‘Bloodline’ – Season 2 Review

Netflix’s ‘Bloodline’ returns with an enthralling 10 hours that easily rank among the year’s best.

In what is perhaps one of the best TV surprises of 2015, Bloodline has delivered a smashing follow-up season to a freshman chapter, previously thought untouchable. When season 1 ended with the death of its most crucial character, you could tell that Bloodline meant business. It just wasn’t clear how much, until now.

In its sophomore season, the enrapturing drama quickly proves it has no intentions of resting on its laurels. It constantly challenges itself to climb its way out of every difficult plot twist it thrusts its characters into, as every episode of its second season finds its leads descending into deeper and darker uncharted waters, than they previously found themselves in.

Photo: Netflix

Season 2 not only focuses on the fallout from its last but ramps up the intoxicating pressure its central trio faces as the aftermath of their actions, threaten to completely capsize their existence. Rayburn siblings: John (Kyle Chandler), Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) desperately try to keep their sanity and freedom afloat throughout the season. Their bungled cover-up of their brother’s murder has made them all complicit in the ugliest of family secrets and the high wire act they put on, to keep it quiet is profoundly gripping to watch unfold. The cinematography’s docu-style movements bringing you into the sense, that you are watching the cameras roll on things we should not be privy to.

Throughout the season we see how the Rayburn siblings are handling the wreckage of their choice, in their own uniquely ruinous fashion. John is trying to keep them all out of prison and having to constantly remind his siblings that he is not the only one with blood on his hands; a tricky thing to accomplish when he did the dirty work and they helped clean up. Meg is trying to extricate herself from the entire debacle and only being pulled deeper in its quicksand with every attempt she makes to fight it. Meanwhile, proverbial screw-up Kevin tries to help himself at every turn, claiming he is doing everything for his growing family.

Photo: Netflix

The first 5 episodes, yet again pull at the tattered threads of the Rayburn’s hard-earned visage. With every loosening strand, the grip surrounding their fates grows even tighter. While last season was about Danny’s (Ben Mendelsohn) slow boiling revenge plot and the reveal of his family’s sordid tree of secrets, this season is about the secrets he was keeping. The introduction of his emotionally damaged son, Nolan (Owen Teague) sends viewers sifting through a cache of flashbacks that reveal Danny’s misguided attempts at fatherhood and the scarred son he left in his wake.

With Danny’s blood in the water, the sharks come ready to feed. Deciphering who has what intentions and what that means for the Rayburn siblings becomes a twisty descent. Streamlining the second season from 13 episodes down to 10, allows the series to better centralize its previously scattered focus. This season flows without ever pooling its tension, as the ramifications of the previous episode readily bleed into the next and so on. Every scene has a more defined purpose and there is no senseless meandering to test the audience’s patience. This time around, the momentum is relentless.

As questionable characters begin pouring in throughout the season, the central hub never gets lost in translation. The only issue the show faces is in giving us a good reason why John is so desperate to protect his wife and children. They treat him terribly and Janey Rayburn (Taylor Rouviere) makes a strong case for why she is one of the most obnoxious TV daughters to ever grace the small screen. One particularly climactic sequence involving the disrespectful teen is distractively glossed over by her parents. You keep waiting to see her get reined in but there is no relief. One of the series’ central themes seems to be taking aim on soft parenting and in regards to this particular storyline; a more defined narrative would have been appreciated.

Photo: Netflix

With Ben Mendelsohn’s role still pivotal yet reduced, it is up to Kyle Chandler to completely carry the show and carry it he does. Chandler has never been better than he is in these 10 episodes. The strength of his performance never wavers as he conveys John’s frazzled yet calm demeanor, as the beleaguered big brother tries desperately to not only keep the truth of his crime from being exposed to the public but his own internalized image of himself from being irreparably damaged.

Supporting him is Linda Cardellini, whose composed performance allows the audience their main foot hole into the scenario at play. Norbert Leo Butz is right there with them, knocking it out of the park as the walking, talking disaster that is Kevin Rayburn. Sissy Spacek and Ben Mendelsohn both give the most they can with what they are given, though both of their arcs are more subdued in nature than they were last year.

Newcomers Andrea Riseborough and John Leguizamo are stellar in their respective roles as the season’s mysterious interlopers. While Jamie McShane makes the role of Eric O’Bannon ring with indefatigable authenticity. Something Bloodline definitely accomplishes in its seconds season is introducing a terrific niche of surrounding characters that make the world it encompasses feel more authentically inhabited. There is not a new character that feels shoehorned in or overly indulged in screen time, which is a rare coup for a sophomore effort.

Bloodline helmers; Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman, have managed to pull off a one-two punch of extraordinary television. In the newfound age of binge watching, Bloodline proves why it deserves mentioning at the forefront of the buzzy conversation. More than any other series, it has managed to seamlessly create the feel of a non-stop, 10 hour movie. The result of which, is a truly remarkable piece of creative stamina.

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