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TV Series Review

Sally, matriarch of the Florida Keys' well-to-do Rayburn clan, is fussing and flustered. Guests are rolling in for a special family reunion. But her hubby, Robert, is still paddling off the coast. Eldest son Danny is nowhere to be seen. Daughter Meg sweeps in and takes her mother by the shoulders.

"You're not running a hotel today," she says. "The people you invited this weekend are your family and your friends. They love you. Nothing can go wrong."

"Well, that's just stupid," Sally says. "A lot can go wrong."

Which just goes to show that mothers are always right.

A lot goes wrong for the Rayburns during the first season of Netflix's Bloodline. This family has more secrets than a KGB secretary, and all of them seem inclined to break into the proceedings with the force of that Alien chest-burster. The local Pooh-Bahs may be dedicating a pier to Robert and Sally, but their whole family seems about ready to step off the edge.

Blame Danny, designated Rayburn black sheep, for the familial discomfort. He saunters into their big weekend carrying a big bag of drama—just like he always has. Even asking that his date sit at the family table during the first episode ignites a Rayburn meltdown. Youngest brother Kevin fumes that it's not right for an interloper to find herself at the table of honor. Meg, a hotshot lawyer and family peacekeeper, wants to just give the girl a spot and let things be. John, a local sheriff, is more concerned with what Mom and Dad will think—how the seating arrangements will impact a banquet that should, after all, be about them.

It's not a remarkable scene. In fact, watching siblings bark at one another over dinner plans is as much a part of family get-togethers as a Thanksgiving turkey. But for the Rayburns, seating arrangements don't just pick at childhood scabs: They jab inside open wounds. There's tragedy and child abuse in the Rayburn history. There's death and regret and blame. More recently, siblings take drugs and have affairs and get involved in some very sordid dealings. And not every Rayburn will survive the weekend.

Some critics are calling Bloodlines Netflix's best series yet, and that saying something, considering the entertainment hub is home to critical darlings like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. And, yes, the show sparkles in terms of its writing and performances. This is a taut, haunting story that could easily come up in Emmy conversations.

But while the artistry is top-shelf, the content is bottom of the barrel. The Rayburns may own a beautifully clean inn, but their language is filthy. Sex scenes are raw and can include threesomes. Drug abuse ranges from weed to crack cocaine, and everyone seems to be constantly drinking. Violence results in bloody deaths.

"You don't give up on family," John tells his siblings, pleading with them to give Danny another chance. And maybe he has a point. Every family struggles sometimes, and we're loathe to give up on any member who's struggling—even when, sometimes, it seems like it'd be better to do so.

But we can give up on a TV show, even a quality one. We don't have to give shows like Bloodline a second chance. Or, after reading this review, even a first chance.


Positive Elements

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Episode Reviews

Bloodline: 2015-03-20



Readability Age Range



Kyle Chandler as John; Ben Mendelsohn as Danny; Linda Cardellini as Meg; Norbert Leo Butz as Kevin; Jacinda Barrett as Diana; Jamie McShane as Eric O'Bannon; Enrique Murciano as Marco Diaz; Sissy Spacek as Sally; Sam Shepard as Robert






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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