Spring 2015 Review: Bloodline

24 Apr


Bloodline is a new Netflix show from creators Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, and Daniel Zelamn, the people behind the underrated FX show Damages. Damages came right before FX really hit the big time with Justified and Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story, but it’s was generally well reviewed by those who watched, and while I stopped watching in the third season, even though I don’t really remember specifically why, the first season in particularly was a well told and well -acted taut legal thriller that doesn’t get enough credit.

Damages relied on a gimmick which is incredibly overused and one of my least favorite; each episode contains some small snippets of present time and then most of the show was flashback (or most of the show in the present and small snippets of flash forward, if you will). Crazy things happened in the present, and the show would then shoot back to the past, so that viewers would wonder how the events could possibly move from point A to point B. The gimmick worked fine for the show as these things go, but it’s a lazy and cheap way to build tension and I was thus disappointed to see the exact same gimmick used in Bloodline’s first episode. I don’t remember Damages pilot exactly, but I think Damages started in the future and moved back, while Bloodline didn’t flash forward until later in the episode. Still, the use was essentially the same.

Bloodline is a family thriller. The patriarch and matriarch of the Rayburn family, played by Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, own a bungalow resort on the Florida Keys. They’re beloved around those parts, and the setting of the pilot is a family and friends weekend meant to celebrate a local pier being named after them. They have four grown children. John’s got a family and is in local law enforcement, although not the oldest, he seems like the caretaker. Kevin works with boats, Meg is an attorney. Danny, the oldest, is the black sheep of the family.  He’s nomadic, the least in touch with his family, and seems to have dabbled in drugs and at the least petty crime. He’s always getting into trouble and coming to the family for money, hanging around just long enough to break his mother’s heart when he leaves. Danny’s trouble, is the short of it, we’re led to believe. John clearly cares for him, despite his issues, as does his mother. Kevin and his father are tired of his act and Meg seems somewhere in the middle.

In the pilot, Danny, currently unemployed, is offered a presumably shady job by his crony and old running buddy. Considering the job, he instead decides to try to come back home and work with the family, which would thrill his mother, but not so much his father. After he drinks and does drugs too much and wakes up naked on the sand, any offer of family employment is rescinded and presumably that leaves him to rejoin some life of crime.

So that’s now. In the future it looks like, as John narrates, that he’s taking his brother’s dead or lifeliess body onto a boat and setting fire to it, killing him if he’s not dead already, and it’s implied, by John, that crazy things happened and that he had good reason for taking these actions.

Honestly, the episode was a little underwhelming. The primary cause of tension was the flash-forward, and as I mentioned that’s a gimmick that I don’t particularly care for. The rest of the show was fine; it wasn’t really boring per se and we were getting to know the characters but weighing the intrigue so heavily on the flash forward left the stakes in the present feel pointless. By no means was it a bad episode of television; it was even slightly above competent and the show did resonate with a certain basic standard of quality. The disappointment was only relative to my expectations from Netflix and the cast and creators. The cast is great certainly, the production values are solid, and as I’ve mentioned before I know the creators have done good work in the past, so I’m willing to cut the show a little slack personally going forwards. But as a pilot goes it really could have been better.

Will I watch it again? I think I’m going to but that’s more because of the pedigree and the Netflix connection, which has a pretty solid reputation and gives creators the ability to make slower pilots because they have a full season commitment. Also, I like all these actors. I was a little disappointed in the episode itself, and I wouldn’t have given many similar episodes another chance, but here’s hoping.

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