There’s an air of finality hanging over ‘Part 4’ as we explore patriarch Robert Rayburn’s (Sam Shepard) point of view.
Let’s bitch it out…
I have to say that the most surprising aspect of ‘Part 4’ is the fact that Robert doesn’t die. I fully expected for him to keel over at several points, which is clearly what writers and creators Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman intend. With the threat of a signed will hanging over every interaction, Robert’s death seems like a foregone conclusion because it will wring the most drama out of the proceedings. The fact that he didn’t die doesn’t mean that his head isn’t still on the chopping block – it just means that this isn’t the episode when it happens. The result is an episode with a sense of impending doom and gloom hanging over it, despite the hot Florida sun pervading nearly every scene.
Much like ‘Part 3’, this episode gives us immediate insight into a character. Last episode it was Meg; here it is Robert. There are numerous shots from his point of view (often when Ben Mendelsohn’s Danny is around) and, of course, we’re privy to his memories as he recalls the events that instigated the family rift: Sarah’s (Angela Winiewicz) death. From the flashbacks, we can infer that Danny crashed an out of control boat into the dock and accidentally killed Sarah, although – as with everything on this show – we should probably take that with a grain of salt. Knowing Kessler, Kessler and Zelman, there’s likely more to the story than just the pieces we’ve seen.
In the present day, we see Robert slowly re-acclimatize back into daily life around the family resort. His scenes with wife Sally (Sissy Spacek) are valuable because we haven’t seen much of their relationship. Turns out they’re fairly revealing: Sally still clearly wants Danny to stick around, but she’s also got her head firmly buried in the sand. Their conversation as she makes dinner when she refuses to discuss the will speaks to her ignorance about Robert’s failing health; she’s firmly in denial that anything needs to be decided, preferring to reiterate the longevity of the status quo.
The simple fact, however, is that things have changed. Danny is a visible presence around the property, orienting a new family to their surroundings (including Damages’ Anastasia Griffith) and encouraging the young daughters to go snorkelling. From an outsider’s perspective, Danny is a model employee: he’s funny and personable. To Robert, however, Danny’s presence is unhealthy: each time he sees his son, he flashes back to his eldest daughter’s accident. Danny’s presence is contributing to Robert’s poor health; it’s cause and effect.
Everything logically builds to the dramatic confrontation between father and son over boardwalk beers. Initially I misread the scene (blame the earlier interaction between Robert and Linda Cardinelli’s Meg when Robert seems to soften on the idea of cutting Danny out of the will). I definitely thought that Robert would conditionally welcome Danny back into the fold. Instead the long simmering tension explodes after Robert quietly asks Danny to leave. The dialogue is very revealing: Danny is more than happy to vacate the premises and never return, but there’s a dollar figure attached that Robert doesn’t meet with his first pay-out offer (intriguingly we don’t know the specifics of either sum). Once again Mendelsohn leverages Danny’s likability to pull a bait and switch with our sympathy – up until the point that Danny grits his teeth and demands more money from his father, I was firmly on his side because of how genuine Danny has been. It’s a testament to Mendelsohn’s talent that he can pull this trick episode after episode.
So now we’re at a fork in the road: Robert wants Danny gone and Danny wants more money. The question is whether Robert will actually come through with the funds…or will he die, disowning Danny financially and kicking the series into full-on sibling vs sibling conflict? My money is on the latter option.
- This is the first episode without voice-over or flash forward scenes. Did that affect anyone’s enjoyment?
- The gender-divided scenes are interesting. The guys bond over baseball and the restoration of Robert’s old Chevy (the silent scene of them all driving down the highway is gorgeous, and tellingly relies on no one talking. The family gets along when everyone is silent). The ladies, meanwhile, gossip over drinks and burps. I’m intrigued whether these glimpses into gender division will continue to highlight how the family interacts (the women are so much more animated when they’re by themselves!)
- Admit it: you totally thought Robert was dead at that ball game, didn’t you?
- Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and Belle’s (Katie Finneran) miscarriage continues to percolate in the background. Robert unknowingly rubs salt in Kevin’s wounds by inquiring when he’ll have a son while Belle refuses to discuss the event with Meg during the ladies’ lunch.
- I’m hesitant to say that John’s (Kyle Chandler) case is heating up, but there is more clarity about what is going on. The opening scene with what I’m presuming are illegal immigrants being smuggled aboard a boat that explodes is an excitingly grim way to begin the episode and the image of a woman’s body floating down the river later is haunting and evocative. We now know that O’Bannon (Jamie McShane) is involved with the man behind the operation (no surprise there), hence the shady job and the repurposed gasoline from episodes one and two.
- Side Bar: did we know that Meg’s long-term boyfriend / not-fiancé, Marco (Enrique Murciano), is John’s partner on the force? Should we crack wise about how good an investigator he must be if he hasn’t figured out his girlfriend is cheating on him?
- As for Meg, she gets courted by the firm working with Alec (Steven Pasquale) after he pulls out of the development project. He claims that he was uninvolved in the offer to wine and dine her in NY, but – like Meg – I have my doubts. I have to say, though, this story line feels like the definition of a non-starter. Meg isn’t going anywhere (at least not in the immediate future). We’ll see how she’s doing around ep 12 or 13 when the bodies start to drop.
Your turn: do you think that there’s more to the story of Sarah’s death than what we’ve seen? Were you expecting Danny to make financial demands when he sat down with Robert? Is Meg’s story line with Alec going anywhere? Do you feel like John’s case is heating up? Do you hope that we’ll get more insight into Sally soon? Finally, will Robert die in the next episode? Sound off below, but please refrain from spoiling upcoming episodes.
Bloodline‘s first season is available in its entirety on Netflix.