Binge-Watch Update: Bloodline

In her memoir of her friendship with the late poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy entitle Truth and Beauty, novelist Ann Patchett describes helping Lucy start writing her first novel. They are canoeing down the Little Harpeth River with Ann rowing (and pushing) while Lucy rides and brainstorms out loud. Ann recalls the event in part thusly,

Lucy went through all the characters in detail and each one was more despicable than the one who came before. When she told me the narrator, the abandoned sister, was wildly promiscuous and drank too much and probably has sex with the character of the nephew, I suggested she ease up a little.

‘We’ve got to have someone we care about,’ I said. ‘And it helps if that person is the one telling the story. You can write a novel in which every character is despicable later, I just think it’s a bad idea for a first novel.’ (Truth and Beauty, pp 214-215)

The creators and writers of Bloodline could have used a friend like Ann Patchett when they made this show. The tagline of the show is: We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing. The truth is they are just bad people. To say that each character is more despicable than the next is a gross understatement and there is literally no one to care about.

Bloodline is a Netflix original series that was recommended to me by two of Jeff’s brothers and their wives over Christmas dinner. I was intrigued and since I had just finished Stranger Things, I thought it might be another great series after that exceptional experience. I thought wrong.

It turns out not all Netflix original series are created equal.

Bloodline stars big names Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, John Leguizamo, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. The less famous Jacinda Barrett (of The Real World: London fame) and Enrique Murciano (of Without a Trace). And newcomer Norbert Leo Butz. And Chloe Sevigny makes several guest appearances.

Chandler is probably supposed to be considered the series’ protagonist. He is the second oldest son of the Rayburn family of Islamorada, FL in the Keys. He is a detective with the county sheriff’s department. The Rayburns are essentially the “First Family” of Islamorada and like all prominent families they have secrets. Butz, Cardellini, and Mendelsohn play his siblings. Mendelsohn plays his older brother, the black sheep of the family. Spacek and Shepard play their parents. And there is a fifth sibling, a sister named Sarah who died as a child. Barrett plays Chandler’s wife and Murciano is his partner as well as his sister’s fiance.

The series begins with a pier being dedicated to the family and eldest son Danny (Mendelsohn) coming back for the event. His siblings have all created lives in the town while a dark family secret (or maybe more than one) drove Danny away. The family are less than enthused about Danny’s return except for his mother Sally (Spacek). Where I thought the series would go would be in the direction of exploring the dysfunction within the family and also the repercussions of that.

Early in the first episode though, when Danny hooks up with an old friend who is trouble before seeing his family, I realized that this series was not going to stick with the obvious trope which would have been rife with complex characters and intriguing psychological explorations. But no, these characters are just bad people. They are incapable of doing anything ethical or even just kind-hearted. And just when I think it can’t get any worse, that they cannot make any more bad decisions, these characters outdo themselves.

And, um, there is the small matter of uncreative dialogue that heavily features f-bombs. A friend told me she and her husband called it their “effen show.”

The show has aired two seasons and will air a third sometime this year but has been cancelled after that. I am unsure if I will watch the trainwreck til the end as the second season ended in spectacular meltdown. Plus, as my aforementioned friend reminded me, the show is totally not edifying. I only have a small complex about completing things from a college professor who told us that we had to read at least 100 pages before we could throw a book down in disgust. That meant a lot of us finished a lot of books because 100 pages in…we figured we might as well finish it. And that transferred to tv series for some odd reason.

So while I remain undecided about finishing the series, I would highly recommend skipping this one altogether.

Currently binging on Community on Hulu, The Office (US version) on Netflix, Breaking Bad on Netflix, and Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime.

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So yeah, it’s a new year, I have a blog and all that jazz…

We’re half a month into 2017. We’ll have a new president before the week is out. I’ve been back to school two whole weeks and…yeah, I know you’re bored already.

Long before Advent I had my patron saint for 2017, St Christopher Magallanes, the Cristero martyr. But the Holy Spirit had a surprise for me in the form of a smiling, hunched over Albanian born nun in a white sari with blue trim. Back in maybe September, I saw on snapchat via Catholic News Agency that the Missionaries of Charity in San Ysidro, CA were giving away Second Class Relics of Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Finally, around November, I got around to looking up the website information and sent them an email hoping to get one and realizing they may not have anymore to give. Suddenly, during the third week of Advent, Gaudete week, I got a package from San Ysidro and opened it to find approximately 20 relics and medals. I was blown away. Solved was my problem of what to get my co-catechist, director of Faith Formation, and priests for Christmas. And easily I knew I’d pass one on to my parents and one to my grandparents. When I gave one to our director of faith formation she said, “God must want you to evangelize about St Teresa!” Well, that was kind of out of nowhere and caught my attention.

So now I have two patrons for 2017: for faith St Christopher Magallanes and for evangelization for St Teresa of Kolkata.

My Bible verse for 2017 is John 3:30 He will increase, I will decrease. And I’m really working hard on this but you know, it’s a struggle. A lot. Because I’m really great at resisting grace. It’s this thing I’ve got called being human.

So, of course, my word for 2017 is trust. Like Psalm 27. Trust. And I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit is going to have a field day with this. But there you go. IF there was ever a reason that I knew I needed to trust, this is it. I need to know that this is something I really need to focus on. So, here we go. 2017, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

 

Binge-Watch Update: Stranger Things

Let me begin this post by telling you the genres that Stranger Things is classified as: science fiction, thriller and horror. Those are three genres that, with the exception of Star Wars, I never, ever watch any of those three genres. Just not my jam.

That being said, I loved this show more than I loved any show in a long, long time.

The show is a Netflix original and has aired one season so far of eight episodes with a second season promised later in 2017.

In summary, a tween boy named Will Byars, after ten hour day playing Dungeons and Dragons with his three best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas is attacked and disappears on his way home. His disappearance triggers a series of events that makes the sleepy fictional town of Hawkins, IN turn into a dangerous, conspiracy ridden, sci-fi nightmare. Will’s disappearance would be swept under the rug when his body is discovered by authorities in a quarry except for a dedicated and disbelieving mother and brother, a skeptical sheriff, and three devoted friends. Joining them is a mysterious girl with a shaved head who appears out of nowhere named Eleven (called El by the boys when they find her) and eventually a Mike’s older sister Nancy whose best friend Barb disappears mysteriously after a party with Nancy. Nancy’s boyfriend Steve also joins in at the end of the search.

The series is an homage in many ways to Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King as well as the 80s in general. However, it’s not cheesy or overdone. Even the film quality is reminiscent of 1980s movies which lends a kind of authenticity to the entire series.

The series also stars Winona Ryder as Will’s mother Joyce Byars and it is a departure from any of her previous roles. She plays the role with gravity and empathy. She is every single mother who has refused to give up. And her pain over her son’ disappearance and refusal to give up resonate deeply with every mother’s grief.

The story-telling is magnificently done, the characters are fully developed and the acting is amazing. And it does keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a total win whether you’re a genre fan or not. Whether you liked the 80s or not. And definitely if you’re a fan of great tv.