BLOODLINE: Rooting for the Bad Guy.


by Lew Ritter

Normally, in movies or TV, you root for the hero to conquer the villain and win their objective. However, real life is rarely so clear cut.

One of my binging pleasures for the recent few months has been a NETFLIX series called BLOODLINE. It is a series written and produced by Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman. They are the successful producers behind the successful multi-year cable series DAMAGES starring Glen Close as a power hungry mega – lawyer.

Similar to DAMAGES, BLOODLINE is a densely plotted serialized drama. It revolved around the celebration of Fiftieth anniversary of the Rayburns hotel in the lush Florida Keys. The entire Rayburn clan has gathered to honor the Mother and Father played by Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard.

The cast stars Kyle Chandler, a local sheriff, as John. Linda Cardinelli as Meg the lawyer, and Norbert Leo Butz, as Kevin, who rents boats out of the local boat outlet. Ben Mendelson plays the outcast older brother Danny.

The Rayburn hotel is an honored Key West landmark. The entire family is gathered to celebrate the landmark event. A pier is going to be named in their honor. What could possibly go wrong?

The charismatic Kyle Chandler is nominally the star of the show. Chandler has been the star of numerous shows in the past including the critically acclaimed FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. As John, the local sheriff, he is the moral rock and center of the family.

Linda Cardinelli is Meg, the family lawyer. She is morally challenged. She has a fiancé that is cheats on her. The first scene that we see of her getting a “quickie” in the car on the way to the Rayburns hotel to help plan the celebration.

Norbert Leo Butz, plays Kevin, the volatile youngest son. He has his own share of issues to deal with his fiancé and business.

However, the series is stolen by Ben Mendelson. Mendelson is perfect as Danny, the black sheep of the family. Although the actor is Australian, he a perfect American accent and looks like an average working class Joe. From the first time we see Danny, it’s clear that he has been hurt by unknown events that have shaped not only him but his entire family. He can be charming and devious, but above all, he is sympathetic. He just wants to belong.


From the time Danny appears to rejoin his family, he is a constant source of friction. His father bitterly opposes  Danny’s very presence but lets the decision rest with his children. John is wary but supportive of his older brother. The other two family members Kevin and Meg are skeptical, if not outright hostile to Danny’s return.

Much of the series’ mystery revolves around learning what happened to Danny in the past. The story unravels week by week with tantalizing clues.

One of the best episodes of the series is towards the end. Danny has lured John’s daughter out on a boat. The daughter is an innocent who worships her uncle. John is panicked when the daughter disappears. He’s beside himself when he learns that she is out on Danny’s boat. What are Danny’s plans for his niece?

Are his intentions evil or benign? Does he mean to harm the girl, or just take her for a simple boat ride? I was on the edge of my seat. It was perhaps the most suspenseful final ten minutes of the entire series, until we learned the fate of the girl.

In the real world, we all have demons to overcome. My dear friend Ed Harmon smoked too much, drank too much and did more coke than a human should ingest. He died an early unnecessary death. His demons got the best of him. Many people move past the problems and become stronger. Others succumb to the proverbial dark side and get lost.

I found myself rooting for Danny to break with his past. He’s someone I believe we all can relate to. Mendelson has proven himself to be such an interesting actor that I will gladly see any movie that he stars in.

But first I want to see what happens in BLOODLINE. NETFLIX has a big hit on their hands with this show and, of course, ending the season with a major cliffhanger. I can hardly wait for the next batch of episodes to see how it resolves.