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Bloodline: “Part 4”

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As wonderful as Kyle Chandler’s voice is, John’s voiceovers have been the most unnecessary aspect of Bloodline. Almost everything he has said so far is either too vague to mean anything at all or too obvious to need to be said in the first place. Bloodline doles out information in small, staggered pieces, and the voiceovers undercut that restraint. “Part 4,” however, cuts the excess explanations. There are no voiceovers. There are no jumps to the future at all. Instead, the episode drifts in an out of Robert’s mind as he’s haunted by memories of Sarah Rayburn.


“Part 4” meanders, not aimlessly: The episode answers questions about Sarah, opens up new trajectories for Meg, who’s presented a job offer in New York, and Kevin, who wants to make an offer to buy the boatyard to keep it from going to a bunch of yuppie developers. John also makes headway on his dead-girl-in-the-water case, which ends up connected to the shady work Eric O’Bannon has been doing. But the episode definitely slows down the already measured pace of Bloodline.

And even though it’s the least exciting episode so far, it’s the most emotional. The flashbacks to Sarah’s death are haunting, shot with a dreamlike haze and scored by the graceful notes of Robert’s ukulele. Sam Shepard is a silent but powerful force throughout the episode, as he wanders the hotel grounds, lost in memories. The seahorse necklace from the pilot returns here, dangling on Sarah. Even though Bloodline takes its time telling us exactly how things connect or what they mean, there seems to be significance in almost everything, and that kind of thoughtful storytelling justifies the slow pace. I didn’t necessarily have urgent questions about the seahorse necklace when watching the pilot, but the fact that it ends up being deeply connected to the emotional strings of Bloodline shows just how detailed the writers are when it comes to constructing the show’s drama and conflict.

Meanwhile, the Rayburn women all get together for cocktails and wine, and I honestly could have watched a full hour of these women drinking together. Most of the women on the show remain underdeveloped, and the little happy hour scenes could have been a chance to unearth some of the characters’ dimensions, but the writers don’t take full advantage of the opportunity. Kevin’s wife Belle, so far, is only defined by her miscarriage. Even though there isn’t much to her character, Katie Finneran turns in strong work. Her reading of “I’m not good at hospitals” conveys the weight of the statement without the writers having to jump in with any additional information.

The acting on Bloodline is so consistently impressive that it makes it particularly unnecessary for the writers to be too heavy-handed. All of the actors have been great at conveying subtext and putting emotional weight behind their words. “Part 4” is the first episode that shows any awareness of that. The episode hits specific emotional beats without spelling everything out in big bold voiceovers or hamfisted dialogue. The final scene between Robert and Danny drips with tension and a quiet intensity and makes a very compelling early case for awards attention for both Shepard and Ben Mendelsohn—especially the latter, who deeply unnerves with his cutting delivery and erratic physicality during the scene. The muted writing in “Part 4” allows the cast to do a lot of the heavy-lifting, and it yields a potent, if sluggish, episode.


Todd A. Kessler’s direction also lends to the emotional power of the episode, framing some of the more harrowing scenes in ways that makes them oddly beautiful. That disconnect echoes the contradictions of Bloodline’s setting: Darkness seeps throughout the cracks of the lovely Florida Keys. The hotel guests praise the hotel’s beauty to Danny, who smiles and agrees with them. Little do they know, this beautiful place is also the setting for some truly horrifying events and dark secrets. Kessler plays with the juxtaposition of beauty and tragedy throughout “Part 4.” The shot of the burned boat from below with the sun behind it unsettles as powerfully as the silent flashbacks to young Danny’s screams.

Stray observations:

  • “My husband should never be allowed near a microphone.” Goddamnit, Diana! Now I want to see Kyle Chandler doing karaoke!
  • The scene between Meg and her father on the dock is so lovely, both because of Linda Cardellini and Shepard’s subtle acting but also just visually. In fact, the whole episode is beautifully directed and shot.
  • Kevin sure switched his position on Danny quickly. Fixing cars brings brothers closer, I guess?
  • Sally’s liquor of choice: tequila.

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