Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bloodline: “Part 8”

Illustration for article titled Bloodline: “Part 8”

Watching Bloodline is an intense exercise in patience. Getting through the series takes times—quite literally, with some episodes pushing very close to the 60-minute mark. It takes energy. I didn’t realize until somewhere around “Part 6” that I have the constant feeling of flinching when I watch most episodes of this show. I feel like Diana Rayburn, watching Danny with a wary and fearful eye, knowing that just below the surface of even his calmest exchanges, something’s about to blow. The very first lines we hear in the Bloodline pilot come from John, in voiceover, explaining how ever since Danny returned to the Keys, he could feel it in his body that something very bad was about to happen.

Bloodline replicates that foreboding tone episode after episode, and though it takes patience, it gives us little payoffs along the way, in the form of glimpses into the past or future or sometimes just in small character moments that are so gritty and unidealized that it’s impossible not to be sucked into the pathos of the series. “Part 8” takes more than it gives, continuing a stretch of largely digressive episodes that spend too much time lining pieces up without even knocking them down. Too often, Bloodline feels like a prolonged inhale. “Part 8” has a few individually strong scenes, but while the various storylines are beginning to link up and the big picture is becoming clearer and clearer, there’s a bit of an emotional disconnect from scene to scene, especially because so many of the main players’ motivations and fears remain unfocused.

Meanwhile, John and Danny’s relationship continues to be one of the more intricate and compelling dynamics on the show, so it’s no surprise that the episode’s best scenes include Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn playing against one another, as Danny tightens his grip on John. We still haven’t seen a lot of development happen between Kevin and Danny: In this episode, the two men are rarely on screen together, as Kevin busies himself sniffing out the wrong guy in the aftermath of his assault. Meg and Danny share two brief moments: First, a haunting, silent look across the room during Meg and Marco’s engagement celebration, which then leads up to Danny confronting Meg about lying to him about having been cut out of the will.

But like Kevin, Meg’s psychological underpinnings remain pretty hazy. She’s firm with Danny, telling him they never had an understanding and pushing back against his attempts to bully her. But her relationship with Danny isn’t rooted in the same careful character work as John’s is. Bloodline has spent so much time building John’s internal conflict that hinges on his guilt for lying all those years ago that Meg and Kevin have been relegated to the backburner. There, they brew—both characters are undeniably going through complex emotional changes in response to both Danny’s arrival and the death of their father—but it’s all just out of sight. The only thing for certain is their uncertainty about Danny. But even that apprehension is broadly drawn when compared to the stickiness of John’s feelings.

Because of Bloodline’s nonlinear narrative structure, we know big things are on the horizon. And the arrival of drug kingpin Wayne Lowry as well as Danny’s rapidly accelerating criminal activities add to the gathering storm, but Bloodline is still struggling to find its momentum, and as we get closer and closer to the “bad thing” future John keeps telling us about, it’s getting harder to forgive the show’s pacing problems. Even when episodes like this one have scenes that work almost like potent emotional vignettes that establish a very specific mood, the show is trying to be something more than just an intimate look at interpersonal family dynamics. It’s just getting a bit distracted along the way.

Stray observations:

  • Marco in his tío loco mode just became one of my favorite secondary characters. His niece’s party looked way more fun and way less full of deep dark secrets than the Rayburn rope pull.
  • Sally spends most of the episode falling for Danny’s charms and manipulations. I’m still waiting for this show to realize it has someone as talented as Sissy Spacek and start to use her as more than just a vague motherly figure.
  • Chandler plays shitshow John so, so well.
  • The dynamic between Danny and Jane continues to be deeply creepy.
  • Again, the way the show plays with perspective and perception is really great. Here, John imagines Danny holding a knife, when it’s really just his car keys.