Review

In 'Bloodline,' dark business is afoot in the sunny Florida Keys

Robert Lloyd
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
All is not as it seems in Netflix's new drama-derived drama 'Bloodline'

"Bloodline," whose first and probably not last season appears all at once Friday on Netflix, comes from Glenn and Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman, creators of the celebrated FX/DirecTV Glenn Close legal thriller "Damages."

The setting this time is the Florida Keys and a family called the Rayburns, appropriate to the sunny setting. (Sunny but, you know, dark.) We are invited for an instant to regard them as privileged and powerful and beautiful and happy, none of which bodes well for what we are subsequently, inevitably bound to learn.

Parents Sally and Robert (Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepherd) run an elegant and highly successful beachside inn and have made it into their golden years with their illusions intact. Second son John (Kyle Chandler) is the local sheriff (there is a murder mystery afoot, or afloat); prodigal oldest son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) rootless and rudderless, out of the box the show's most interesting character; daughter Meg (Linda Cardellini) a lawyer with a hand in the family business; and little brother Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), who seems like a man who has listened to every Jimmy Buffet album without assimilating the message of any.

Yes, you have seen their like before.

The creators have said this is the sort of show in which nothing is what it seems — by which I take them to mean, hopefully, that things are not the things that already seem to be the things that are not what they seem.

"I couldn't have known then how this was going to end up," John says in one of the dark and stormy flash-forwards that dot the main narrative.

Indeed, things not being what they seem is so much par for this course that a show in which everything turns out to be exactly what it seems would be almost revolutionary.

There is no arguing with the cast. Even the (so far) small parts — three episodes have been offered for review — are richly stocked, with Chloë Sevigny as the casually provocative sister of Danny's best and probably only friend, and Katie Finneran as Kevin's wife. Having less weight to carry, they seem more real and vivid than the central characters

Similarly, the viewer feels grateful for the ambient presence of Florida, with its pretty breezes, banyan trees, bodies of water and the palpable air of ordinary subtropical life. It helps to balance the drama-derived drama, the load-bearing expositions and accusations and declarations and seemingly innocuous statements that clearly portend some darker business.

"I'll feel a whole lot better when all my children are together in one place," says mother Sally, inauspiciously.

As madly tied to one another as they are, the Rayburns are, in the first few episodes, at least, a little hard to care about. Yet there is enough happening by the third episode that I will definitely watch the fourth, just to see what might or might not happen, what herrings might be red, and what surprises might be truly surprising.

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'Bloodline'

Where: Netflix

When: Starting Friday, anytime

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)

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