John Rayburn is running for Monroe County Sheriff. John Rayburn has lost his damn mind. Diana, who is maybe the only member of this family who sees things clearly these days, is the first to ask John the question of the episode: Why? John’s campaign run makes little to no sense from a character perspective. John tells Kevin in the season-two premiere that he needs to be smart, but he doesn’t take his own words of advice here. Running for sheriff is one of the dumbest things John could possibly do right now. He needs to lie low. He probably needs to get the hell out of Florida. Danny dumped all the evidence Wayne Lowry needs to strongarm John into keeping the feds off his tail, and the only person who could have possibly dug John out of this whole has been corrupted to go along with the blackmail. John might not want to admit it, but Danny’s the only one in the driver’s seat right now.
And yet John thinks now would be a good time to run for office. It doesn’t make sense form a character perspective, and I’m not so sure it makes sense from the plot side of things either. So now John’s going to be covering up a major investigation at the same time he’s running for sheriff all season? It’s too much of a stretch for a show that is relatively grounded and by-the-books in its approach to noir. What’s more, it doesn’t even end up being the kind of high-stakes premise the episode sets it up as. John slipping the photo that connects a local waitress to Lowry into his pocket at the crime scene doesn’t pack much of a punch. Bloodline spins its mystery and drama with very small moments, and while the lack of explosions and over-the-top action keeps it naturalistic and grounded, the overlong runtime of every episode begs for a little more spark. At a certain point, the understated nature of the show starts to wear on you. We’re two episodes in, and so little has happened. We’re two episodes in, and I’m already exhausted by the tedious nature of the storytelling. The best executed turn the episode takes is the reveal that Carlos has been turned by Lowry. It’s easy to see coming, but it’s unsettling nonetheless, heightening John’s frustrations and making him seem even more stuck in this tangled web.
As with the premiere, Danny still lingers in the nooks and crannies of the Rayburn’s lives and minds. John beats up Danny’s truck as his brother’s laughter, recorded onto the damning cassette tape, echoes around him. The camerawork is chaotic and violent, pulling us into the moment. (The strongest direction choice of the episode though comes at the end, as the camera closes in on just John’s eyes as he makes his campaign announcement.) Meg puts a pretty fine point on it: “This is all about Danny still. He won’t fucking go away.”
Kevin, meanwhile, is taking his coke problem to the next level by getting into the drug dealing business. Kevin has always been the weakest Rayburn sibling. Norbert Leo Butz is one of the weaker players of the ensemble, but some of that has to do with the broad way Kevin is written. He’s defined by his anger, and the sheer mania of the character makes it more difficult for the writers to pull off the deeper, layered moments that they do with the other Rayburns, who are a bit more contemplative and harder to read than Kevin, who has not an ounce of subtlety to him. And his anger isn’t really reflective of some sort of deeper pain or meaning in the same way Danny’s was. He’s just hot-headed and self-pitying. He’s not a particularly sympathetic character, but we don’t really have a reason to root against him either. He’s just there, easily forgotten. And the scenes he has to carry all on his own here feel hollow. He’s desperate, so he sells some cocaine. He’s as bad at drug business as he is at keeping his marina afloat. And watching him spiral down this way just doesn’t feel as emotionally significant as it should…especially since it’s so obvious that he’s going to fuck everything up.
A lot of characters are asking why is this episode, but Bloodline isn’t providing a lot of answers or really digging that deep into motivation at all. John’s monologue at episode’s end—a speech announcing his campaign that includes an anecdote from when he was a young boy—has all the usual elements of an effective Bloodline moment: symbolism, echoes of the past, grave uncertainty. But John purposefully doesn’t answer his own why. If Bloodline isn’t going to get a little more active—and it shouldn’t really, because that would change the very nature of the show—it needs to at least dive deeper into its characters’ heads, provide some sort of momentum by way of the emotional stakes. The Rayburns are just scrambling to cover up what they did, but that doesn’t go deep enough to really hook. There needs to be more to the story, especially by way of family dynamics, which ultimately were the propulsive fuel of the show’s first season. There’s tension in the air, especially every time Nolan is on screen. Some of his exchanges with Sally so perfectly capture the same tightly wound energy of Danny. But it’s all an idling tension, not the foreboding tension of last season. Bloodline still burns slowly, but as Diana Rayburn might ask, why?
- John has some slick (and likely corrupt) campaign manager who’s all “I provide the babies,” which was one of the dumbest lines I’ve heard uttered in a while.
- Meg’s back to drinking cheap beer again. We still haven’t seen her inside her New York apartment, only in the stairwell. Meg’s a drifter right now.
- I kind of forgot about Alec.
- Is the coke Kevin’s dealing from the stash the siblings moved? Yeah, this really is heading nowhere good for him.
- Sally and Lenny are leading a little investigation of their own.