This show was evocative of the dread of my youth. That I understood the character “Danny” (portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn) so well should not surprise anyone who knows me: his character was an amalgam of several people of my youth. Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard were stellar, but Ben as “Danny” stole the show. For those who know me intimately, the comparison to actual people will be obvious, except for those who don’t relish seeing themselves reflected in such a harsh light. We can all be Danny to some degree; most of us, however, reach a point where our destructive tendencies become impossible to manage or we drive away the people who should be close to us.
The show feels a slow-building book, one in which you expect the very worst. You root for a person’s better version to emerge – instead it slams you repeatedly across the forehead with the dread certainty that some people have no redemption. You begin to cheer for bad people who stay true to their nature, while hoping for those who are fooling themselves will be forced to face their choices. As each participant in the family realizes too late, Danny had no place at the table and that hoping for the best of him, even with good intentions, resulted in worse consequences. Each of them has to face their own demons, magnified by the family member who isn’t playing by their rules.
It is impossible for me to accurately capture how the building dread perfectly echoes the necessity of violence. In essence, “Bloodline” vividly spells out the ways that mean folk walk the earth, wearing the camouflage of normalcy, hiding their fangs – and how families only see what they allow themselves to see.
The inevitable violence took too long to bloom; however, it was not possible to look away from the impending explosion. The show takes the time to develop. The pages turn, one by one, until you are hoping to be there to witness the fruits of everyone’s willful ignorance. No matter how non-violent you are, you will be demanding that someone wake up and provide some righteous anger.
I used the picture of the matriarch and patriarch of the family sitting on the porch, as it contrasts the dark theme of the show. Nothing about this show is peaceful, even though it’s set in picturesque Florida, a place where normal people go to escape. For the Rayburn family, their history is there to greet them no matter where they temporarily flee to.
“Bloodline” was in most ways better than all other Netflix original shows.