Bloodline: Season 1 created by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman (Netflix, KZK Productions, Sony Pictures Television)
Starring Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbet Leo Butz, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shepard.
A New Kind of Show
If you haven’t logged on to Netflix lately, you’ll be surprised at the amount of Netflix-specific programming. The manner in which content releases creates new viewing experiences. The first hint at this new frontier occurred with House of Cards as the whole season released at once caused binge watchers to… well… binge.
The release-the-season-all-at-once strategy allows the writers and producers to reconsider how to approach a show. While Bloodline isn’t the binge-watching cocaine addiction of its Netflix brethren, the medium provides intriguing avenues for releasing detail in this slow burning family drama.
Meet the Rayburns
Set in the Florida Keys, Bloodline follows the Rayburn family. The patriarch, Bob (Sam Shepard) owns and operates a hotel with his wife, Sally (Sissy Spacek). Their four adult children perform different roles within the family with varying influence.
The oldest, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), represents the black sheep of the family. He’s mysterious and often out of the picture. He arrives home mostly out of obligation as the local community is honoring the Rayburn clan with the dedication of a dock.
The second oldest, John (Kyle Chandler) functions as the glue for the rest of the family. A straight-laced police detective, he shoulders the burden of the family name.
The youngest brother, Kevin (Norbet Leo Butz) has the fire of his father and the temper to match. Struggling through rough martial waters and trying to keep his business afloat, he’s in a precarious position.
And finally, the daughter, Meg (Linda Cardellini), struggles with commitment. Her long-term boyfriend, Marco (Enrique Murciano), doesn’t move her as much as her work as a local attorney does.
Slowly, over the course of the season, the viewer discovers the wretched history that haunts the entire family and the unraveling nature of the present, in many ways, functions as a natural continuation of this family’s history.
Bad things happen, and the slow burn to get there intrigues.
But for me, the most interesting part of this show exists through its format. The show jumps around with flash forwards and flash backs, slowly weaving details together to create a strong fabric.
Visually, the show plays with setting to convey these ideas. A mother packing her bags quickly in the past splices with the same person in the present watching those bags packed in the mirror. A brother looks in the rearview mirror to see his sibling in his teenaged years, suffering from the trauma of a broken family.
These details and dark themes juxtapose against the beauty and serenity of the Florida Keys setting, gloriously shot.
Because the writers know that these episodes will be released all at once, it allows them to withhold the reveals much longer, building from the periphery inward so that the final episodes pack an impactful punch. I would never imagine such delay being a successful strategy on network television.
While the cinematography and the acting are strong, the slow build isn’t for everyone. I recommend Bloodline for those interested in detailed, family dramas.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5