Bloodline‘s Second Season Is Proof Positive That Ben Mendelsohn Should Have Won the Best Actor Emmy Last Year



***Spoiler Warning:  This post contains discussion of Bloodline through Season 2, Part 16. Spoilers***


Netflix’s first season of Bloodline was one of my favorite shows last year. Some people found the slow burn difficult at first, but by the series finale, most agreed it was an excellent, thrilling study on a dysfunctional family. With the climactic shocker of John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) killing his older brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), we’ve had over a year to contemplate whether Chandler’s good guy John did what he had to do, or that maybe he wasn’t such a good guy after all. With Danny dubbed the black sheep since a childhood accident left their younger sister dead, John had taken his spot as the de facto elder son. Ostensibly, John was the one who always looked after his other siblings. While the rest of the family was happy to keep Danny estranged, John extended the olive branch and tried to welcome him back into the fold. Between patriarch Robert’s (Sam Shepard) unforgiving cruelty, Sally’s (Sissy Spacek) willful ignorance and the other “protective” siblings (Linda Cardellini’s Meg, Norbert Leo Butz’s Kevin) happy with their cushy lives, Danny never stood a chance. Mendelsohn’s incredible, magnetic onscreen presence; his uncanny ability to swing back and forth between pseudo (at times, perhaps truly) nice guy who wants nothing more but to be part of his family, and angry and vindictive, scheming to ruin the rest of their lives, put him at the top of nearly everyone’s Best Actor Emmy list. In fact, it was surprising when both he and Kyle Chandler submitted for Best Supporting Actor. Despite the powerful ensemble cast, it was these two men who carried the first season, and now that I’ve had a chance to get into the second, it couldn’t be more obvious that Chandler can’t carry that weight alone any more than his character can shoulder his family’s collective burdens. He’s trying his best to, I’ll give Coach that. With Mendelsohn appearing only sporadically (either in flashback or John’s mind), Meg and Kevin reduced to drinking, snorting caricatures, and Sally intermittently sashaying through a scene, as of Part 18, slog barely begins to cover it; getting through the second half is proving a chore. There’s no doubt the entire Rayburn family is rotten to its core, but it is interesting to observe John’s internal struggle play out. He so badly wants…needs everyone to see him as the righteous brother, going so far as to ask one of his own cops if he thinks John is a good guy, even while struggling to see it of himself. Chandler’s performance is the only reason to watch, though this Part 16 (S2, E3) scene between John and Sally — punctuated by Henry Rollins kickass Liar — may have been the Season 2 peak. Watching his face as John receives the motherly approval he seeks, “watching over his brother until the end,” and then his quiet “Love you, mom,” we’re aware of the mask everyone in this family wears. The whole damned bloodline is tainted, but until each member hits bottom, not a one of them can stand to believe it.

Bloodline is available on Netflix now.

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over eight years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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  • Wigamer

    Ugh, season 2 killed this show for me. That blend of pity/scared shitless-ness I felt about Danny was clearly what I enjoyed.

    • Yeah, it’s just not working. There’s nothing but Kyle Chandler chewing the scenery.

  • Jelinas

    I loves me some Coach T, but S2 is making it very hard for me to want to continue. Everyone’s making such ridiculous decisions. And John Leguizamo is WAY to hammy for me as Ozzy Delvecchio.

    Things I’m having a difficult time swallowing:

    John running for sheriff. You just murdered your brother; why would you run for sheriff and put yourself under MORE public scrutiny?? I don’t buy that being sheriff would give him more control over the situation; even if he were to win, he wouldn’t be sworn in as sheriff until a few months in the future, and he needs to do damage control NOW.

    Diana figuring out what happened. I just think there are a million places her mind would go before it went to “my do-gooder husband straight-up murdered his big brother.” It’s a plot point so ridiculous that even Jacinda Barrett’s Aussie accent is trying to make a break for it (srsly, she’s sounding much more Australian this season than last). Also, every time she drops an F-bomb, it sounds so unnatural.

    Janie accepting everything Eve has to say and immediately turning against her own family. What kind of idiot would Janie have to be NOT to see that there was something fishy about Uncle Danny? Even as a kid, I was acutely aware of which of my uncles and aunts were losers who were not to be trusted and which were okay (reaching adulthood only confirmed my suspicions). Even if they were super-nice to me, I was always suspicious that those relatives only wanted something from my family and weren’t being nice because they actually liked me.

    There’s no way that Janie didn’t hear whispers of bad things about Black Sheep Uncle Danny when she was a kid; no way he had a clean slate with her when he came back into their lives. And definitely no way she didn’t see anything wrong with Eve “stopping by” her school and buying her an expensive shirt. Teen Me would never even have agreed to go shopping with my dead uncle’s shady ex who just descended on our lives out of nowhere and has ratty hair and claims to be a “musician” and asks me if I ever smoke pot and tries to gain my trust by confiding in me that she does partake (or… “par-toke”?) from time to time.

