Release: 21st March 2016
From the creators of “Damages,” “Bloodline” is a dramatic thriller that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community. But when the black sheep son comes home for the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel, he threatens to expose the Rayburns’ dark secrets and shameful past, pushing his siblings to the limits of family loyalty.
The biggest question surrounding Bloodline’s DVD release isn’t, “is this worth the watch.” But rather, “why bother buying it, when Netflix has it already!?” Glenn and Todd Kessler’s sun(and blood)soaked drama, was an early fixture in the ‘Netflix originals’ bandwagon; which saw it sitting in streaming history with the likes of House of Cards, Daredevil and Orange Is The New Black. To this very day, anyone with a Netflix account can still watch the Rayburn family slowly dissolve, until their heart is content. So what is the point in releasing it on DVD? The answer: because Bloodline is bloody brilliant, and why pay for a year’s worth of streaming, when you can just buy the show outright.
As with all good quality long form storytelling, Bloodline requires patience and trust. This isn’t a show which runs episodically, and sometimes characters can spend two episodes or more just internalising struggle. But the trust comes because when foundations are properly laid, great things can be built; and that great thing looks a lot like the Rayburn Hotel. A common theme with most shows at current is to pad out a season with trite side stories and mini investigations. Almost knowingly, Bloodline takes what would often be a cliff-hanger for a mid-season hiatus, and turns it into bookending for the entire season. There are, of course, little side steps along the way (human trafficking, episodic mysteries, Danny’s side ventures), but these all ultimately serve to build up the characters and the dissonance between them. Very rarely does anything in Bloodline feel like less than calculated and thoughtful storytelling.
Bloodline truly encourages binge watching, but if pushed, you could say the show’s highlights come as episodes ‘The Price Isn’t Right’, ‘Go Fish’, ‘S.S.D.D’, ‘Sleep Tight’ and ‘Scary Uncle Danny’. Each are filled with major developments for the overall and individual arcs, and really show Bloodline at its best. The season finale is what it is. Never a show to venture into anything too ludicrous, episode 13 does flirt with some of the more melodramatic elements common in family dramas. But darkness often lurks in plain sight, and in spite of its absolutely flawless landscapes and cinematography, Bloodline is a pretty mean bitch. There is plenty of grief to spare for the second season, and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
What makes the show so darn watchable is its central cast and their wonderful chemistry. Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek and Norbert Leo Butz often take a backseat to Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn, simply because you have to have a hero and villain – and these two take turns with each other. But truth be told, it’s the small moments which help to give the show its overall impact. To share much would spoil the surprise, but suffice to say each Rayburn, at the very least, gets their ‘episode’. This season really does belong to Mendelsohn. He flits between feckless wild child, doe-eyed black sheep and destructive asshole, like you wouldn’t believe. And the best part is, every single moment of it feels 100% authentic. Forget your Hemsworth family, your Outback Steakhouse and your Castlemaine XXXX; it is Ben Mendelsohn who is Australia’s greatest export.
Film Grade: A-
The only feature on offer is a series of Deleted Scenes. Disc two has the best of the bunch, and disc five offers a tense little exchange, but for the most part its just filler. Bloodline is screaming to further justification of a DVD release, and more features would’ve been choice.
Special Features Grade: D
Worth the purchase for the show alone. Here is hoping season two keeps the flame alive.