Over time, Sarah Rayburn’s seahorse necklace has become one of the most important symbols on Bloodline. Watching the show can sometimes feel like a slogging process, but since the beginning, the writers have expertly used imagery and symbols to convey the overall tone of the series as well as specific emotions for its characters. Hell, even the setting is one big symbol: a beautiful seaside hotel surrounded by mangroves that hide all sorts of dangers like bodies and gators and stolen gas cans. The beauty of the Keys sharply contrasts the ugly truths of the Rayburn family. The seahorse necklace, which has appeared in almost every episode since the pilot, initially simply represented Sarah Rayburn. But as we find out in “Part 11,” it’s even darker than that: To Danny, that necklace isn’t just a personal artifact that reminds him of his sister. It reminds him of exactly how she died, with her hand caught in a reef’s crevice when she dove after the fallen necklace. Images of the necklace appear more frequently throughout “Part 11” and strike an even more haunting feeling, as we’re presented with the most complete account of the day Sarah died yet.
The Bloodline we get in “Part 11” is the Bloodline I have been waiting for. Granted, it’s quite possible that the weight of the episode wouldn’t have been so intense without the slow-build of the past few episodes, but “Part 11” twists and turns in a way that we haven’t really seen Bloodline pull off since its pilot. First, John surprises with his plan to counterattack Danny’s leverage. John meets with Meg and Kevin to let them know he intends to go to the DEA directly to try and get ahead of the shitstorm that will rain down on the Rayburns’ hotel when narcotics are found on the property. For a moment, I believed Meg and Kevin had really gone rogue, deciding to move the product and become felons in an effort to save the family name and the hotel. But it turns out John was calling the shots. John has pretty much always been calling the shots, as we found out last episode that it was him who fed the lie about Danny’s “accident” to little Meg. But the way the first act of “Part 11” unfolds makes the reveal truly surprising.
But “Part 11” creates Bloodline’s most suspenseful sequence yet the second Danny decides to get off the bus to Miami John put him on. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what drives Danny and, specifically, what brought him home. Was he just trying to make money to pay back the bad crew he owed in Miami and then just got in over his head? Or was he always planning to cause his family pain? “Part 11” answers by saying it’s a little bit of both but also that it doesn’t matter. Danny interrogates himself by way of Sarah’s adult ghost as he realizes it was never only about the money. “I just want them to feel what I feel,” he tells her/himself. “I want them to know what it’s like.
Danny may have initially come back to try to make some cash and escape his troubles in Miami, but his resentment for his family has bubbled just under the surface, and Robert’s death, the will, and the resurfacing of those Lenny Potts tapes were more than enough to bring it all spilling forward. Even though the whole family feels the pain of Sarah’s death, no one feels it as sharply as Danny, and the Rayburns are long past the point when they should have shown empathy and protection for the only person who was there for her that day. Even at his worst, Danny remains too complicated of a character to not warrant some level of sympathy or, at least, understanding.
Because John has never fully empathized with his pain, Danny decides to force him to feel it. The last 15 or so minutes of “Part 11” ooze with suspense. I knew Danny would not kill Jane. In fact, it simply would not have made sense from a character or story perspective for him to have murdered his own niece. But the writers, along with Ed Bianchi’s direction, work together to escalate the drama in subtle strokes, weaving images from the past with the present to effectively keep alive the slightest glimmer of doubt about Danny’s intentions. I knew Danny would not kill Jane, and yet, I still felt my heart racing the whole time, unable to say with 100 percent conviction that everything would be more-or-less alright. Even Gwen’s casual relaying of Danny’s message to John—that he shouldn’t worry, because Jane is with an adult—rattles thanks to the foundation provided by the flashbacks.
Kyle Chandler’s performance adds to the heightened tension of the episode, with John viscerally feeling the fear Danny hoped to instill in him. In the final seconds of the episode, John lets out an explosive “where the fuck is my daughter?!” to Danny over the phone, only to turn the corner and see a smiling Jane sitting on the porch with Sally as if nothing ever happened. It’s hardly a sigh of relief, though, as we see the seahorse dangling on Jane’s neck as a reminder, a threat, a promise. In order to sell the conclusion we know is coming, the writers have to push the Rayburns to their limits, convince us that they really are desperate. We’re finally getting to that point.
- Even though there are obviously a lot of storylines to be wrapped up over the next two episodes, “Part 11,” at times, feels like a season finale, mainly because there are a lot of parallels to the pilot. Danny rides out on the bus just like how he came, revisiting the crumpled up speech he never gave at the rope pull.
- Danny has decided to stay, but I’m not sure exactly how he expects to live another day with Lowry on his tail.
- I understand why the siblings don’t want to tell Sally about everything. They’re trying to protect her. And yet, the fact that Sally is out of the loop is part of why I feel like she hasn’t really worked as a character. Sissy Spacek can do a lot more than absentmindedly plan a wedding when everything else is falling apart.
- Yesterday, it was announced that Netflix has renewed Bloodline for a second season. I’m not exactly sure if this story is sustainable enough to make another season work, but I can’t really back that up until I finish this first season. Speaking of which: We’re almost at the end, folks!
- I specifically mentioned Chandler’s acting, but it’s worth noting that Ben Mendelsohn turns in another outstanding performance that makes it hard for me to believe he won’t get some kind of awards play this year.