Towards the end of last year, one of my friends recommended Bloodline to me and I’m very pleased he did. One of Netflix’s original dramas in 2015, it was soon a firm favourite of mine, due to its intelligent and engaging writing, multi-layered characters and the fact that it keeps you guessing from beginning to end. One thing is certain though – when you watch Bloodline, you need to be paying attention.
After a shorter wait than those who tuned in twelve months ago, I’ll finally get to see what the next chapter has in store for the Rayburn family when series 2 arrives on Netflix later this week. Therefore, now is the ideal time to catch up on one of the strongest dramas on television at the moment.
Created by Glenn Kesler, Todd A. Kesler and Daniel Zelman, the trio behind one of my all-time favourite series Damages (more on that here – if you didn’t watch it, then add that to your list too!), Bloodline is all about the Rayburn family headed by Robert and Sally, who have run a small hotel on the beach in the Florida Keys for 45 years. We meet them as the whole family is coming together to celebrate this 45th anniversary, including eldest son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), the clear black sheep of the clan. Over the course of the thirteen episodes, we watch how all of their lives are affected by his return and see how, despite the setting, not everything in their lives is paradise.
One of the aspects I love most about this series is its structure. Following the mould set by its creators’ previous success Damages, glimpses in to the future are used to tease the audience about the path that lies ahead for this family. By the end of the first episode, it’s clear that the not too distant future does not look rosy for the Rayburns. The big questions though remain unanswered – what happens along the way to get them to that point and who in the family knows the truth? It is an incredibly effective way of hooking the audience early. You know more than the characters do and are intrigued by the mysteries that lie ahead.
There are also glimpses in to the past along the way, which only add more questions – who is Sarah? What happened to her and how has that impacted on the family? A series that keeps you guessing and reveals its secrets at its own pace is always one that will keep me engaged and enthralled.
One of Bloodline’s other great strengths is the quality of its cast. Mendelsohn is superb as Danny; he is a character you change your view on many times and his performance is always one from which you are never sure what to expect. However the rest of the cast is great too. Kyle Chandler plays his brother Detective John Rayburn brilliantly. He has clearly been forced to take the elder sibling role and you are conscious of the pressure of expectation he feels, whether from a responsibility to his siblings or his parents. Norbert Leo Butz and Linda Cardellini are very good as the remaining siblings, each with their own complicated lives, in to which the reappearance of Danny is something they could do without.
Heading the family is the brilliant pairing of Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek and you sense each has their own skeletons in the closet. As a unit they are fantastic and because they are all equally capable of holding the screen and the audience’s interest, it allows the writers to weave in strands for each of them, which gradually come to link in to the overarching questions you have by the end of the series opener.
I’d also be surprised if you don’t recognise an aspect of your own family’s dynamic when watching the Rayburns, whether it’s the mother with her favourite can do no wrong child, to the daughter always trying to make her father proud, to the brother who feels he has to be a stable force for the rest of his family on top of his own problems.
I admit, especially early on, there is quite a lot of talk in Bloodline and perhaps some may feel there are too many dialogue-heavy scenes and not enough actually happening. However, the writing wonderfully builds up events, as the jigsaw pieces start to slot in to place. Also, it’s certainly lovely to watch a show set in such a paradise – clear water, sunshine, white sandy beaches; the ideal backdrop for a story containing buried family secrets!
Series 2 of Bloodline arrives on Netflix on Friday 27th May 2016, just in time for the weekend. If you are in need of a new series and enjoy intelligent dramas, that are well written and strongly acted, then I highly recommend you give it a try!
The first series of Bloodline is available to watch now on Netflix. Series 2 is available from 27th May 2016. For a taster, here’s the trailer to the first series.