Pass the Remote: Bloodline (2015) – Film Dispenser

Television March 21, 2015 Scott Phillips
Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every Fall.

Bloodline, the newest streaming series from Netflix, is, at its heart, a ghost story. It doesn’t offer the kind of supernatural evil viewers might expect from a season of American Horror Story. These ghosts are more commonplace. But, they may be even more frightening.

The characters on Bloodline are haunted by their pasts, by the poor choices and rash decisions they’ve made that continue to reverberate in the present. These ghosts aren’t confined to the dark hallways of a haunted house. They live in the mind’s eye and memories of these characters. And if the final few minutes of its first episode is an indication of what’s to come, the ghosts on Bloodline can conjure some very deadly consequences, as well.

Set in the heat and humidity of the Florida Keys, Bloodline is the tale of the Rayburn family — a father, mother and their four grown children. Robert and Sally Rayburn (Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek) own a large bed and breakfast on the beach that is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Three of their four children didn’t fly far from the nest. John (Kyle Chandler) is the local sheriff.  Daughter Meg (Laura Cardinelli) is an attorney in town, and middle son Kevin works in the family business. Only the Rayburn’s ne’er-do-well eldest child, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), escaped the gravitational pull of his extended family. When he returns home for the anniversary celebration, the reactions range from outrage to ambivalence. The prevailing opinion is the Florida Keys are better off without Danny Rayburn.

The series unleashes every narrative device imaginable yet somehow manages not to become overbearing (at least during its first three episodes). There are flashbacks, flash forwards, and even the occasional voiceover narration by Kyle Chandler. But, the fragmented style of story-telling enhances the themes of the series. These people are not who they initially appear to be. Their secrets unspool with each passing episode until viewers realize that none of the characters can adequately be judged or assessed until the conclusion of the 13th episode. (And arguably, not even then, if Netflix gives us a second season.)

The cast reads like a fantasy draft of character actors. Not surprisingly Chandler and Mendelsohn lead the pack. Little brother still has a soft spot for bigger brother, and that sense of shared experience permeates every scene they share. Each conflict among the cast of characters has the weight of the past behind it. When Kevin and Danny fight and bicker, the audience senses that they’ve been butting heads since childhood. When patriarch Robert smiles with pride or frowns in disappointment, we know his reactions aren’t of the moment, but are born of a lifetime spent with his children.

With film-quality cinematography from Jaime Reynoso, Bloodline is a beautiful paradise by day that gives way to the sweaty noir vibe of Body Heat as the sun sinks into the ocean. The laid-back pace of the show might not naturally lead to frantic binge-watching like its sister series, House of Cards. But, with its cliff-hangers and well-timed revelations at the end of each episode, Bloodline develops its own sense of momentum. The next ten installments will tell us if that momentum takes us anywhere worthwhile.



Scott Phillips

The Movie Isle

Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.

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