TV: Bloodline

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I admit I didn’t have the highest expectations for this Netflix Original Series. I’m still old school (old fart?) enough that I’m a bit skeptical about how good these non-major players will be for creating content, even though there’s nothing too substantial backing up that concern. That said, I think “House of Cards” is pretty but dull and “Orange is the New Black” is light but silly … and if those are the big guns for Netflix, then maybe that’s why I’m still nervous about their original content.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I was interested in “Bloodline” in part because I thought the first season of the Kesslers/Zelman show “Damages” was a blast, but mostly because I really like Coach Taylor and Lindsay Weir and am happy to watch them in pretty much anything.

Those two definitely got me through the first couple episodes, but I was a little bit tentative about continuing. There wasn’t much story, just a lot of brooding atmosphere and a great cast seemingly floating in and out of the frame. Much like “Damages,” the show features so much great talent that you end up Googling the people you don’t know since they must be *somebody*. Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, one of the brothers from “Animal Kingdom”, Chloe Sevigny, guy from “Good Wife”…a lot of compelling people, for sure. By the third episode, though, I was in. The sketches of character development and all the narrative hints of the finale’s climax started combining into a tasty bait ball that I couldn’t resist. Heading into episode 12 (which feels like the end of the season, episode 13 feels a bit more like an epilogue), I realized all the little plot and character strands had lengthened and formed into a net that had totally scooped me out of the water and plopped me onto the the deck of the Rayburn Pier to wriggle around in the throes of a groovy death dance.

One of the things that really resonated for me personally was all the family drama. Despite the show’s nods at exploitation nitty gritty noir (casual drug use! casual bar sex! bar fights! boat fires!), “Bloodline” really felt like a dark melodrama from another period. The threat of the outsider brother to the domestic peace of the Rayburn family seems like a smart variation of the old Hollywood noir trope of the spouse who threatens the family by either stepping outside of it (ala Barbara Stanwyck recruiting Fred MacMurray to off her husband in “Double Indemnity”) or by bringing in a threat (like Cornel Wilde bringing Gene Tierney to the family home in “Leave Her to Heaven”). There’s no external figure here, however, the drama all hinges on the way the family responds to their own bad seed. The deeper the viewer sinks into that family, they’ll realize that no one’s clean — there are definite moments throughout the show where good and bad is really blurred and you’re not sure who to root for. A real hootenanny! And as the black sheep of my own family, I constantly was reminded that nothing I’ve ever done is as bad as all this; my parents should be thankful I was just a loafer instead of a full blown Danny Rayburn. Right? Mom?

Good stuff, see it!

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