by Wyatt Smith
Disclaimer: this article will contain spoilers and analysis from the first season as well as the first 4 episodes of season 2 of Bloodline. Also, this review of bloodline will be a three part series in which I review the first four episodes in this piece, followed by two more pieces reviewing three episodes each. Enjoy!
Season 1 of Bloodline began with shots of each of the members of the Rayburn clan living their own individually successful lives, then coming together on a beautiful weekend at the Inn. The final scene of season 1 is John holding his brother's head under water screaming "When's it going to end?!" The juxtaposition of the opening and closing scenes parallels the juxtaposition of the Rayburn family's public image and their true nature. While the family consists of good-natured people, trouble can't escape their lives and handling it in a responsible manner is far from their strength.
Most shows revolve around issues regarding the characters in the show and how the issue is resolved and in what way. Once the issue is resolved it's usually put to rest and other problems appear to keep the viewer entertained. The first four episodes of season 2 in Bloodline take a much different approach.
Episode 1 acts as a bridge episode from season 1 to season 2, reminding the viewer of each character's situation. But it also serves as a glimpse into the post-traumatic stress that Kevin, Meg, and John face following the cover-up of Danny's legal troubles and death. All three continue to lie to their families, and all three of them fail to sustain their normal lives due to the guilt and fear their actions have caused. Kevin's boatyard is falling apart and his business is going under, along with his restraint for drug abuse. Meg isn't handling the stress of Danny's death coupled with her new career in New York, and is ultimately fired in the fourth episode. And John is knee-deep in potential trouble and has to deal with it every day at work as the investigation into Danny's death and the drug ring that Wayne Lowry runs is starting to unfold. On top of all this, Danny's unknown child turns up and his intentions are unclear to the family.
While most television shows resolve an issue and move on, Bloodline has devoted four hours to the mental and emotional fatigue that the Rayburn family deals with following Danny's death. While John takes on the role of keeping everything together and assuring everyone that everything will be okay, he's clearly suffering from a mental breakdown of his own due to stress. He regularly has vivid hallucinations in which Danny plays his conscious and the two speak aloud to each other, and in the fourth episode he envisions his family dreading a prison visit to see himself in the future. Kevin decides to start dealing cocaine and becomes caught up in a violent situation when his clients mistake him for an undercover cop. Episodes 1 through 3 feel like a whirlwind of despair as each character continues to crumble under the pressure. The constant stress and fear that these three struggle with is so clearly toxic and seems to wedge its way into every scene in an unsettling way. It's very interesting to see how a series of poor decisions in the first season lead to a situation that the Rayburn family seemingly can't fix in the second season.
If the previous three episodes are an arc of desperation and regret, episode four is the peak. Wayne Lowry has a hold on John because he owns a tape that Danny recorded revealing what illegal steps John took to protect his brother before he died. Since John is running for Sheriff, he acts as Lowry's puppet and feeds him inside information. This is when John's hallucinations start becoming frequent, as he tampers with evidence and helps Lowry traffic humans and drugs into the Keys. Kevin, who Meg bails out of jail, faces a DUI and possession charge and doesn't know who to turn to following his breakdown. And Meg gets fired from her job in New York for failing to return in time for a client meeting and failing to alert her firm, along with her previous poor decisions.
But back to John. This episode serves as a cross roads for his character and judgement. As he talks to Danny (his conscious), he faces the dilemma of following in Danny's footsteps as the "bad boy" in order to protect his image or double crossing Lowry and facing the consequences. The last 15 minutes of the episode are riveting, and John's inner conversation alternates with Lowry's trafficking operation occurring at the same time. As the operation proceeds, it appears that John has decided to lie to his fellow detectives and protect himself, but at the last moment Lowry's people are apprehended by the police. John gets called down to Lowry's bait shop to help with the arrest, and as he arrives Lowry is found dead. I, along with John, let out a huge sigh of relief to see that the situation has come to an end and anyone who had any knowledge of John's illegal activities is terminated.
John and Marco travel to Vicente's home to pass along the news of Lowry's death. Vincente breaks down, but not from relief or joy. He starts to confess to the murder and proceeds to uncover the knife that stabbed Lowry multiple times. Vincente says that confession is a cleanse of the soul in his religion, and he will face any punishment that comes his way. This conclusion of Vicente as the murderer was foreshadowed when he was praying the rosary in a frantic manner earlier in the episode.
Numerous times throughout the first four episodes a situation escalated to its peak and then fizzled out. It seems as though this will become a recurring theme as important characters face their demons and sit on their hands rather than clear their conscious. I also think that the theme of deception and the destruction and chaos it can cause will remain prevalent. Whether or not John ends up confessing to some or all of his crimes, the trouble surrounding Danny's murder won't go away and my guess is that Marco will stumble onto something and pursue it to John's displeasure. The Bloodline writing is great and the acting is even better, so whatever is in store for the next three episodes will be reviewed again by yours truly in the coming days.