A tragedy further divides the Rayburn family and exposes the ghost of a traumatic incident from the past as Netflix’s Bloodline continues.
Let’s bitch it out…
Bloodline continues to be a slow-burn as the second episode focuses on the family’s secret destructive past. There are certainly echoes of the narrative structure employed in ‘Part 1’ as this second chapter opens and closes with a brief flash forward to the night of Danny’s (Ben Mendelsohn) supposed death. In the rainy future, we see a distraught looking Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), after he has seemingly broken into a non-descript location to access an untraceable gun to give to John (Kyle Chandler). As with Damages, it is unclear when this flashforward occurs in the timeline or whether it can be taken at face value, but on the surface this would appear to take place before the events we see in ‘Part 1’.
The main body of the episode (thankfully lighter on John’s purple prose voice-over) concerns the complicated family history that was hinted at in the first episode. We learned that Danny is the black sheep, that he struggles with his worst impulses, especially when it comes to criminal enablers like Eric (Jamie McShane), and that his brothers and sister aren’t interested in giving him another shot. Following the flash forward, this episode’s opening scene literally re-creates the closing of ‘Part 1’ (minus some dialogue), which is an interesting way to overlapping / bridging the two parts. Instead of boarding a bus, Danny is picked up by Eric, who coerces him into helping out on a job the next day. We briefly see the rest of the Rayburns discuss his departure, in particular Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Robert (Sam Shepard). The family patriarch noticeably lies, or perhaps he just avoids telling his wife the whole truth, about his involvement and Sally declares she’s “over” Danny in a surprisingly hurried and not entirely convincing fashion (Spacek isn’t given enough time to flesh Sally out so I wasn’t entirely certain how to interpret Sally’s various reactions in this episode).
Things become far more interesting when ‘Part 2’ employs a literal black-out during a significant dramatic moment. After Danny appears on the beach during his father’s morning kayak, the screen cuts to black for several seconds after which we learn that Robert is in the hospital with head trauma. The natural reaction is to question Danny’s involvement, after all we’ve been primed to consider the worst in him. But Bloodline is less interested in telling a conventional story of a “bad” man than a nuanced examination of how the good and the bad contribute to a person’s make-up (evident in both the overarching mystery of the flashforward sequences and the show’s tagline about “good people doing bad things”). It’s telling that when we finally learn what happened via flashback, Danny didn’t bash his father on the beach. No, the truth is much simpler: Robert is sick, he had a stroke and he fell out of his kayak (Side Note: what’s interesting is that Danny seemingly already knows about his father’s health issues. How does he know?)
The news of Robert’s injuries confirms our suspicions about the other Rayburn children. Meg (Linda Cardinelli) works overtime to win her mother’s attention by literally taking over her (unnecessary by all appearances) responsibilities to the family business. Kevin, meanwhile, flies off the handle, believing the worst of his older brother and paying questionable witnesses to divulge information about Danny’s involvement (considering his irrational reactions, if I were one of those guys, I would probably be telling him what he wants to hear). Only John manages to keep calm, but as his voice-over infers, this is only because he is no longer like his tempermental father. The truth of that statement comes out in two near identical, but separate flashbacks to a key childhood incident recalled by both Sally and John. We learn (or at least we’re led to believe) that Danny’s injuries are the result of childhood abuse at Robert’s hands: injuries that landed him in the hospital and may be tied to his persistent shoulder injury and pain killer addiction.
With this second episode we’re beginning to peel back the layers of this affluent, privileged family. If the first episode was dedicated to positioning Danny and John as very different brothers, this second episode has begun to explore the origins of Danny’s “bad seed” status. It will be interesting to see if Bloodline continues to investigate how childhood events contributed to the family’s current woes as it builds to a future in which they murder each other. The show is still very clearly a slow burn, but after only two episodes, there are enough intriguing, dangling plot threads to leave us wondering how everything fits together.
- Meg is by far the least developed of the Rayburn children. Perhaps this will be rectified in future episodes, but it’s certainly disappointing considering Cardinelli’s talent and the capacity of KZK to write complicated, interesting women.
- Speaking of interesting, complicated women, ‘Part 2’ introduces Chelsea O’Bannon (Chloë Sevigny) as Eric’s sister. She seemingly has a history with the Rayburns – flirty with Danny, confrontational with John – that offers further hints on the past.
- Neither Belle (Katie Finneran) – Kevin’s wife, nor Diana (Jacinda Barrett) – John’s wife, are being given much to do other than act concerned about their respective spouse. The suggestions that Kevin is the “hot head” of the family and Belle’s attempts to calm him on the dock infer that Kevin, and by extension Belle, may have a larger role to play in the violence to come.
- The body of the young girl that John discovered in the water portends the appearance of a violent, sadistic killer. The girl suffered severe third degrees burns and contusions before she was drowned and left in the ocean for eight hours. Lovely…
- There’s a possibility that the murder is tied to Eric’s mystery employers, whom he describes to Danny as really bad men. It’s difficult to judge the exact nature of the job that they’re performing simply from the jugs of gas that they’re moving, so we’ll have to wait and see if this is expanded on in future episodes.
- Finally, no sign of Mia Kirshner’s mystery woman. Does this support my hypothesis that she’s not real?
Your turn: what did you think of this second episode? Is the show too much of a slow-burn for you? Did you enjoy the use of the black-out to complicate the events between Danny and Robert on the beach? Are you disappointed in the show’s reluctance to develop and/or use its female characters? And how does the murdered girl fit into the larger narrative, particularly the flash forwards to Danny’s murder? Sound off below, but please adhere to the no spoiler policy and restrict your comments to the current episode.
Bloodline is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Tune in next Friday for a review of episode three.