Netflix’s Bloodline: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Season one of Bloodline has a cast any series would kill to have. The show started by foreshadowing the death of the Black Sheep brother Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn), then flashbacks to Kyle Chandler’s John Rayburn lugging his brother’s body through the water-infested swamps of the Florida Keys. This set up the series for a killer finale (pun intended) that affected all the Rayburn family. The basic premise of season two is that Danny is dead and how the Rayburns cope with their lives afterwards, including the police investigation into Danny’s death. What will the cops uncover? And are the Rayburns as pure and moral as they claim to be? We know that they are not, but the people of Florida Keys think otherwise.

Season two of Bloodline is everything season one was, and more. It is better than season one in pretty much every single episode. Like season one, it’s a slow burn but that’s to be expected with shows like this. You need to take the time to watch each episode intently. Bloodline isn’t the type of show you can have on in the background and still know what’s going on. Season two proves itself to be very competent at making small intimate moments of conflict among characters suspenseful to watch. The conflict being among the Rayburn siblings; each having their own forms of paranoia about what the cops would uncover about Danny’s death. John is the local Deputy Sheriff yet he’s a crook. He can’t cover for his family forever and then Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) begins to break during interrogation from Detective Marco Diaz (Enrique Murciano) which pushes Kevin over the edge in the season finale. Kevin is the loose cannon; unpredictable, volatile and you can see the veins in his head looking like they’re about blow a gasket.

Kyle Chandler's John Rayburn in Bloodline (Bloodline, Netflix)

Kyle Chandler’s Deputy Sheriff John Rayburn in Bloodline
(Bloodline, Netflix)

Season two is your edge-of-your seat gritty crime drama. It has elements of southern noirness of True Detective yet has the grim aura of BBC’s Luther as well as the “everybody-knows-everyone” community spirit of Happy Valley. Writers Todd Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler have certainly found their footing in season two, even more so than their maiden season. They throw us a number of curveballs and WTF moments throughout the season from the corridors of John’s mind when he’s talking to Danny’s ghost, progressions in the case and Kevin’s dumb shenanigans. I feel bad for Kevin. He always seem to be getting in shit, just life doesn’t like Kevin very much and when he finally breaks, he breaks. It’s also great that Ben Mendelsohn came back as a vessel for John’s mental thoughts, leaving the audience to guess at his thought-processes from Danny’s replies. That’s wonderful character development and storytelling from the writers. Hear! Hear!

Using Danny in such a way was an excellent move. It allows the viewers to walk inside John’s mind, making judgments on John’s ambiguous sense of ethics and morality. We see the flaws and vulnerabilities of this family man; burdened by the cold-blooded murder of his own brother. We see him begin to buckle in the case to find the killer of his brother, as Diaz gets closer to the truth. Season two brings back Ben Mendelsohn who stole season one. We see him through flashbacks as well as being a ghost that follows the Rayburn family like the plague. It’s a phantom-resurrection and it’s one of my favourite parts of the season because Ben kills it again with his performance and to think this guy is going to be the main villain in the upcoming ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ If his badness in Bloodline is any consolation, his villainous character in Star Wars will be epic.

In every scene, Kevin (Butz) looks like about flip out (Bloodline, Netflix)

In every scene, Kevin (Butz) looks like he’s about flip out and kill someone
(Bloodline, Netflix)

In many scenes, Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty) and Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises) go head to head and it’s haunting. Even from the grave, Danny is manipulating John. Well, that’s Danny being Danny. We see a new side to John. But on the side, Danny’s son arrives. This is just another problem as he didn’t really know his dad well. Sure, they lived together but he didn’t know him. He comes to the Rayburns to find out more about his father and he ends up staying with John. He stays with his uncle who killed his own brother…Yikes! Chandler can walk into a room and steal the scene without saying a thing. His acting presence is enough, especially when he and Danny’s ghost are at loggerheads. Much of his acting prowess is due to his reactions in certain scenarios, quality stuff. He uses his cop instincts to analyze people, judge and look at information provided to him. Once a cop always a cop, even if he is a cold-blooded criminal.

Is John a bad guy? Yes, he killed his brother but only after Danny singlehandedly destroyed the family psychologically. Danny is a dark mark, and he leaves a trail of broken people behind him, not uncanny to Kilgrave in the Netflix-Marvel series Jessica Jones. Is John bad? What would each of us do if we were pushed to the very limit? Bloodline shows us how far human beings are willing to go before we break, and Danny broke John into a million pieces, hence Danny’s demise. I think John’s main issue is his constant bout with his morality as police officer but more so as a human being. Has he gone beyond the point of no return? Kyle Chandler is a force to be reckoned with and he’s been nominated not once, but twice for his role as John Rayburn and I can see why.

The manipulator Nolan Rayburn (Owen Teague) (Bloodline, Netflix)

The slippery and shady Nolan Rayburn, AKA Danny’s son (Owen Teague)
(Bloodline, Netflix)

Chandler isn’t the only cast member to give a season winning-performance. Mendelsohn as Danny, is yet again owning the role of Danny Rayburn, earning another Emmy-nomination for the role. We see Danny’s character explored further in flashbacks. Spacek (The Help) gets many great scenes, showing us the loneliness of her naive matriarchal character, and Linda Cardellini continues to excel as the family lawyer Meg Rayburn, who seems to be losing her success because of Danny, even from the grave. She’s been living in New York City but her employers are seeing that she’s not focused and that her lack of focus is losing them clients.

I prefer this season to the last. That being said, if season one was excellent, season two was legendary. The season one finale was spoiled by the pilot but that wasn’t necessarily bad because we were subject to the story that led up to that event. Owen Teague is very much a doppelgänger of Danny and he plays Nolan superbly well. Nolan is very much Danny’s son, and that’s not a compliment. Season two is warped in mystery and has ending that makes me want season three that much sooner. Dammit Kevin!

Kevin Rayburn (Butz) & Meg Rayburn (Cardellini) have a heart to heart chat (Bloodline, Netflix)

Kevin Rayburn (Butz) & Meg Rayburn (Cardellini) have a heart-to-heart chat
(Bloodline, Netflix)

Season two of Bloodline is filled with excellent performances, great cinematography as well as a moving musical score. Also, I loved the relatable social commentary with consistent family feuds among the Rayburns. There are also links to the mob with heavy drug kingpin Wayne Lowry (Glen Morshower) and good performances from supporting characters like Chloë Sevigny (Love & Friendship) as Chelsea O’Bannon and Enrique Murciana (Power) as Marco Diaz. The second season of Bloodline is a thirteen hour crime drama with the story stretched over thirteen episodes. I guess that’s the beauty of Netflix television. They release the whole season at once and viewers can binge until their hearts content. They can wrap this story of murder and family up in one more season and hopefully Kevin will put a cork in his bottle of dumb decisions. Dammit Kevin! Get your act together.

Season two shows us how good and evil are merely relative concepts