I got up at 8:00 on Saturday morning, facing an empty house for the first weekend in years and no concrete plans for the day, so I decided to start the day with my toast and coffee in bed, watching episode 7 of the first season of the Netflix serial Bloodline. Next thing I knew it was getting dark outside and I was still in bed, watching the 13th and final episode of the season. THAT is a sign of good compelling TV.
Of course, Netflix specializes in binge TV-watching, designing its series to be watched as quickly as possible (something I have enjoyed doing for decades, if and when I can find the time to do it). And Bloodline, even more than most serials, is structured to be watched as one very long film. Indeed, Bloodline’s masterful structure is one of its best qualities. The writing as a whole is intelligent and of the highest quality. And the cinematography is as good as TV gets, not least because it’s filmed on location in the Florida Keys. What makes Bloodline really special, however, is the acting.
But first - what is Bloodline? Bloodline is a very dark (though not that violent) family drama (by ‘family’, I do not mean it is family-friendly, but that the show is entirely about the dark adventures of one family). The well-respected Rayburn family has been living in the Keys for almost fifty years, running a gorgeous little hotel/resort. The hotel was started by Sally and Robert Rayburn (Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard), who had five children. It would be a spoiler to go into too much detail about what happened to the children over the years (the show is all about the dark secrets of the past), but when the show starts we see that the oldest son, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), has been out of the picture for a while. Danny’s homecoming, for a major celebration, is the trigger that unleashes all kinds of pent-up feelings and memories from the whole family. The second-oldest (and the show’s central figure) is John (Kyle Chandler), who is a detective known for his integrity, working his way up. John is the only one with kids of his own (now teenagers), and his wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), also has a major role. Then comes Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), who owns a small boat-repair shop near the hotel, and Meg (Linda Cardellini), who is a lawyer who also works for the family. Yeah, I know that’s only four - enough said.
All of the actors mentioned above are tremendous, with Mendelsohn and Chandler standing out (they also get the most airtime). Created by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman, Bloodline, from beginning to end of the first season, is film-quality stuff, and I’ve already mentioned how compelling it is was for me. Objectively I consider Bloodline one of the best TV shows ever made. I particularly appreciate the raw film-noir feel and tension of the show and its lack of gratuitous sex or violence. If only I appreciated the overall story a little more. That I didn’t is the reason Bloodline won’t get too high on my favourites list, but I’m still awarding it the highest ***+ rating (very close to ****; I may reconsider). My mug is up. If you have Netflix, check it out.