Lew Ritter Reviews “Bloodline” Season Two
by Lew Ritter
Ah, to be a member of the Rayburn clan. They are rich and influential in their community. The family owns a popular bed and breakfast Inn in the sunniest, most romantic part of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, aka the Florida Keys. At one point, they were going to name a local landmark after the family. Yet like many families, the bright surface image rarely reflects the murky problems laying beneath the calm surface.
This spring saw the release of the second season of Netflix’s popular series Bloodline. It is the Family Noir drama created by Todd and Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman. They were the producers of the wonderful series Damages. Season One dealt with the arrival and dramatic departure of one of the most troubled member of the Rayburn clan.
The sudden arrival of Danny, the older brother and “black sheep” of the family, during the celebration of fifty years of the Inn signaled trouble in Paradise. His troubled past and engagement in low level drug dealing was a blight on the family’s reputation. He had become an outcast because he had caused the tragic drowning death of one of the younger siblings. Danny played with working class gusto by Ben Mendelson was sympathetic despite his criminal past.
Much of the drama of Season One revolved around the family’s attempt to deal with their past and attempts to have him leave. Despite attempts at rehabilitation, much like the vaunted Al Pacino in Godfather III, Danny’s troubled past had drawn him back into low level drug dealing. At the season finale, Brother John lured him to an empty stretch of beach and killed him.
Danny’s demise should have been the tragic, but satisfying end to the drama of the Rayburns. However, it was merely the prelude to even more serious unraveling of the family during Season Two. It has provided more emotional character arcs and plot driven cliff hangers than the average series provides in five seasons.
The first dilemma the family faces in the second season is the sudden appearance of Nolan. He is the troubled and unexpected son of Danny. He shows up unexpectedly after father’s demise. Nolan is sort of the sullen boy who appears to be nothing but trouble. In an early episode, Nolan sneaks into John’s bedroom and starts stealing some possessions. Interestingly, Nolan’s character arc moves from menacing kid to becoming more sympathetic as the series unfolds. At the end, he appears to have become part of the Rayburn clan and confident of Sally, the mother of the Rayburn clan.
John, the younger brother played by Kyle Chandler, appeared in the first season as the “Good Brother.” He was sensible and grounded, in essence, the rock of the dysfunctional family. He seemed to be on the fast track to becoming sheriff of the county.
In Season Two, he seemed to have lost his way. His attempts to cover up the family’s involvement in Danny’s death constantly unravel. His dark side emerged, as he fails to cover the tracks of the family’s involvement in Danny’s demise. At first, he attempted to pin the death on a local drug dealer.
His former partner Marco and the Sheriff Aquirre, managed to untangle the elements of Danny’s demise. The airtight story kept getting punctured. In the end, Diana, John’s wife discovers the truth about Danny’s death in some of the finest dramatic scenes of the second series. This sends John spiraling down further down his path to destruction.
Meg, the high flying lawyer, became more of a spectator in the events. Increasingly desperate as her life falls apart, she attempts to manage John’s campaign for sheriff and fend off the dangerous Ozzy, (John Leguizamo) a sleazebag who attempts to use his knowledge of Danny’s past to blackmail the family.
In Season One, Kevin, The younger brother, seemed to have a minor role in the series. In Season two, his role increased, as he struggled to save his failing boat business, quit drinking and faced fatherhood. He proved to be the weak link in the family’s attempt to cover their tracks. Driven by doubts and his own weakness, his actions set up the shattering climax and the tragedy for an upcoming Season Three.
The entire cast was terrific. The show‘s characters were believable and the plot twists startling. It seemed the producer’s took a special delight in surprising the viewers with some unexpected turns of events. Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardinelli and Norbert Leo Butz ( John, Meg and Kevin) are fully dimensional and tragic characters. Jacinda Barrett brought surprising energy to her role as John’s wife, as she discovered the truth about the demise of Danny.
If you like fast paced action series, Bloodline is not for you. There are no car chases or fights to the death. Rather, it tended to be slow paced, moody and concentrated on revealing the tension and plot twists between its characters. It is shot in the sunny Florida Keys, but has many shots of the dark underside of Paradise.
Bloodline is an outstanding example of Family Noir. It follows a series of plot twists and shocking revelations in the family saga. It is a wonderful show to choose if you want to enjoy binge watching a gripping family drama. They reflects more of a day to day reality of family dynamics than all of the episodes of ‘Dallas combined.
Many viewers point to Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones or even The Sopranos as the ground breaking series in the new golden age of television In many ways, this show is underrated. It provided riveting character, amazing plot twists and revelations and suspense. It showed how limited multi –part series can create vibrant, characters who draw you in every week.
Each of the actors in the cast was first rate. John Leguizamo provides some comedic relief as the evil opportunist Ozzy. Owen Teague was the spitting image of Danny and played an outstanding role as Nolan. One of the less heralded roles was David Zayas as Sheriff Aquirre. Despite being a secondary character, he oozed menace in every scene.
In some ways, the show was weakened by the death of Danny, the series most compelling character. His character was the dramatic center of the first series. Ben Mendelson has become a much sought after actor as a result of his role in the show. The producers wisely kept him on despite his character’s death. Danny would appear in flashback sequences or in dream sequences where Danny would be debating family events with John. It proves that even when dead, you couldn’t keep a good character down.
Lew Ritter is a frequent contributor to TVWriter™. An aspiring TV and film writer, he was a recent Second Rounder in the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition.