We always hear, and talk about television series that run out of gas. For many, Bloodline did this after just one season. In retrospect, we might have been better off with just one season. Bloodline started off as one of Netflix’s better original programs. With a great cast and undeniable sense of place, the show’s unique setting and rich family drama was what made the shows first season so memorable.I’ve always loved the way the show used its setting. It features gorgeous cinematography of the Florida Keys, a geographical area not often seen on camera.
Yet, Bloodline‘s setting is about the only unique thing about its third season. The show didn’t carry that momentum into its second season even though it was still an enjoyable one. Season two of Bloodline lacked the focus and narrative slickness that its first season achieved effortlessly. After a manic finish to that second season, we entered the final season of a show that ran out of gas, and quick. In it’s latest season, Bloodline has become a testament to shows that run out of gas. The shows creators had originally stated they would’ve loved to get four or five seasons out the show. It only lasted three, and its third season is a complete hot mess.
The show follows the Rayburn’s who on the surface seem like the ideal family. However they are full of problems. Deception is the name of the game for the Rayburn’s who are the ultimate definition of doing anything for family. The show has always had that theme. It often works. However when it doesn’t, the show wanders into a slippery slope of bad decisions made by characters we care increasingly less about as the show goes on.
The primary offender of this trait is Kevin Rayburn, played by Norman Leo Butz. Kevin makes one bad decision after another and it gets gratuitous. Kevin is whiny, and after making so many mistakes, we stop caring. That is true of a lot of these characters. John Rayburn, played by Kyle Chandler, is the families go to when they screw up. John is supposed to fix everything but even he can’t save the sinking ship that is the Rayburn’s. There are good performances in this show there is no doubt about that. Sissy Spacek is terrific and its always a pleasure to watch her. Even though he hadn’t been featured much in the shows final season, Ben Mendelssohn is incredible in this series overall.
The season isn’t a total disaster. Though it starts slow, it picks up the in the middle with some fascinating courtroom drama. The middle three to four episodes are genuinely solid hours of television. The show however unpredictably goes off the rails in its penultimate episode. In an episode that may truly be among the worst episodes of tv I have ever seen, the show attempts to show us the deteriorating state of John’s mind set and scenarios he plays in his head to show how things might’ve gone. This is an admirable idea to tackle. A major piece of John’s character is the guilt weighing down on him as events worsen. Yet, the seasons ninth episode is messy, unfocused, confusing and a flat out waste of time. Nothing is achieved from this episode.
Among all the abandoned and confusing plot points the shows final season chooses to focus on, there are some things to admire about the series finale. However to fully review it, there are a few thing I’ll have to spoil. If you haven’t watched Bloodline and plan to, skip past the red colored text to the end. You’ve been warned!
SPOILERS IN THE PARAGRAPH TO FOLLOW
The show ends with John seeing the ghost of Danny (Mendlessohn) as they discuss whether or not John should tell Danny’s son Nolan about the nature surrounding Danny’s death. John doesn’t want Nolan to know his uncle killed his father but the guilt is ultimately wearing down. One of the things that finale does do well I think is not letting John get away with dumping his guilt. Sheriff Aguirre doesn’t believe his confession for example. So John confronts Nolan on the pier and before the two can speak the show has a Sopranos type ending as the screen cuts to black. Thus, leaving it up to the viewer to decide whether or not John truly ends the Rayburn tradition of hiding and lying about everything.
Bloodline ends in a fury of unanswered questions and frustrating plot points. While the characters are certainly rich and full of depth, the show’s inability to conclude in a satisfying and sensible way makes us wonder why we ever took this journey with them in the first place. My recommendation, watch the first season and stop. Make up in your mind what happens next. It’d probably be more interesting than the way this show concludes.
Best Episode(s): tie, Episode 6, “Part 29” and Episode 7, “Part 30”
Worst Episode: Episode 9, “Part 32”
Season Score: 3.0/10
Consensus: Despite a few solid moments of well constructed courtroom drama, Bloodline ends in a sloppily constructed final season that creates unnecessary confusion and continues to focus on the repetitive stupidity of its main characters thus losing any reason to care about or root for the Rayburn’s.