Bloodline Season 1 Review

Review of: Bloodline
Isaac Feldberg

Reviewed by:
On March 19, 2015
Last modified:May 3, 2015


With its dark ambience, stony performances and deliberate pace, Bloodline has a dastardly reticence to it that may turn off viewers. But once the series starts to get its claws into you, a long night of binge-watching seems inevitable.

Bloodline Season 1 Review

Three episodes were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.

The Florida Keys have rarely felt chillier than in Netflix’s Bloodline. There’s an icy darkness in the opaque backwaters, a brooding undercurrent of dread that only the inured locals, never distracted tourists, ever seem to feel. Whether it’s the relentlessly off-putting heat, or the sense of terrible secrets hidden beneath the waves, the region is far from paradise. But for the Rayburn clan, the wealthy and tight-lipped family at the show’s inky-black core, it’s also the hard-won homeland, where they’ve established themselves as veritable pillars of the community and gathered the sort of local fame that most could only dream of.

That doesn’t make any of them particularly likable; parents Robert (Sam Shepard) and Sally (Sissy Spacek) preside over their domain with a phony humility, smiling gratefully as they’re handed honors by their neighbors only to look at one another with a holier-than-thou, “you betcha” smirk. The fully grown children haven’t fallen far from the tree, their charismatic exteriors undercut by a self-serving arrogance that lies just out of sight.

John (Kyle Chandler) is a peacekeeper and a lawman, who isn’t above deceiving his kin if it keeps him in their good books. There’s Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), whose broad grins and belly laughs quickly turn to quiet scheming and explosive violence when someone stands in his way, and youngest sister Meg (Linda Cardellini), who manages the family estate, all the while letting little lies widen the fractures between her siblings.

These three have carved out nice, little niches for themselves and stay cozy with Mom and Dad, whose beachside resort hotel is profitable enough to keep them afloat but sleepy enough to remain relatively low-maintenance. They don’t talk much about black sheep Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), the eldest son who left for the mainland after some dark chapter in the family history that the others were content to bury.

Danny’s return, ostensibly to attend a ceremony during which the Rayburns are having a pier named after them, is the spark that ignites a slow-burning fuse for some serious dramatic pyrotechnics. Like the gradual but inexorable rise of the evening tide, the family’s carefully maintained idyll begins to give way to something much darker and more sinister, with the Rayburns asking themselves how far they’re willing to go to protect what’s theirs.

Like the creators’ last series, DamagesBloodline gives occasional flashforwards, accompanied by John’s grim voiceover, that tell us the storm now gathering in the distance will hit soon and fast. “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing,” John admits. Someone’s dead, but how and why they got that way are questions the series will surely tease out answers to over the entire course of its 13-episode first season.

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