“WE’RE not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” So goes the key line of dialogue in Bloodline; a television programme that doesn’t just outwardly project ‘prestige television’ as scream it. From the creators of Damages, comes a programme starring Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler, Freaks and Geeks’ Linda Cardellini, Oscar winner Sissy Spacek (who had a great run on Big Love), Oscar nominee and writer of True West Sam Shepard as well as our generation’s Harry Dean Stanton, Ben Mendolsohn. It’s a big, grown-up drama series with lots of deep, meaningful staring in beautiful locales around the Florida keys. Oh, and did I mention it’s the best Netflix Original yet?
When I say this, I’m not including Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul or any other programme with a Netflix exclusivity deal, only programming that was made for Netflix, so don’t get all twisted in your knickers about that statement, but seriously, under those parameters, it’s true. As the best thing for this show is to go in completely unaware, I’ll give you the loosest plot description; Kyle Chandler plays John Rayburn, one of four adult siblings and the deputy Sheriff of Monroe County Florida. When black sheep Danny (Mendehlsohn) turns up at the family hotel, secrets, resentments and other generally bad stuff is reignited which threatens to tear everyone asunder.
You might worry at first that revolving a programme around a group of successful, rich white people whose lives are called into question by the arrival of a less successful, not so rich white person would be stale or trite, but it is anything but. Through some incredibly canny casting and a richness of character barely glimpsed in most drama, the programme manages to transcend any clichéd elements its early episodes may have. This is not to say it doesn’t have its fair share, but even early Breaking Bad had teething issues.
As good as the writing is, it cwouldn’t work without its cast and boy, what a cast it is. Kyle Chandler could play authoritative and brooding in his sleep after his stellar work on FNL but luckily he commits to his performance, making him a flawed, soulful man who is never as good a person as he’d hope he would be. Mendelsohn is a livewire, injecting every scene he’s in with an energy that makes it seem as if, at any moment, it could all blow up. Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek are also magnificent as the family parents; they are true pros, handling every single line of dialogue with correct importance.
The finest performance in the series to me feels like Linda Cardellini as the youngest member of the family, she is also conducively the one trying to look after everyone and hold everything together. Suffice to say she doesn’t manage for long as long-built family feuds boil to the surface and watching her portrayal of a woman whose world is burning to the ground is heartbreaking.
At worst, Bloodline is well-shot, well-acted drama; at its best, it creates a thick, imposing atmosphere like nothing else on television. At best, it is, well, the best. The Emmy nominations were announced yesterday and the programme received only two nominations (Best Actor and Supporting for Chandler and Mendelsohn respectively) but there’s a second season coming next year and with Awards Monolith Mad Men now finished, don’t expect it to stay so out of the public and the awarding bodies’ full attention for long.
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