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While it seems logical that Netflix will debut a few clunkers once it kicks its original programming into high gear, the most recent release, Bloodline, is proof that we’re barely scratching the surface of how amazing the service’s series can be. Some will disagree, but I found Bloodline to be the best drama that Netflix has delivered thus far, easily topping the soapy dark politics of House of Cards and the fractured dramedy of Orange is the New Black.
Even though it’s mildly difficult to cull together all of my gushing praise into concise sentences, here are five reasons why Bloodline is the greatest of Netflix’s current dramas. (And “Because it’s nothing like Hemlock Grove isn’t one of them, but it certainly could have been.) I’ll be keeping things spoiler-free as well, so don’t worry about major plot points dropping.
1. The storyline is familiar but deeply thought out. Created by the Damages trio of Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman, Bloodline is basically about a large well-to-do family whose lives change drastically once the oldest sibling, played by the always incredible Ben Mendelsohn, returns home after years of being the disregarded black sheep to everyone but the matriarch. But how did he become that way? How does the rest of the family feel about having him back, and how does it affect their own stories? And what’s with those dead bodies? Bloodline will answer those questions and many more, but only when it wants to, making sure you never quite know what you’re watching.
2. The cast is pitch-perfect. I already mentioned Mendelsohn, who is excellent as the hard-lucked Danny Rayburn, but he’s the tip of a massive iceberg of talent. The elder Rayburns, the moody Robert and graceful Sally, are played by Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek, respectively. Kyle Chandler plays the emotionally repressed Detective John Rayburn, Norbert Leo Butz plays the emotional tempest Kevin Rayburn, and Linda Cardellini plays the romantically distraught lawyer Meg Rayburn. Extended family includes Jacinda Barrett as John’s wife Diana, Katie Finneran as Kevin’s wife Belle, and Enrique Murciano as Meg’s longtime boyfriend Marco. Then we have Jamie McShane and Chloë Sevigny as Danny’s sibling friends Eric and Chelsea O’Bannon. And everyone else who gets screentime? They’re great as well. The Emmys definitely need to be paying attention here.
3. The dysfunctional family dynamic is depressingly relatable. Okay, so maybe not everyone can relate to having wealthy parents who run a gorgeous beachside inn, but we are all familiar with financial jumbles, marital snags, sibling rivalries, and the urge to find oneself in a positive light in a parent’s eyes. The Rayburns aren’t a family that argues for an argument’s sake; they’re a family with a tragic history that not all parties have accepted with the same amount of sincerity, and dishonesty is used like currency. If the ties that bind are the strongest, it’s the ones that have been frayed beyond repair that become the most interesting.
4. The pacing and tone remain dramatic and mysterious throughout. A huge part of why Bloodline is so watchable is due to the way plot points and character motivations are teased out in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. Characters will get caught up in a memory during a scene, and it will be episodes later when you realize the significance of earlier scenes. And though there are moments where laughter is welcome, this is a series that doesn’t stray far from its dark and slithering narrative. And it would much rather keep you thinking rather than knock you backwards with gaudy shocks and twists.
5. It looks positively outstanding. Even if Bloodline utilized a group of nameless directors – and this is a talented squad, fear not – it would be impossible for anyone to make this Florida Keys location look anything less than amazing. Even when the plot is playing up the dangers and other downsides of living on the coast, everything always looks crisp and gorgeous, although perhaps its muted color scheme doesn’t make it pop as much as House of Cards does. Add to that the way that the “waking dream sequences” (for lack of a better phrase) are handled, and you’ve got a series where the aesthetic is just as structured and dependable as the characters, performances and screenwriting.
Debuting today, March 20, all 13 episodes of Bloodline can be watched here and now. Do it.