Netflix’s Bloodline Addictive despite Initial Indications to the Contrary

I turned it on reluctantly.  I’d read one so-so review and a seen one not-so-tantalizing trailer promising a drama about family secrets in a manner I found overdrawn.  It seemed a little, well, hokey.

Still for the past several days, I find my imagination returning to Netflix’s latest (meant to be be binged) streaming TV series Bloodline.  After watching the first two episodes back-to-back, I resolved to limit myself to one episode a day so I can roll them around a bit, can continue to feel their presence after they’ve gone, like either a good friend or a bad whiskey (though I confess which I’m not exactly sure).

It remains to be seen if the series’ ending will hold up to its start, but I thought it was worth admitting that this show has captured my attention this week, this odd, quiet program set in the Florida Keys.

So far, the characters are not figures of remorse nor vengeance, nor of tragedy nor justice.  They are people shaped in relation to one another, as so many families are.

They are also people shaped in light of one event, one loss, the way that one particular day unfolded and how each of them dealt with that through the limited lens and the limited resources available to them at that time.  A set of circumstances and circumscriptions that flowed out of who they were at the time have since gone onto define who they continue to be to one other–and maybe to themselves–even thirty years

Bloodline aims for a suspenseful telling of the Rayburn family story.  Reviewers so far seem to find the opening episodes either too slow or the mechanics of the strategic flash-forwards a tiresome, if useful gimmick for keeping viewers hitting that “view next episode” box on their screens.  Perhaps I’m too easily led, but I’m enjoying the mix of memories, which are shot like waking dreams that simply happen alongside contemporary action, with the flash-forwards into the obviously dire if hard-to-entirely-grasp future, which are narrated by Kyle Chandler’s dutiful brother John.

While Chandler, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shepard supply the star power that ultimately broke through my skepticism and got me to tune in, relatively lesser-known actor Ben Mendelsohn as black sheep Danny Rayburn is stealing this series outright.  It’s been a real gift from casting to have no prior associations with this face, no pre-loaded affections from his star persona.  As Danny, Mendelsohn is charming and sinister and sympathetic and snake-like, often in the matter of a few lines, his plaintive blue eyes regularly disarming at just the moment you suspect that you need your dukes up.

I’m halfway through so far and while the waters off the Keys appears anything but smooth, I’m in for the haul.

(To be continued…)

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