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Bloodline: “Part 2”

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Danny Rayburn’s return to the Keys has uncovered old wounds, quite literally and figuratively. When a kayaking accident lands Robert in the hospital with head trauma, the Rayburn siblings all process in different ways. Kevin—exposed here as the family hot head—immediately thinks Danny, who was with their dad at the time of the accident, had a deliberate hand in it. Meg thinks there’s no way their brother hurt their dad, and looks for assurance from John, who lies somewhere in the middle, not as convinced as Kevin that malice was at play but also doubting enough to do some investigative work into the situation.


Even though uncertainty shrouds the accident, Bloodline doesn’t use it for cheap thrills. In fact, when we finally see the the full retelling of the accident, we see that nothing all that crazy happened. Just as Danny said, Robert simply collapsed and hit his head. Instead, the reveals that surface by way of the accident are much deeper rooted, old wounds that the Rayburns thought they were past. A doctor tells Danny he needs surgery on an old shoulder fracture that never healed, and the episode takes its time uncovering the truth behind the old injury. And the writers don’t over-explain the situation or weigh it down with unnecessary story. The flashback to Robert hitting a young Danny unfold in pieces, grounded in John’s perspective. Kyle Chandler excellently captures John’s quickening anguish brought on by the memory. Sally is even more subtly pulled back to that past by the sight of a boy in the hospital who looks like young Danny, and the editing in the scene that cuts between her and John breaking up a fight between Kevin and Danny evokes the pain of the memory.

That dark past provides context for the present friction in the Rayburn family, especially as “Part 2” starts to show the immediate and tangled consequences of John telling Danny it was their father who didn’t want him to come home. The writers have crafted very simple but urgent conflict with John’s lie. Throughout “Part 2,” the lie swells, threatens to burst, stings every character in different ways. Danny is angry with his father because he thinks he’s the one who kept him from returning home. Sally feels excluded by the whole decision process, and asks John to invite Danny back, not knowing he was part of the initial verdict. Kevin lashes out at John for lying, thinking Danny attacked their dad in retaliation. That one lie has burrowed deep into the Rayburns and given them new frustrations founded in old relations. “I didn’t want to leave with any bad blood,” Danny says to his father. But it’s becoming more and more clear that the Rayburn bloodline is irrevocably muddied.

The murdered girl continues to be an odd distraction from everything else. We have a cause of death—drowning, although her body is also covered in burns—but still no name nor any hint at how this side mystery connects to the show’s larger framework. The restraint shown in the way these first two episodes slowly uncover the Rayburn’s strains begs for our patience, and I’m mostly willing to trust the writers. The paced reveals of “Part 2” when it comes to Robert and Danny’s relationship make for compelling and emotional storytelling. But it makes less sense to draw out this murder side plot, because there aren’t any emotional stakes to it or connections to the interpersonal conflicts in the Rayburn family. That could very well change, and based on the show’s Damages roots, I believe it most certainly will. But waiting for emotional urgency feels particularly mundane when the rest of the story components are so rich. Danny’s return home functions so well as a conflict for the series to lean into because his presence touches everyone in different ways.

Rage is a persistent theme in “Part 2,” seen especially in Kevin, who is defined by his volatile temper. John probably doesn’t need to spell out Kevin’s anger management issues at the beginning of the episode. Part of why I’m not a fan of voiceover is because it’s the definition of telling instead of showing. The ways John and Kevin’s wife Belle speak to Kevin reveal a past of losing control in a way that’s much more organic and nuanced than John’s narration. But one thing that’s interesting about the way John describes Kevin’s rage is that he seems to suggest that Kevin alone shares that trait with his father when, based on what we’ve seen so far, all of the Rayburn men seem to harbor an erratic side.


The women of Bloodline, meanwhile, haven’t yet been developed as fully realized characters. In “Part 2,” Belle and Diana act as security blankets for their husbands, comforting them through the complicated feelings they have about their father’s accidents but not really owning any of their own motivations or emotions. Even Meg feels loosely defined when compared to her brothers. Bloodline divides its characters into complicated, tormented men and calm, supportive women, and that’s lazy character work. Chloë Sevigny is great in her small role as Chelsea O’Bannon, the sister of Danny’s bad news pal Eric. But Chelsea functions mostly as a plot device here, used to provide more context for Eric and Danny’s past. So far, in fact, the women of Bloodline seem to exist more to inform their male counterparts than to tell their own sides of the intricate story web that’s forming.

Stray observations:

  • All these years later, and it’s so hard for me to watch Kyle Chandler make out with anyone other than Connie Britton.
  • Sissy Spacek does a lot of great silent acting in this episode. It’s amazing how many feelings she can express without saying a word.
  • Kevin, you should leave the detective work to John. Of course your “witnesses” are only going to give you a little bit of vague info at a time if you keep pulling out hundos.
  • This show is already as obsessed with the word “family” as The Vampire Diaries is with the word “brother.”

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