Written by Josh Sarnecky
Bloodline Season 2 Premiere Plot Summary:
Following the events of season one, the Rayburn children struggle to conceal the truth about Danny (Ben Mendelsohn). The secret weighs heavily on Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) as they enter new stages in their professional and personal lives, while John (Kyle Chandler) investigates his older brother’s connection to Nolan (Owen Teague).
Over the last four years, Netflix has cemented itself as a major producer of original content as well as the world’s premier streaming service. Shows like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Daredevil have garnered acclaim from both critics and audiences, but not all of Netflix’s original series have garnered the attention they deserve. The first season of Bloodline is a criminally overlooked gem and arguably one of the best shows available on any channel or streaming service today. Season two marks a welcome return to the world of the Rayburn family, but the question remains if this new season can live up to the quality of its predecessor.
The greatest dilemma season two faces is that, ignoring the cliffhanger, season one ended on a fairly conclusive note that made the show a candidate for a perfect one-and-done series. Likewise, Ben Mendelsohn’s diminished role following season one’s finale limits the screen time for an actor who shined as the show’s most intriguing and multifaceted character. The theme of past sins haunting the present remains, yet Danny manifested that theme in a way that will be difficult to fully replicate without his consistent presence.
Wayne Lowry’s (Glenn Morshower) schemes, Sally (Sissy Spacek) and Marco’s (Enrique Murciano) quest for the truth, and the introduction of Nolan have the potential to fill that void, and I remain hopeful they can do so, given what’s shown in this episode. However, as the show shifts from a battle of siblings to an exploration of how the remaining siblings cope with the aftermath of that conflict, Bloodline needs to find new ways to spark family drama within the Rayburn clan.
‘Part 14’ gives hints at what some of these plot points might be, but this premiere predominately focuses on the aftermath of Danny’s fate for John, Kevin, and Meg, which is perfectly acceptable and in line with the show’s reliance on slow buildups. Following the seemingly happy endings the siblings appeared to experience at the end of season one, seeing the three characters show signs of cracking beneath the weight of their secret feels appropriate but perhaps a bit rushed. Kevin’s scenes continue to be the weakest among the siblings, primarily because his role as the hothead of the family has always been presented as a given without an explanation and makes him fairly difficult to sympathize with, but his instability following season one is the most organic transition. On the other hand, the show is a tad too quick to present Meg’s move to New York as a doomed venture.
Of course, the heart of the show continues to be John’s relationship with Danny and his position as the de facto head of the family. Kyle Chandler does a spectacular job transferring hints of the dread seen in John’s interactions with Danny to his scenes with Nolan; every conversation John has with or about Nolan possesses a palpable sense of unease that provide the episode with tension and an air of mystery. Owen Teague’s performance as Nolan is somewhat wooden and doesn’t capture enough of the quiet menace that Mendelsohn exuded, but his acting is acceptable given the show’s usage of Nolan as more of a plot device than a character at this point. As Nolan begins meeting more of the Rayburns, hopefully Teague will become more comfortable in the role.
Thankfully, the dialogue during John and Nolan’s conversations and throughout the episode remains top notch and meets the high standard set by season one. As much as I love the superhero shows on The CW, they sometimes make me forget how important well-written dialogue is to crafting an immersive world. Bloodline continues to successfully manage the difficult task of inserting dramatic dialogue with enough realism to make each conversation believable yet powerful. Conversely, the relative absence of flashbacks and flashforwards in this episode is understandable but unfortunate, given their inclusion in season one. Without these elements, ‘Part 14’ doesn’t capture much of the mystery and psyche exploration that made season one so thrilling; given the ending of this episode, however, I am hopeful that more flashbacks are on the way and may even push the plot forward in an exciting fashion.
Looking ahead, many of my questions regarding the sustainability of Bloodline’s plot remain unanswered. Seeing the siblings contend with the weight of their secret is good table setting, but the show seems unsure what will be the driving force of this season’s plot: the sibling’s guilt or figures from Danny’s past. While Sally Rayburn’s newfound mistrust of John is ripe for dramatic turns and an organic evolution of the family dynamic, Wayne Lowry’s presence and the continued investigation into his criminal enterprise is less exciting. This show is always at its strongest as a family drama, and though John’s work as a detective in the county police force has opened up engaging conflicts in the past, the focus on Lowry’s drug trafficking could be dangerously tangential unless the episode’s final reveal proves to be more than a quick plot device.
‘Part 14’ thus leaves me tentatively optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the season, though I am relieved to say that, concerns regarding the plot aside, Bloodline remains one of the most well acted and well written shows on Netflix or anywhere else.
Rating: 8 out of 10