Sally Rayburn has been a weak spot for Bloodline. I feel like I’m still waiting for the show to realize it has the very talented Sissy Spacek in its pocket and, you know, take advantage of that blessing. Spacek has undoubtedly elevated the brief scenes she has had so far, sometimes capturing Sally’s inner struggles without even having to say anything. But we still haven’t seen Sally do much more than work around the inn and tell everyone to give Danny a chance. It’s hard to know exactly what her motivations are, especially since the show has only really established her as a loving mother. She has a kindness that Robert lacked, but she isn’t weak: “I’ve always had a say,” Sally tells Danny when he suggests Robert’s absence means she can start making the calls. But a lot of what we’ve learned about Sally has come from the way others act around her and talk about her. Bloodline continues to be a story mainly about its men, and it’s difficult to parse out exactly how Sally fits into the picture. A few episodes back, Lenny Potts hinted that Sally had secrets of her own on the day of Sarah’s death, but her role in all of that remains a mystery.
With “Part 9,” Bloodline begins to address some of those gaps. As has become this show’s method, the writers don’t give us all the answers. But we do know that Sally ran away from her family on the day of Sarah’s death and that she is probably more involved in the cover-up than the rest of the characters believe. Sally hints at her secrets in a porchside talk with Danny, but it’s all still pretty hazy. Based on the show’s track record, we likely won’t get clearer answers for at least another episode or two.
I appreciate Bloodline’s measured pacing. There’s an enormous amount of detail poured into every episode, and the writers seem to have a strong grasp of where everything is going. But because the big picture is so important to the success of the series, it’s incredibly difficult to analyze individual episodes. We’re given pieces of the big picture in every episode and expected to just trust that it will all make sense eventually. The show was made for Netflix, so Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, and Daniel Zelman made the show knowing that people would binge watch it. The entire narrative framework of Bloodline relies on building trust with viewers—trust that things will, eventually, make sense and that all the heavy tension that seeps through every episode will build to something.
That something is the Death Of Danny Rayburn, the season’s drawn-out conclusion. And presumably, we’re supposed to appreciate the journey along the way to the destination. There are parts to enjoy, for sure. But for a show that seems conscious of people’s binge-watching habits, there isn’t always quite enough to hook you into letting autoplay bleed into the next episode as soon as one ends. Bloodline would never work on regular television, because waiting a week between these episodes would make the already slow pacing seem all the slower. And yet, at the same time, it isn’t really built for devouring at lightning speed in the same way Damages was. Bloodline is having a bit of an identity crisis.
“Part 9” provides some answers about Meg and Kevin that shed some light on past actions from the characters. The episode’s best scene shows the two of them in the kitchen, talking about the day Sarah died. Meg can’t remember exactly what happened. In fact, as an adult, she still believes the car accident story. But Kevin reminds her of the truth and tells her she was even there to witness their father hurting Danny. Kevin is very nonchalant about the whole thing, even saying “Danny killed our sister” in a matter-of-fact tone to Meg. Kevin and Meg both have very different views of what happened that day than John, with Kevin terrifyingly suggesting Danny deserved what he got—or, at least, that their father shouldn’t be blamed for what he did. Again, Bloodline beats The Affair at its own game, playing with the idea of how memories shift over time, influenced by varying perspectives, without being as heavy-handed about the theme as The Affair.
All the while, Danny tightens his grip on his siblings, targeting each of them differently. He’s direct with Meg, threatening her with the affair. Ben Mendelsohn is so great at making Danny ominous without slipping into over-the-top villain territory. Danny’s mere presence is enough to unsettle. Sally, Marco, and Meg’s easygoing afternoon of wine and wedding talk turns tense the second Danny and Chelsea arrive. Even Danny’s physicality changes the mood, as he runs his hand through his sister’s hair—a move that would seem affectionate coming from anyone else but has that same kind of quiet aggressiveness that scares Diana when it comes from Danny.
He seems to be working a much longer con with John, being outwardly friendly with his brother but closing in on John’s family. There’s nothing overtly threatening about Danny teaching Jane how to filet a fish, but again, Mendelsohn plays it as incredibly ominous. And we get a glimpse into why Danny seems particularly determined to bring down John, as we finally hear young Meg’s interview with the police on the day of Sarah’s death. She’s the only kid who doesn’t claim to have actually seen the car accident, and when Potts asks who told her about it, she answers “John.” So far, John has suggested he didn’t fully understand what he was doing when he lied to the police all those years ago, but Danny seems pretty convinced that John played a bigger role in the cover up. Danny is so good at manipulating his family that John is starting to fall for his tricks, siding with Danny even when he knows something is off. The subtext-laden interactions between the two continue to be one of the best parts of the series, with Mendelsohn and Kyle Chandler turning in fabulous work, but Bloodline still needs to attach payoffs to its tension.
- Sally and Danny smoking pot together is, at first, adorable, but in typical Bloodline fashion turns fraught very quickly. Still, I want more high Sally Rayburn please.
- The writers have such a keen awareness for details in every episode. When Sally and Meg start talking about seersucker suits for the wedding, I immediately got chills as I remembered John slogging through the mud in seersucker with dead Danny on his back. When the writers pull little triggers like that, it’s incredibly effective.
- John traipses around Miami looking for clues about what Danny was really up to when he claimed to be in culinary school, but none of the answers he finds are particularly surprising for us. We already knew Danny had a restaurant (he told O’Bannon in the pilot), and it’s very clear that Danny owes bad people money. His detective work mostly tells us what we already know, but it also introduces another vaguely written female character: Danny’s ex girlfriend, Beth.
- I love how quickly Danny’s apology to Diana turns into a direct threat. That whole scene is Danny in a nutshell.
- Jacinda Barrett still deserves to do more than just look good in her work clothes and keep repeating that she has a bad feeling about Danny.