Ever since Danny Rayburn returned to the Keys, mostly unspoken tension has vibrated between the rest of his family, sometimes bursting into brief blasts of rage, as seen in the many altercations in “Part 2.” When the siblings do talk explicitly about their feelings on Danny, it’s usually in broad strokes. He’s a screwup. He always leaves. He can’t be trusted. In keeping the Rayburn friction largely cryptic for now, Bloodline can tease out the details over time, creating a .

Advertisement

In some ways, the suspense of the past is even more captivating than the more obvious suspense of the future. The flashforwards rely on grand devices to build excitement, like John’s ominous and vague voiceovers and an overtly symbolic storm. There’s a body in a trunk, an untraceable gun, and a boat explosion. It’s all very typical thriller fodder, a high-stakes game of Clue. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the flashforwards are too hackneyed to be effective narrative quicksand. They suck you in for sure, but the foundational character work Bloodline does in these first few episodes pulls from the emotional sands of the series instead of just relying on stylization to create suspense.

“Part 3” drops the very early hints at what exactly is behind the Rayburns’ deeply rooted pain, using both glimpses at the past and circumstances in the present to signal a dark past. That darkness revolves, it seems, not around Danny alone but around Sarah, a fifth Rayburn child. Though the show hasn’t explicitly revealed what happened to Sarah, the writers use small emotional cues to suggest a tragic death. Sarah’s ghost looms throughout the episode, without ever being the focus. The episode, in fact, focuses on Meg, which addresses some of the problems I pointed out with her character last episode. The central conflict of the episode hinges on her decision to keep Danny on the will despite her father asking her to take him off months before. But the drama set in motion by Bloodline creates opportunities for Sarah to pop up in scenes that vary emotionally.

The first mention of Sarah doesn’t signal anything all that intriguing. Robert, who is conscious but suffering from memory loss, calls Meg “Sarah” when she asks him to sign the new will. It’s heartbreaking, and Linda Cardellini nails the weight of the scene. And from here on, the writers build upon the mystery framework with more references to the enigmatic Sarah. When putting together a reel of home videos to help stimulate Robert’s memory, John’s son Ben comes across footage of one of Meg’s childhood birthday parties when Sarah was still around. “He doesn’t need to see this,” John says. So Sarah definitely represents sorrow for the Rayburns, but Meg’s connection to her sister seems even more complicated. Danny uses Sarah as a weapon against Meg, and it slices much deeper than his attempts to blackmail her with her motel keycard. Sarah’s shadow looms over Meg the most. Even in her own visions of their father, Sarah interrupts.

Advertisement

In “Part 3,” Meg becomes a much more dimensional character, even more so than Kevin did last episode, which really didn’t do much other than establish he got the Rayburn rage gene. There’s a quietness to Meg that the Rayburn men don’t really have. And that softness shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness; Meg is smart and self-assured, even when her brothers underestimate her. Her psychological unrest doesn’t manifest in the overstated outbursts of her brothers, but rather in smaller ways that allow Cardellini to give a really layered and nuanced performance.

“As smart as she is, no one can change the past,” future John muses. Bloodline definitely has an obsession with its characters histories, and living so often in the past can be really confining for a series. So far, though, Bloodline uses the past to give weight to the present. Danny’s “yeah, I know he gets angry” to Meg about their father means a lot more after having seen last episode’s flashbacks (plus, Ben Mendelsohn crushes his reading of the line). The past doesn’t only inform the present; it dances with it, working together to spin the mysterious and emotionally turbulent narrative of Bloodline.

Stray observations:

  • Danny shows up at Meg’s and is all “I’m not here to judge you, but I am here to threaten you oopsy love you, lil sis!!!!”
  • Unrelated dead girl continues to be unrelated.
  • I’m hoping Chelsea O’Bannon eventually becomes more than just a source of information for the Rayburn brothers, because Chloë Sevigny deserves more.
  • The information she drops in this episode: Meg used to cycle through boyfriends, trading up for hotter and hotter ones whenever she got bored. As if I needed more reasons to love Meg.
  • We get to see Danny interact with people who aren’t Rayburns or O’Bannons in this episode, and his excursions with the hotel guests offer a peek at the character’s charm. Danny sure knows how to work a crowd. He’s a master manipulator, which is why it makes sense that the Rayburns—with the exception of Kevin—all seem to think he’s capable of change. They’re falling for his spell as hard as those wetsuited-up hotel guests were.

Advertisement