“I don’t want to fuck with your case, Clay. Go have a sunshiny day.” -John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) in Bloodline
Sometimes you start watching a show or a movie and immediately know you are going to love it. Bloodline is not one of these shows. I knew that I would see it through, though, no matter what. Mostly, I knew I would watch because of star Kyle Chandler. I have been an enthusiastic Kyle Chandler cheerleader and champion since the early years – back when Chandler played Jeff Metcalf in the critically acclaimed but little-seen, little-remembered Homefront* back in the early 1990s. Chandler has appeared in many more shows over the years – most notably Early Edition and Friday Night Lights (the latter of which is an exceptional show). Chandler embodies Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights to the extent that it is almost impossible to imagine him in any other role. In most roles he has been a just but cranky and lovable but curmudgeonly man. In Bloodline it becomes clear he is still the moral compass of his difficult family, working in law enforcement, but he is troubled, and his performance in the final episode is like nothing I have ever seen Chandler do. (Also, the fact that Chandler’s character uses the word “fuck” or some variation of it almost every other word he says is a bit disarming. He’s Coach Taylor, and he doesn’t talk like that! Haha.)
Having already determined that I would follow through with the entire series (which was made available in full on Netflix), I do admit that the first five episodes didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence about the show in its entirety. It moved slowly, moved around in time so that it was not clear when things were happening and thus was not clear what things were happening. It focuses on the dysfunctional Rayburn family; they own an inn in the Florida Keys. It is a somewhat complicated tale that weaves together past grievances with current problems and strained family relationships that all come to a head when Danny (played to menacing, psychopathic perfection by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn), the black sheep of the family, returns.
Things pick up around the fifth episode. The story starts to tighten and the excellent cast helps the story to crystallize and brings it to life – even those in the smallest roles. By the end, I was riveted and very impressed by how the story unfolded. After the pieces of the story start to gel, all of the story’s mystery and pacing feel necessary and masterful. Luckily, the show will be back for a second season. I can’t wait – both because the storytelling preserves suspense – and there’s got to be more of that coming – and because I can always use another Kyle Chandler fix.
*Want to see Chandler before Coach Taylor, John Slattery before Roger Sterling (Mad Men), Ken Jenkins before Dr Kelso (Scrubs) or Chick (Cougar Town) or Mimi Kennedy before Abby (Dharma & Greg) or Marjorie (Mom)? Homefront is where you can see them all circa 1992-93.