TV Review - Bloodline

Ben Mendelsohn (left) and Kyle Chandler in 'Bloodline'
The black sheep of a family returns and causes trouble, pitting his brothers and sister against him in a very dangerous struggle with deadly consequences. Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman created this series. I didn't see their previous series Damages on FX, but here they've created an amazing and highly nerve-wracking set of episodes that rises to the level of Shakespearean tragedy.

Emmy-winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights and Early Edition) stars as John Rayburn, a veteran detective in the Florida Keys who is the golden boy of a well-known family that runs a hotel and a bit of a resort in Islamorada that does charters that takes guests onto the water for snorkeling and fishing. John has a wife, Diana, played by Jacinda Barrett, and two teenage children, Ben, played by Brandon Larracuente, and Jane, played by Taylor Rouviere.

Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom and Killing Them Softly) co-stars as Danny Rayburn, the older brother of the Rayburn children. He's the veritable black sheep. He was living in Miami or somewhere further north for a while. A family reunion and the future dedication of a pier in the family's name prompts his return to the Florida Keys and the "Rayburn House," which is what the hotel is called, as well as where his parents live.

However, it's apparent that there is some bad history between Danny and the family, specifically Danny's father, Robert, played by Sam Shepard. In fact, Danny asks John to ask their father if he can come back. Seemingly, Danny has been banished, an outcast for reasons that aren't apparent other than the fact that Danny looks like a drug addict, or a straggly drug dealer. John asks Robert but Robert says that he's going to put the decision into John's hands.

Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks and ER) co-stars as Meg Rayburn, the remaining sister of the Rayburn children. It's revealed that there were two sisters. Now, it's only Meg. Meg is a lawyer who works for the family business, as well as a small firm in the Keys. She's currently dating Marco Diaz, played by Enrique Murciano (Without a Trace and CSI), a detective who works with John. She's also having an affair with business developer Alec, played by Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me and The Good Wife).

Norbert Leo Butz plays Kevin Rayburn, the youngest brother of the Rayburn children but still in his mid to late thirties. He works for the nearby marina. He seems like a husky, surfer dude-type. He's dating Belle, played by Katie Finneran (I Hate My Teenage Daughter and The Michael J. Fox Show), and she seems like a former, surfer chick-type too, an earthy blonde.

When it comes to Danny coming back to the family home, John asks Meg and Kevin about it. Ultimately, John makes the decision that Danny should not be allowed to come back and actively rejoin the family. Danny doesn't just want to return. He also wants to work in the hotel, control things and be put into Robert's last will-and-testament. The bad blood between Robert and Danny made Robert cut Danny out of any inheritance, and John wants to keep it that way.

Thus begins a season-long battle between John and Danny. The sibling rivalry between all of them is the thrust. All the siblings battle. Danny especially goes after Meg and Kevin in specific ways. His attacks against Kevin are obvious with regard to his relationship with Chelsea O'Bannon, played by Chloƫ Sevigny, but the specific conflict between John and Danny is at the heart and core. John is a cop and Danny is a criminal, and the writers and actors do a fantastic job of putting them at odds in a clever way. There's only one bit of criticism. The show does a flash-forward and couple it with narration starting in Episode 1 that spoils events in Episode 12 and 13, the last two episodes.

One of my all-time favorite series Lost did flash-forwards in a way that worked extremely well. Ever since then, I've felt flash-forwards have been used to less effect. Tons of TV shows and films make the inciting incident, or narrative hook, a moment that takes place chronologically in the future from where the story actually starts. It's so common that often it gets ignored, but here the show inserts a flash-forward at the end of the first episode that reveals, spoiler alert, that John disposes of Danny's dead body.

The series does reference this flash-forward again in subsequent episodes. It doesn't hit us over the head with it constantly as in How to Get Away With Murder. It delves into the sibling rivalry and the characters in a darker and more horror-filled version of Brothers & Sisters.

Like the series Dexter, which was also set in southern Florida, this show makes great use of the landscape to make the area as much a character as anyone. The heat for example is very much felt. Kyle Chandler's shirts are always sweaty. His investigation into murders on the water of burned victims reveal the ugliness and the beauty here. Chandler also has the look of a weathered detective who has seen a lot and a brother who has dealt with a lot.

The perfect companion for him in his scenes is Mendelsohn but also Sissy Spacek who plays Sally Rayburn, the mother of the Rayburn children. She carries around a lot of guilt, particularly with regard to the death of her daughter. This is opposed to the hatred that Robert carries. Sally also has a lot of expectations when it comes to each of her kids. It's an excellent and heartbreaking performance in a phenomenal show.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.

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