Bloodline continues as the specter of Danny Rayburn continues to cause problems for his estranged family
Netflix’s Bloodline was a mixed bag for some viewers. It started off well enough by giving a flash-forward into what’s expected from the Florida-set noir series. Driven by the early revelation that Danny Rayburn (Emmy nominee Ben Mendelsohn) dies and is burned by his brother John (Emmy nominee Kyle Chandler), viewers were largely propelled forward through the at-times sluggish narrative. It was the end game that drew us into the story. As such, the first season’s final three episodes served up some truly remarkable drama. Bloodline season two is nearly completely dedicated to the Rayburn family dealing with the fallout.
Clearly, the current two halves of the Bloodline story are meant to be taken as one complete whole. The series has always felt very novelistic in its approach to the story. Watching the luscious Key West-set locales and the noir-influenced interior cinematography, you could practically hear the florid description that would most assuredly fill a novel version. That look and feel is carried forward into the sweaty second season.
Sometimes, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, all there is is more darkness. – Bloodline‘s Lenny Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor)
What’s missing from Bloodline season two, though, is that sense of foreboding danger that pushed and pulled viewers through the weirdly paced first season. We wanted to know why Danny died. Here, though, the family attempts to bury the circumstances surrounding Danny’s death under lies, deception, secrets, and more lies. I’m only three episodes into the season, but I can tell you this: none of this will end well. Danny’s mysterious past introduces a series of new characters meant to avoid a sense of repetition but only serve to crowd the narrative. Owen Teague returns (after playing the young Danny Rayburn in tortured flashbacks) as Nolan Rayburn, Danny’s suddenly appearing son. Andrea Riseborough pops up midway the season as Nolan’s mother, Evangeline, who was receiving substantial monthly contributions from Danny’s father. The great John Leguizamo is also on hand as a former accomplice of Danny. They’re not enough to introduce any kind of newness to the material.
A third into the season, and I already feel that the story is being stretched beyond its capacity. Bloodline season two is already three episodes shorter than season one. Yet, the material feels padded beyond what the story can reasonably support. That said, the acting continues to be top notch with Chandler truly excelling as John, the story’s strong center trying to juggle the many complications of Danny’s death. Linda Cardellini turns in strong work as always, but no matter how much material she’s given she always feels wasted. Emmy nominee Mendelsohn returns in flashback and illusion form, so there’s little chance of a repeat nomination for him this season. In fact, only Chandler really seems suited to repeat as the season seems determined to tear him down.
And, honestly, season one spent so much time attempting to justify John Rayburn’s admittedly terrible actions (Danny is all but painted as a complete devil after threatening to kill not only his niece but also threatening his own mother). After all of that, why make John pay for the sins of the family? Everyone seems to turn against him, but he was only doing what he could to protect those who now seek to bring him down.
Bloodline season two ultimately fails, three episodes in admittedly, to justify its existence. After spending 13 episodes wallowing in the darkness of the story, did we really need a coda to remind us how bad people can be? Season one would have been just fine without tacking on a coda meant to deepen the impact of the first season. All it really does is shove our faces into the murk and forces us to breathe it in.
There are much better ways to spend the day.