By Darcy Smith
Bloodline, which premiered on March 20th, is Netflix’s newest original series; one that presents a new twist on the enthralling family drama theme. This series hangs its storyline, tension and intrigue on good old fashioned family conflict that lies just below the surface of the apparently pristine Rayburn clan. Two well-respected community leaders (Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek) head a family running a successful bed and breakfast in a small town community (the beautiful Florida Keys) as their four grown children deal with personal struggles, loyalty, and deception among the people they’re supposed to love the most.
On the surface, the family appears normal, happy and dare I say…functional. The Rayburn members are seen by their town as model citizens, the favorite son is a local detective (Kyle Chandler) and the only daughter (Linda Cardellini) is a popular lawyer. Meanwhile, our first look at the Inn involves Mom and Dad closing their doors to good paying customers, as they’re using the Inn to host their own celebration. There is an overlap of the business of tourism, and the demands of family that are always present in the family interactions early on. But the environment the characters live in is nothing short of paradise. Waking up on a whimsical resort to thirty plus sunshine on a freshly groomed beach with Dad strumming his ukulele in the peaceful breeze and long afternoons with margaritas ready to be served looks pretty inviting, but all is certainly not what it seems.
The scenery and weather marvelously parallel each character’s mood and their plotlines. The audience is meant to feel like an intrusive tourist battling seasickness on a boat as they watch the family’s secrets unravel in a unique mock-documentary style. The visual decision to have unsettled camera movements using a lack of focus and depth makes the viewer feel uncomfortable and is used effectively with the narrative. Much like the TV show Lost, there’s disorientation with space and time as there’s past and future flashbacks that induce the suspense of character motivations and therefore, has the audience rocking back and forth. The creators of this television series have innovated their own signature idea that “we’re all in the same boat,” whether they want to be or not, whether literally or figuratively. In this case, the audience is always searching for more clues as to who has done what, who will be loyal to whom and who they should care about (and why). This theme propels the question “Will there be enough room for everybody in this family to fit in the boat?” or will siblings rivalries take over and leave someone with the short straw?
The audience is lead to perceive the oldest brother (fabulously played by Ben Mendelsohn), Danny, as the villain in this family dynamic but as the story unfolds in both past and current day we learn about the family’s deep-rooted issues. The audience is regularly asked to question where their loyalties should lie with these characters, if, indeed, any are sympathetic at all. Danny is, however, the clear outcast of his own family, having originally planned to come for the weekend until a certain turn of events influences him to stay. Michael Corleone said it best in Godfather III “Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.” Although this family isn’t the mafia, they’re some similarities, especially when it comes to Old Papa Rayburn looking over his monetary kingdom he’s built himself and the tough negotiations between family members and their own personal networks.
With each character striving to hang onto their own perception of paradise and battling with their family members to stay afloat, this show promises to have a cliff hanger ending. While each episode has been left in suspense, we hope by the end it’ll at least tie in some missing pieces to this spider web of mysteries before adding any new ones. Either way, it’ll be interesting to witness the fate of these characters and whether their secrets will be further buried or pushed to the surface. In the beautiful Florida Keys, nobody is safe, even among family.
This is part one in a series of articles on Bloodline.