I love a good marathon. Put a new show on Netflix, and I’m there, powering through a whole season in about a day; lately, Netflix has been giving us plenty of shows to binge-watch. Originally, I had planned to review the new Tina Fey Netflix comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I watched the entire first season in about 4 hours, and it was really good! Honest! It’s clever and charming, and Ellie Kemper is wonderful in the role of a girl who was rescued from an underground doomsday cult. But then – it happened. I saw an ad for a new show, Bloodline, that had just been released the day before. And look who’s in it: COACH TAYLOR!
The pilot episode opens in the most ominous of ways – a shot of a stormy beach, and Chandler saying, “Sometimes, you know something’s coming.” He goes on to say that his brother, who we assume immediately to be the black sheep of the family, is returning home. And when long-lost brothers come home, they tend to bring a lot of baggage with them.
Bloodline is the story of the Rayburns, a family who have lived in the Florida Keys for decades, running a beachfront hotel. They’re well-liked and well-respected members of their community, and the sort of family that you look at and think, wouldn’t it be cool to be their kid. Of course nothing is ever that easy, and the Rayburns, despite their charm and good intentions, are actually pretty screwed up – they’ve just done a good job of hiding it from outsiders. How screwed up? Well…here’s the thing. Every family has secrets and skeletons in the closet. The Rayburns, however, have ALL of the skeletons. They’re so dysfunctional that they make the rest of us look like the Cleavers.
Chandler plays Detective John Rayburn, a guy who’s just trying to do right by his family and his community. Things are complicated by the return of Black Sheep Brother Danny (the superb Ben Mendelsohn, who steals every scene he’s in). It isn’t immediately clear why Danny is the black sheep, and for a moment you almost feel sorry for him. The remarkable thing about Mendelsohn’s acting is how quickly your sympathies start to fade as you realize that Danny isn’t just the bad son, he’s a straight-up villain. Chandler’s foreboding words at the beginning were right. Something did come home with Danny, and what follows is a wonderfully dark and dramatic thriller about the unraveling of an ostensibly perfect family.
Bloodline was created and written by Todd Kessler, Glenn Kessler, and Daniel Zelman; fans of the show Damages will recognize their signature time-jumps (both forwards and backwards), as they get closer to finally revealing the Rayburns’ painful past and complicated future. Supporting Mendelsohn and Chandler in the cast are Linda Cardellini (as dutiful sister Meg), Norbert Leo Butz (hot-headed brother Kevin), and Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard as the seemingly beloved parents, Sally and Robert. Does it get much better than that?
How good is Bloodline? Well, if you’re a fan of crime dramas, I think you’ll be more than pleased. I certainly was. The pace of the story seems to drag a little at first, but I didn’t mind; by the end of the season, I was ready to chew my fingernails off. It’s among the best – if not the best – original programming that Netflix has offered to-date. Here’s hoping it’s renewed for a second season, because what I saw definitely left me wanting more.