As the libraries of popular streaming services continues to expand, granting audiences with a wider range of content to enjoy than ever before, a familiar question can plague the viewer when they sit down and tune in: what should I watch?
The MVP’s of such services in 2016 are without question the vast collection of quality original programming, but even they can blur into that daunting decision. House
However help is at hand. We have wandered through the dense vaults, perused the sprawling aisles and selected the show which demands to be binge-watched right now: Bloodline.
Catch the emphatic first season, out on Digital HD and DVD from Monday, the 21st of March, before the forthcoming second, and prepare to be transported to the hazy, sun-quilted Florida Keys where everything isn’t just boardwalks and oranges.
From the creative team behind Damages, the show follows the lives of the Rayburn family; a prestigious and wealthy unit which own and manage a beachside hotel in the heart of the Floridian Keys. A statement of the family name for over 45 years, Rayburn House is readying to celebrate an anniversary evening; a gathering that will see the large ensemble arrive to commend the hard work of the parents, as a pier is scheduled to be dedicated in their name.
But things soon turn from rosy to ruin as the return of their eldest son – the black sheep – threatens to smear the established legacy. Sending glory quickly into turmoil, darker shades of the Rayburns past begin to flair, leading to devastating results.
Shot on location, Bloodline benefits from some truly mesmeric screen photography. Harnessed in glowing sunlight and breezy sea winds, the show has a rare aesthetic beauty which makes the commanding drama all the more enveloping.
The viewer can physically feel the clammy heat, the simmering beads of sweat upon the brow, and yet become equally aware of the goosebumps slowly bubbling beneath the skin. The elegant pace of the show enables us to really become invested in the surrounding environment, family politics and the bustling tourist community, and the dynamic cinematography partners this with precision and perfection.
When you are gifted with such high-calibre performers (more on those later…), it is unsurprising that they can hold a viewer’s attention, but their craft is rendered by the exemplary prose from Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman.
The dialogue thrashes with snarling intensity as we witness the impeding demise of an empire, but the means in which it arrives keeps you guessing and deliberating throughout every single episode. Gruelling, bitter-tongued monologues fall from softly-spoken lips, forming a unique and often uncomfortable character-building experience.
Every cast member is graced with memorable moments throughout the 13-part first series, but core line outpourings from Kyle Chandler (John Rayburn), Ben Mendelsohn (Danny Rayburn) and Sissy Spacek (Sally Rayburn) will linger long in the memory once your simmering season in the sun concludes.
Now onto that cast. If you are a Netflix member, you’ll be aware of the level of performance quality required. In fact, A-Listers are simply begging to jump on the bandwagon and become part of the latest VOD sensation, but few shows offer a cast as rounded and enthralling as Bloodline.
The brilliant, chameleon-coloured work of Mendelsohn as sour grape Danny is a screen turn simply awash with intrigue. His ability to seamlessly morph from character to character, and deliver a fizzy broth of menace through simple and subtle textures is quite frankly a marvel. The aforementioned Spacek provides her finest work in years as family matriarch Sally, whilst husband and family head Robert is carved from demanding fabrics spun by Sam Shepard.
Meanwhile the remainder of the Rayburn litter are populated by powerful talent including Linda Cardellini (Meg) and Norbert Leo Butz (Kevin). Solid support also arrives in the forms of Jamie McShane (Eric O’Bannon), Enrique Murciano (Marco Diaz) and Chloe Sevigny (Chelsea O’Bannon). Plus the great John Leguizamo will feature as a primary player in Season 2.
When all of Bloodline‘s towering qualities are boiled down, they lead to a single source: Kyle Chandler. In one’s humble opinion, he is the greatest screen actor working today, and the most criminally underrated one at that.
From his emphatic, heart-stirring performance as Coach Eric Taylor in Friday Night Lights, to his dominating presence as CIA Station Chief Joseph Bradley in Zero Dark Thirty, Chandler finds the means to entirely consume his character; leaving not a single trace of his past in frame.
What’s so beautiful and palpable about his performance as John Rayburn here is the finite emotional transitions which peel away at his facade ever-so tenderly. He is simultaneously accommodating and in-control, yet vastly vulnerable and unpredictable. His devoted means to solidify his estranged family smears any sense of clarity. We know he is a good man, but one capable of great sin, and yet in his sin, he finds lawful reason.
For an actor to be able to paint so many contrasting shades without ever missing a spot on the canvas borders on impossible, but Chandler manages it without even straining for the brush. It is a character so contextually rich and rendered that you’ll be begging for the second season the moment you reach the powerhouse climax of the first.
Bloodline Season One is out on DVD and Digital HD on the 21st of March.