Bloodline’s seaside setting, mystery elements, and slow pacing make show feel tonally and thematically similar to Showtime’s The Affair. In its first season, The Affair more directly tackled the ideas of perception and memory as it told two sides of the same story, the details changing depending on who was remembering them. Bloodline doesn’t employ the same narrative form, but in some ways, this series even more deftly confronts ideas about memory, the past, and perspective. When John isn’t frankly over-explaining what’s going on in his voiceovers, Bloodline communicates these themes with subtle character-based developments.

Advertisement

When Danny first arrived home, everything about his family’s physicality and dialogue around him made it seem like Danny was the one who had hurt them all. Over time, it has slowly become clear that it was really all the Rayburns who hurt Danny years ago. “Never saw someone get hurt that bad,” young Kevin says about the alleged hit-and-run that we know never happened. But that statement—which returns at episode’s end—is one of the only pieces of truth from John and Kevin’s interview with the police.

Danny was hurt. He was hurt badly—first by his father who physically lashed out on him, blaming him for Sarah’s death—and then by the other members of his family who helped Robert cover it up. Sure, they were kids, but John and Kevin never righted their wrongs. No one has ever been there to protect Danny, except maybe Chelsea and Eric O’Bannon, and as Danny points out in this episode, they’re the closest thing he has to a real family. Meg and John Rayburn in particular are defined by their eagerness to help others, but when it comes to Danny, they just continue to fail him. One of the best scenes of “Part 7” shows Danny having dinner with John and his family, telling the story of how John wanted to impress Diana with a new shirt when they first started dating. It’s a sweet moment—a brief break from the severe tension of every other second of Bloodline. But it also further establishes just how much the Rayburn siblings take their brother Danny for granted. Danny stole the shirt for John so that John could keep on being the good guy.

“Part 6” functions as an examination of John and Danny’s relationship, as John’s guilt about the past colors his interactions with Danny in the present. “Part 7” attempts to zoom in on Kevin and Danny’s relationship, and even though it leads to a much more dramatic ending than last episode, it’s not nearly as effective. Part of this has to do with the fact that the writers have invested a lot more time and specifics into the John/Danny dynamic than they have in the Kevin/Danny dynamic. For the first time, we see Kevin’s interview with Lenny Potts, and it turns out he lied just like John did. In the present, Kevin doesn’t seem to be as affected by these lies as John is—perhaps because he doesn’t know Danny has listened to the tapes. But the conflict between Danny and Kevin doesn’t brew as organically as that between Danny and John, which makes the final scene shocking, for sure, but also feel out of place. I guess Kevin is a much easier target than John, but it seems like a jump for Danny to go as far as asking Eric to beat the shit out of Kevin and steal his money.

Advertisement

Presumably, Kevin’s involvement with Chelsea stoked the already volatile feelings between the brothers, but their interpersonal conflict just feels ancillary compared to all the other stuff going on in the episode, which is mostly aimless. I’m not exactly sure what we’re supposed to make of Meg turning into an overnight criminal defense attorney, although her exchange with Danny is another highlight of the episode, as Mendelsohn lets every word hang there between them like a bomb about to go off. Danny sees Meg helping out a near-stranger with legal troubles, and it’s just another reminder that his siblings have everyone’s back but his. Danny is hardly this series’ hero, but as the lines between villain and victim become more blurred, he becomes Bloodline’s most valuable asset. Danny brings out different sides, fears, and motives, from the other characters, making him the show’s emotional nexus. None of the characters seem to want Danny in their lives, but Bloodline needs Danny. But as we know thanks to the flashforwards, it won’t have him for much longer.

Stray observations:

  • What happened to Danny and John’s fishing trip? I was kind of looking forward to the palpable tension of that experience.
  • Danny telling the story of John trying to impress
  • “I don’t understand women,” John Rayburn says, as if listening to all my reviews complaining about how these writers seem to not know how to write female characters as anything other than nebulous wives.
  • Glenn Moorshower shows up as a very ominous criminal ringleader.
  • Danny and Kevin’s “no hard feelings” conversation isn’t quite as fraught as John and Danny’s, and I think that is mostly because Norbert Leo Butz, so far, hasn’t really shown the same level of acting abilities as Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, and the rest of the ensemble. He struggles to convey the subtext in the same way.
  • Uh, what did Danny say to Jane before her date? Like Diana, that made me very uneasy.

Advertisement