Bloodline Season 2 Review: House of Lies

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Season two of Bloodline is once again all about Danny (Ben Mendelsohn). How could it not be? The now deceased member of the Rayburn family, murdered in one of last year’s final episodes by his brother John (Kyle Chandler), was the center of the show’s superb premiere season. That’s not to say Danny was the only thing worth watching for, even if Mendelsohn was deservingly the one with the most awards attention, but that the show’s very premise was built on the family dynamics surrounding their black sheep.

In season two, they’re all black sheep. The three siblings, all in on Danny’s murder, are struggling to pick up the pieces after what they did. John spends season two darting past the loose ends he failed to tie up after drowning his brother. Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) has descended into alcoholism and drug use. Meg (Linda Cardinelli) can’t keep away from the family drama, quickly losing the job she moved to New York for to bring her back to the Keys full time. But even so, the siblings spend so little time with each other this year. Bloodline acts like these episodes are just on top of season one, rather than a full-blown second season. The shorter episode order suddenly makes sense. Even at ten hours of content, for everything that happens this year, or lack thereof, it could be condensed even further.

To fill in the gaps, the show adds a few new players to the mix. From the cliffhanger of season one, Danny’s son Nolan (the young but exceptional Owen Teague) is around right from the start. It’s not long before his mother (Andrea Riseborough) enters the scene as well, though she’s not given a whole lot to do besides provide loose connections to the Rayburns and their newest adversary, Danny’s more violent partner Ozzy (John Leguizamo). Of these three, Ozzy is meant to be the biggest presence, but it’s Nolan who steals the show. What could have been a terrible idea ends up being the only truly innocent player in Danny’s legacy. Well, no one is really innocent on Bloodline, but Nolan still has a chance to turn his life around.

And that’s what season two primarily ends up being about, how these people connected to Danny don’t just get to go on living after forcibly removing him from their lives. That’s fine and good, but there’s never a sense of normalcy, even when the characters, especially Meg, are trying to fake it. What made Bloodline such an insanely captivating series at its start was how much the Rayburns looked like us. A falsely happy marriage. The f*ck up child. Awkward dinners. Genuine comradery. The build to Danny’s murder was complicated but wholly real. Season two maintains that realism in the Rayburns’ individual storylines, but never puts them together long enough for us to witness them just being a family, which is how we connected with them in the first place. Sure, there’s no going back to normal after a brother kills one of his own, but there’s no sense of how the Rayburns interact now that Danny is gone.

So while season two is every bit as aesthetically cinematic and well-acted (this cast remains one of the most talented on TV) as its predecessor, there’s an overall sense that the writers are searching for a story here when there isn’t one. Even the most climactic moments of the season don’t measure up to half of season one’s narrative prowess. If viewers take note of the significant dip in quality, John may finally have an answer to his final question to Danny before he killed him. “When’s it going to end, Danny?!” If I had to guess, Netflix might respond with cancellation. Grade: C+

By Matt Dougherty

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