Oh, the family reunion. That oft-cherished, relentless reminder of the place you come from. Films have tried their hand at depicting this time-honored tradition for generations, though they've mostly centered around holidays and weddings (e.g. The Family Stone, Home for the Holidays, Margot at the Wedding, etc.). Now we have the series “Bloodline,” available to stream on Netflix. Created by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman (creators of “Damages”), the show delves into the psychology and drama surrounding the Rayburn family, owners of a cottage-style B&B in the Florida Keys.
The nitty gritty occurs when the oldest son, Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn, Exodus: Gods and Kings, “Tangle”), shows up as his parents (played with considerable depth by Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek) are holding a celebration for their hotel’s 45th year of business. The typical black sheep figure, Danny's arrival causes a strain of unease that pervades the familial festivities. But why? Already, in the first episode, viewers are left with many questions. Why did Danny leave? Why is everyone so nervous about his arrival? And what’s with all the air conditioners breaking? Can’t these rich folks afford a repairman?
It's this particular slow-burn introduction into the family that makes that show captivating from the get-go. Not to mention its noteworthy cast. First, we have the do-gooder second son, also the town's sheriff (played by the reliable Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”). Then we have his sister Meg (Linda Cardellini, “Freaks and Geeks”). Last, we have brother Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz, Higher Ground). Each character deals with their own personal crisis, whether it's a trying police investigation, a hot affair or the disintegration of a marriage. But Danny's arrival seems to be at the top of everyone’s list of shit they have to deal with.
The first episode only scratches the bitter pigment of the surface, but it's enough to keep viewers interested, and though it's filmed in sunny Florida, it maintains a moodiness that lets viewers know this is no lighthearted series. This is clearly a family with a dark past, and they’re obviously intent on keeping it buried. But what fun would that be? We're all about that drama, people! It's also good to know that the show supplies a series of flash-forwards to some pretty sinister stuff, letting us know this probably isn't going to have a happy ending. So what's our only solution? To keep watching, of course. The show isn't particularly groundbreaking, but the fact that its creators have taken the family drama, which is usually condensed for filmic purposes, and turned it into a 13-episode arc means this is one family with a hell of a lot of secrets. And seeing the performances by these well-versed actors as undisclosed info rises to the bubbly surface is enough to keep viewers interested.