Warning: This article contains spoilers regarding the first season.
Bloodline is not your typical murder mystery. By the end of the first of thirteen episodes, the audience already knows who is dead, and we've got a pretty good idea of who did it.
Set on the beautiful white sands of the Florida Keys, Bloodline is a family drama and a slow-burn thriller rolled into one, the gorgeous scenery a marked counterpoint to the darkness at the heart of its central characters, the Rayburn family. At the centre of the family is John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler, doing really great work here), a police detective and family man whose life is turned upside down by the return to town of his elder brother Danny.
As Danny, Mendelsohn is fantastic – creepy and menacing, a constant darkness in his eyes, but also oddly sympathetic. Because we don’t know exactly why his family treat him like an outcast, we find ourselves in his corner, even though he's clearly bad news. Many of the best scenes in Bloodline are between he and his mother Sally (Sissy Spacek, who went quiet after a series of iconic roles in the '70s, but remains a highly charismatic presence) or John. The chemistry is strong; you believe they are family.
Bloodline is a puzzle of a hundred pieces, revealed in seemingly random fashion. Only as the present day narrative progresses do the pieces of the past begin to fall into place. The humidity, the sweat visible on the characters’ skin and clothes, adds palpable tension to even the most mundane of scenes. The closest comparison is to Justified, another noir-ish drama bathed in sunlight. It’s a murder mystery which doesn’t ask who, but why – and to know why, we have to find out what happened when the Rayburn siblings were kids. What begins to unfold is a kind of Miami noir.
The Season 2 Problem - and 3 Potential Ways to Solve It
The bigger question for Netflix, though, might be the how: how can this series, which revolves so much around the life and death of Danny, continue on without its antagonist?
Reading what others have said about Bloodline, the subject of how far the show can go without Danny seems to be controversial. Perhaps I'm being swayed by the fact that I want to spend another two or three seasons with the Rayburns, but I believe it can evolve.
1. Sally's Search for Answers
For starters, there's the small matter of the three Rayburn siblings covering up a murder. John, Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) have lied to the police (hell, John is the police) - but perhaps a bigger deal is that they're lying to their mother. To the Rayburns, family is everything. John having murdered Danny in cold blood is something which will surely have to come out, so the stakes are pretty high.
In the finale we saw Sally using a retired investigator to get more info on Danny's whereabouts, only to be told that her children were lying to her. Bloodline's key party trick is the way it builds tension, the constant sense that everything's about to go horribly wrong. How far will Sally go to discover the fate of her son?
2. The Florida Keys Immigrant-Trafficking Kingpin
Wayne Lowry, the bait shop owner whose real income comes from importing boat-loads of immigrants into the Keys - and burning them alive if things get sticky - feels so much like a villain from Justified I sometimes forget I'm not watching that show. (If you've never seen Justified, you really should fix that. It's a beast.) In season 2 he's going to be on the warpath, and if we can't have Danny, Wayne Lowry seems like a pretty fair replacement.
3. Danny's other family
Lastly, there's the secret son who turned up on John's doorstep. The secret kid cliche may be overdone - and yes, I rolled my eyes at this sullen teenage boy wearing guyliner and rocking emo attire like he just got back from a Fall Out Boy gig circa 2007 - but he's another roadblock for John, and he'll probably become the person Sally dotes on as she mourns the absence of her son. My guess is he'll manipulate her, exactly the way Danny did. Another smart move would be to expand the role of Chelsea O'Bannon (an intensely watchable Chloe Sevigny), Danny's on-off girlfriend. Chelsea's a lot like the audience - she knows Danny is bad news, but she likes him in spite of it (or maybe because of it). At some point she's going to have to find out Danny's dead, and being a pretty feisty Southern girl, you know she won't just let that go.
Whatever happens, there's plenty of milage in this Netflix noir, as long as they play their cards right. Keep checking back for teasers and news from season 2, which should start coming in over summer.