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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