Ask and you shall receive: Bloodline‘s third episode gives us insight into the sole Rayburn daughter.
Let’s bitch it out…
I spent the first two episodes of the series (here and here) lamenting the lack of insight into the female members of the Rayburn family. Sissy Spacek and Linda Cardellini are both excellent actresses, but the focus so far has been squarely on Kyle Chandler’s John and Ben Mendelsohn’s Danny, which left very little time for the matriarch and the daughter. Thankfully ‘Part 3’ rectifies this situation by delving into Meg’s psyche. Lo and behold, she’s a mess just like her older brothers.
Meg’s suspect home life has been fairly clear since the first episode: she is clearly eager to please, she’s too trusting (hence her willingness early on to give Danny another chance), and her relationship with boyfriend Marco (Enrique Murciano) is on shaky ground (after all, our introduction to Meg is as she cheats on Marco with Steven Pasquale’s Alec). ‘Part 3’ fleshes out and builds on these details. We learn that Alec is a rich client whose building development she is guiding in her professional capacity as a lawyer. We learn that Marco is not so daft that he doesn’t realize that she’s not fully committed to their relationship. And we learn that part of Meg’s eagerness to please her parents, especially her father, is because she is not, in fact, the only Rayburn daughter; she’s just the sole living daughter.
The spectre of Sarah (Angela Winiewicz) looms over Meg’s life (in the scene on the beach, Sarah literally dominates Meg’s vision). I particularly like that the writers don’t feel the need to explicitly spell things out for us. We first suspect that something is amiss at the hospital when Robert (Sam Shepard) mistakenly calls Meg the wrong name. Later we glimpse the absent Rayburn family member when John and son Ben (Brandon Larracuente) stumble onto an old home video that depicts Sarah at a family picnic. Clearly John was attempting to avoid this footage since he deliberately instructed Ben to look through only particular boxes. When Ben asks if the footage of Sarah should be included in the video they’re creating to help Robert recover from his stroke-induced memory lapse, John is quick to say no. Obviously a painful history associated with Sarah (and her death) and, like everything else on this series, the writers are in no big rush to explain the details. Events are unspooling at a leisurely pace, even as the skeletons in the family’s closet are starting to pile up.
The clearest example of Meg’s challenging role in the family is embodied by Robert’s will. It’s likely that this document – with its promise of money and family acceptance – holds the key to many of the misfortunes glimpsed in the flash forwards. It’s not entirely clear whether Robert is aware of the emotional burden he’s put on Meg by asking her to remove Danny from the will, but her delay suggests that she has struggled mightily with the responsibility. The fact that Robert is unable to sign should signal an opportunity to mend bridges and repair the familial damage before anyone gets hurt, but all signs suggest that the very presence of the revised will is what rips the family apart. There’s no confirmation that Danny sees the will when he snoops in Meg’s purse, but the fact that he later blackmails her by threatening to expose the motel room key hints that Danny is aware that he’s been cut out.
Both money and family acceptance are incredibly importance to Danny. His attempt to rejoin the family business is driven by multiple factors: he’s trying to prove that he is trustworthy and responsible, but he’s also trying to ingratiate himself at a time of crisis in order to profit from his father’s absence. The jostling is actually quite clever, but after three episodes it’s clear that despite Danny’s ability to connive and dupe, he’s also very emotionally fragile. Simply consider the way he acts throughout the episode: he’s genuinely aggravated when Sally and Meg question whether he will abandon the family and he throws temper tantrums when he isn’t immediately added to the payroll and when he feels he’s being short-changed on first paycheck. His reactions are irrational, demanding John plead his case to Sally for more money is childish and blackmailing Meg suggests a level of malicious intent, but he’s reacting from a place of hurt. Although I don’t particularly like the character, Mendelsohn is pulling off one hell of a tricky balancing act as Danny walks the narrow line between victim and criminal. It’s not hard to see why the family doesn’t trust him, but it’s just as easy to see how their arm’s length approach pushes him away.
Three episodes in the Rayburns continue to be a fascinating study in family dysfunction and repressed emotions. It’s no surprise that they’re on the verge of falling over a precipice. The question is who is responsible for what and how far do they go? John’s mildly aggravating voice-over infers that it is Meg who ultimately gets the ball rolling. If that’s true, then following the events of this episode, the shit should hit the fan fairly soon.
- The presence of the updated will is a bit of a Chekov’s gun: the moment it makes an appearance, it is destined to be seen by Danny. I’m fine with him discovering it, but I’ll admit that the circumstances in which he does were a little unreal to me. I have never met a woman leave her purse in a public space, even if a family member is nearby. Feel free to challenge me in the comments, but this didn’t ring true to me.
- Further insight on Meg, courtesy of Cici (Chloë Sevigny): apparently Meg was not popular with the other girls at school because she was so beautiful and constantly traded in her boyfriends for better models. Interestingly Cici claims that this behaviour is a Rayburn family trait.
- Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and Meg have an interesting sibling dynamic. She abandons a sexy night with Alec to drink with her brother, even though they’ve been mostly at odds with each other in every episode. Do they actually like each other?
- It’s hardly surprising to learn that Kevin’s wife, Belle, thinks that he is angry, childish, too social, and drinks too much (this resonates with what we’ve seen of him). What is surprising is how wounded he is that these behaviours were highlighted by his wife when she revealed she was relieved about having a miscarriage. That’s pretty cold.
- John’s case with the murdered teen girl is still on the back burner. It is seriously not well integrated into the narrative!
- Finally: do these people never sleep? They seemingly all work day jobs and then spend half the night drinking. I’m exhausted just watching them!
- John (to Danny): “If you want to be part of the family business, you got to have responsibility for the family name. We all do.” And therein lies the issue
- Danny (reminding Meg why she doesn’t need to marry Marco): “Because you’re not her.” Apparently everyone knows that daddy issues are what’s driving Meg.
Your turn: do you feel like you know Meg more now? Does the confirmation of a second Rayburn daughter offer any insight beyond Meg’s motivations? Do you think that Danny’s omission on the will instigates the flashforward murder? What is going on with John’s case and do we even care? Finally, are you surprised that Danny blackmails Meg? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting any spoilers beyond this episode.
Bloodline is now available in its entirety on Netflix.