows like a drug. It latches onto me like a drug, and it’s unshakeable. Bloodline is a glorious tome that shows us the story of one family who had everything, and nothing. It shows us that people we think who have the best of everything have the same problems as those at the darkest corners of our communities.

This is a show about family and most people will be able to relate to this in some ways due to how many different themes there and the different types of characters, and not just talking about the Rayburns. “Good things happen to those who wait” is a common saying and you only need to wait three episodes until the show gets going. This is a slow burner, much akin to the Netflix-Marvel show, Jessica Jones. You have to wait, you have analyse and you have to listen to the what each character is saying. It’s all in the dialogue. It’s all about storyline and character development. That’s what pushes this show along. You have to be in a mindset to think and analyse in order to watch and understand this show. It’s greatness is in the storyline and its complex string of characters.

Sam Shepherd's Robert Rayburn (Bloodline, Netflix)

The father of the family, Sam Shepherd’s Robert Rayburn
(Bloodline, Netflix)

In conclusion, this is probably my favourite Netflix series next to House Of Cards and Jessica Jones. Throughout the series tidbits of information are released and it’s only in the final quarter that those bits of information begin to make sense as they fit into a bigger scheme. Something that occurs three episodes ago is finally making sense. Through these revelations, each character is thrust onto a darker path that might not come back from. The purities of the Rayburns is no more and now they must accept who they have become. The show is a gritty drama thriller. The setting reminds me of Fargo or even Twin Peaks. It has that sort of feel, yet its persona is darker, grittier and something else entirely.

This is truly one of the best shows of 2015. It’s well-written and well-directed, with all the cast giving excellent performances and Ben Mendelsohn giving the performance of his life. The cinematography is incredible and the musical score fits really well with an aura created by an excellent script and setting. The final scenes left me wanting more and it ended on a huge cliffhanger. I can’t wait for season two which debuts on May 27, on Netflix.

Bloodline shows us the limits of what people will do to protect the ones they love, even if that is from themselves