    No one explaining to Janie how Danny’s gift was actually a threat. It really isn’t that hard or complicated to explain to Janie that, by giving her Sarah’s necklace and taking her out on the boat alone, he was threatening that what happened to Sarah could “happen” to Janie. It appears that she doesn’t know the circumstances of Sarah’s death or else she’d be able to see herself that this was a threat. Either that or she’s a stone-cold idiot.

    Kevin’s inability to make any kind of rational, adult decision. I actually find Kevin the most likeable of the Rayburn clan because his only real problem is that he is a good-natured idiot who doesn’t understand how stupid he really is and has gotten into a situation that’s WAY above his pay grade and doesn’t have the capacity to understand how far above his pay grade it really is.

    That said, I almost threw something when he decided that he was going to make it right with Wayne Lowry (I loved Glenn Morshower in this role, btw) by just giving back some (NOT ALL!! Some of it’s up his nose and can never come back) of the stolen coke. You decided to deal stolen (!!) drugs instead of asking your family for financial help? And after that blows up in your face, you decide NOT to listen to your siblings when they tell you NOT TO DO ANYTHING?? But I will say that this plot point at least felt true to the character.

    The end, though? That did NOT feel true to the character. That felt like a way to force a Season 3.

    Meg. Just… Meg. You escaped the Keys and have a cushy job in NYC, and you get inappropriately drunk at a client dinner, and your totally cool boss tells you to go home and clear your head. You refuse, but then comply when your brother needs you, and then you fail to call and tell your totally cool boss that you have a family emergency??? You know you’re already on thin ice; how are you not going to call? The second it becomes evident that you’re going to miss your plane, you call your boss and give her some excuse. But I guess the show needed her to lose her job in NY so that she would be free to run John’s campaign.

    Also, how are you going to give Marco Alex Moros’ name and then not give Alec a heads-up that the police are gonna come calling? “Maybe I got the nights confused”??? MEG. COME ON.

    Sally inviting Eve and Nolan to live at the inn. Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to do right by your grandson. But your dead son’s estranged ex??? Who is clearly angling for a payday?? COME. ON.

    At this point, I WANT them all to get caught. For their sakes. The longer this goes on, the worse it gets for all of them. I don’t know if I’ll watch that far, though. I think I might be done.

    • Meg and Kevin aren’t even worth mentioning (imo) this season. I don’t understand how they can be written by the same people as last season. Just so…cliche and stupid.

      • Jelinas

        Agreed. That whole conversation at the end where Meg and Kevin basically hang John out to dry was so out of nowhere. What happened to the complex characters of last season?

        Maybe that’s the lesson. Say “no” to drugs and alcohol, kids.

        • I’m not finished yet, but that doesn’t surprise me in the least. I just think Danny showing up and needling them all brought out the people they really are. Kevin was already on the edge, Meg lost her stability, so that sent her on the path to reeling. But still! The veneer over this family was mighty thin.

          • Jelinas

            Yeah, I think they did a good job last season of setting up how tenuous their family stability really was.

            One thing that I do think the show did a good job of is showing how something as simple as lying can wear so much on your soul. Right after the murder, things seem so clear to all of them: Meg and Kevin think John is the good one; he must have been justified in killing Danny. But outsiders and the law won’t understand that, so we have to protect him from those consequences. He doesn’t deserve to go to jail, to lose his family.

            But now they’re part of this, and the unforeseen consequences of their decision to cover up John’s crime begin to pile on. They need to keep lying to add credibility to their stories. John runs for sheriff to try and gain more control (SO stupid, but whatevs). Meg feels that she has to get involved in John’s campaign, which gets her (and eventually Kevin) all entangled with Roy Gilbert. Kevin turns to drugs and alcohol to try and forget.

            But the impetus for these events wasn’t Danny’s return. It was back when the family covered for Robert. They’ve all been lying every day since Sarah died. They didn’t become these people because Danny forced them to it. Danny’s return just stripped off the veneer to show them who they really were.

            It was petty of John to point out that they made a choice. But he’s not wrong. If Meg and Kevin face consequences for their actions, it’s because they chose to cover it up, not because John killed Danny. One could argue that John was actually forced to follow through on the coverup for their sakes because he knew that they were already involved. But it was selfish of John to try and use that as leverage to force them to continue the charade once they’d decided that they couldn’t keep it up anymore.

            But, that said, I’m finding it harder and harder to care what happens to any of them.

          • Yes, yes, yes! I still maintain that somewhere inside Danny, when he first showed up at the house, wanted and was open to the idea of things being better. It was when he saw that nothing would ever change that he went back to his original plan (burn that family to the ground). And yes, of course, the whole thing with Robert just made me sick. I got tired of arguing with people last season (as you know) about how the rest of them were just as messed up as Danny, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re the ones who destroyed him. That kid who made a mistake — he didn’t deserve to pay for it the way he did. He never had a chance to come back from that.

            I don’t see how they can continue this series as long as they planned.