After watching a couple episodes here and a couple episodes there over the past two weeks, I finally finished the first season of Netflix’s newest series Bloodline last night. Since releasing all 13 of its Season 1 episodes onto Netflix two weeks ago, Bloodline has received a good bit of critical praise and has already been renewed for a second season by Netflix, an announcement that was made this past Tuesday.
Much like the buzz that constantly surrounds House of Cards, Bloodline seems to be leaving quite the positive impression on people, especially as more and more of them begin to finish its first season. And that’s because the final few episodes of Bloodline are pretty riveting television, filled with dark, meaty material that the talented likes of Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, and Linda Cardellini (among others) get to dig their teeth into. However, the eight episodes that come before Bloodline starts to kick things into high gear? Most of those are long, meandering, and tedious hours of television, which make Bloodline just as frustrating as it is fantastic, an uneven but ultimately rewarding family drama that’s worth your time if you can sit tight through some of the show’s early rough patches.
[Spoilers from the first season of Bloodline to follow]
Although Bloodline‘s logline declares that it’s the story of the Rayburn family, that’s not actually the case. No, instead the Netflix series is more of an examination at the tense and tumultuous relationship between two brothers, John (Chandler) and Danny Rayburn (Mendelsohn), who have such a deep, rich, and incredibly complicated history. Every scene that John and Danny share in Bloodline‘s first season, from their initial greeting to each other in the series premiere to their brutal fight in the penultimate episode of Season 1 (which results in John’s drowning of Danny) crackles with intensity. It’s by far the most well-developed, complicated, and interesting dynamic on the show.
In fact, the compelling nature of John and Danny’s relationship is so strong and powerful from the beginning that it makes pretty much everything else in Bloodline‘s early episodes appear weak in comparison, especially the connections that John and Danny’s two sibling have with their eldest brother. While John and Danny’s complicated relationship is well-defined early on, both Meg and Kevin’s feelings towards Danny seem almost superficial in the show’s opening hours. From their debate about letting Danny stay to their discussion about whether or not to give him some of their father’s money after he dies suddenly (since Danny was written out of the will), Kevin and Meg’s choices never feel grounded in anything real–their relationships with their eldest brother are thin sketches that are simply used to service the plot when a new secret or lie (ugh, so many stupid, repetitive lies) needs to create conflict.
For much of the first half of Season 1, it’s as if Kevin and Meg are in a different show. They’re both having romantic problems with their significant others; Meg isn’t sure if she wants to consider a job opportunity in New York, while Kevin struggles to come up with money to expand his business. Their interactions with Danny range from normal and happy (he and Kevin work to fix their dad’s old truck together) to wildly uncomfortable (Danny hints at Meg’s affair in front of Marco after she and he get engaged), but they lack the substance that make John and Danny’s scenes so gripping.
And that’s why the later episodes of Bloodline (“Part 9” through “Part 13,” to be exact) are so superior to their predecessors, because they turn the attention of the show over almost entirely to John and Danny, while having Meg and Kevin’s actions inform the bond they already have with John, a much more interesting story choice than what the series was trying to force before. It’s in these moments from the show’s final few Season 1 hours that Bloodline is at its best, presenting us with a more intimate look at all four of these siblings and showing viewers the raw, ugly outcome that can be caused by the festering of long-rooted family secrets and lies. And that’s the Bloodline that I hope we get more of when the series returns to Netflix for its second season next year.
[Photos via Netflix]
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