Full Shade: Netflix’s Bloodline
It took zero effort or promotion on the part of Netflix or Bloodline’s producers to get me to watch this show. South Florida and the Keys, including a scene in the pilot of one of my favorite places on Earth, Alabama Jack’s? Just ask Burn Notice how much I love that.
Kyle Chandler, beloved Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights? Clear eyes. Full hearts. All that.
Sold. 100%. I’m in.
At first I didn’t even understand it. There are time jumps which are, at best, confusing and, at worst, indecipherable. There are flashbacks and dreams and hallucinations. People are there who aren’t there. Drownings. Fires. Drugs. Adultery. Murder.
Watching Bloodline is sort of like being on a small fishing boat. Leave the calm, protected waters of the Keys and you can go just far enough offshore enough to get caught in the waves of a summer storm rolling in. A moderate chop, that’s what the weather people call it, not rough enough to send you back in but bad enough to churn up that queasy, sick feeling in your gut and make you instantly regret the gas station fried chicken you bought when you stopped to get ice for the cooler. You eventually get your sea legs, but you still don’t feel right. The world fades into fuzzy focus. Shards of light splinter off the waves, flashing like strobes. The air is heavy with dread and portent and the smell of dead fish.
The episodes release information slowly and deliberately. Mostly, you know enough, but you never know it all. Each moment, each visual, elicits a specific mood. We move from inside a character’s head, experiencing visions and flashbacks directly through his point of view, shot with extreme close-ups, to present day action seen through far away long shots that have the look and feel of surveillance footage. It feels like we are eavesdropping on conversations. Many of the intimate moments are shot through windows and doors. We are pulled from being uncomfortably close to uncomfortably distant, sometime within in the same scene.
People are exactly who you’d expect them to be. Then they aren’t. Danny—the ne’er–do-well brother—looks like a Key rat from a mile away but he’s strangely charming and sympathetic. John is the boy scout sheriff but wears his guilt like a Kevlar vest in the Florida sun. Kevin and Meg are their own brands of ‘effed up. Even Mom and Dad Rayburn find surprising ways to let everyone down. In short, everyone is always kind of the worst—the nasty wreck you can’t turn away from.
The show isn’t perfect. Sometimes it is too slow. Sometimes it is too obvious. But. But. But…
Uncomfortable. Enigmatic. Mesmerizing.
Bloodline is all about the slow burn. The moderate chop. Just enough discomfort to make you unsteady but not so bad that you leave for calmer waters. The sort of trip that stays with you even after you’re back on dry land.