"I've never seen someone get hurt that bad." Remnants of the past converge with the present in "Part 7" to swallow Danny's ephemeral good nature.
This episode shows a Danny capable of playing everybody from Kevin to Eric, manipulating SeaSea back into his clutches, and taking a desperate dive into the Big Bad Wolf's den of horrors. Here's the reckless black sheep everybody's been talking about. Has he been there all along, or is he the product of those callous, impenetrable family members around him? Danny embarked on a quest this episode, to seek out Eric's contact and land more illicit gasoline work. John and Marco's own pursuit for the traffickers bifurcated this story. Their actual searching revealed untied yarns coming closer to intersecting, but soul-searching on the home-front unveiled a family growing farther apart.
I had trouble swallowing this episode. Not because it doesn't make sense; it does, and that's why. Danny has been ricocheting off his siblings, trying to leave an impression, trying to have them see he was never the problem. He was the victim, not them. He's been trying to change them and show them that he's been there all along. I don't think Kevin or John ever believe this, but I do think they've mulled it over. Meg, who was too young to remember what happened with Sarah and the "drunk-driving accident," wants, on a surface-level, for things to be copacetic for the family business. What's most tragic is that as the core Rayburn siblings are coming to an agreement with Danny and his place in the family, Danny's checking out. They were never capable of a true 180 the same way Danny is; they might have wavered, but none of them have so far shown that they possess the faith to accept him open-armed. Someone slap all of them, please.
Danny looks battered and emotionally bruised in this episode as he recalls the Lenny Potts interviews. It turns out Kevin was interviewed, too. "Danny was screaming and crying. I've never seen someone get hurt that bad," he says. As he's replaying his brothers' betrayal in the beginning of this episode, Danny dumps his pain meds down the sink and he wipes his hands to dismiss the memory — a beautifully tragic parallel of him wiping his hands of his own family. It turns out he has been cut out of the will after all.
Despite coming clean with Danny in the last episode, John's conscience is still eating at him. For a second, we see him try to imagine everything will be okay, but there's a sadness in his eyes that shows even the clan's white knight can't feign confidence. I feel particularly bad for John because if there are any siblings who truly regret what happened decades ago, it's him. Up until this point, Kevin has been a cagey slacker with his emotional development. He's most concerned about his business and finalizing a tidy divorce with Belle. But with regard to Danny? Kev's oblivious to anything not taking center stage in his egocentric world of fun.
A couple developments in this episode underline how quickly Danny's pulling his drastic about-face: When Danny's mom gives him that raise he's been desiring, he gives that sinister kind of smarmy smile that looks like something's going to break Mama Ray's heart in a couple episodes. Kevin agrees to cut Danny back into the will, but it seems he just wants the stress of that issue off his plate; he also might feel some remorse for what he did with SeaSea. Is it a genuine shift in character? I don't think so, or I didn't buy it at least. Either way, Danny doesn't and won't care. What's terrifying is we're starting to see the stereotypes of this family perpetuating and reforming before our very eyes, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. "People don't change overnight," we're told. There's a haunting resonance to that point all throughout this episode because in the course of 50 minutes we're handed the Danny that's been talked about for six episodes, but as far as we'd like to believe, never existed.
If Danny ever did change, he's in the process of changing back. The Rayburns missed their window, which is an interesting decision on the part of the writers. As viewers, we keep having our hopes for these characters dashed. That pit you might feel in the bottom of your stomach — when Kevin drops off SeaSea after a one-night stand, when Danny whispers secrets into his niece's ear, when Danny barges into the bait shop, or when Eric robs Kevin — is the realization that everyone's fate is sealed. That's the roller coaster of this sadistic show and why it's so addicting. You're supposed to do terrible things to your characters to give them the opportunity to work themselves out of a hole. Even if, in the case of these characters, they're decades too deep.
Mama Ray says, "Everyone makes mistakes," when Meg's client asks for belated forgiveness (his drinking problems got him fired from the Rayburn inn). Maybe that's true, but very few characters in this show do anything to turn those mistakes around. It calls to mind when Robert tells John earlier in the series that "everybody lies." There's a sense of moral nonchalance in this slice of paradise that paralyzes any true chance at redemption.
Tate Donovan's directing here gave us an abundance of obscured frames, with long lingering shots. Though it was distracting at times, it might've helped you feel that all these characters are on edge and that they're victims of their own inaction or inability to commit to change. In some way or another, everyone must feel like they're being pushed away and that their goals are being neglected — whether it's Kevin with his property, Eric with his sister, Danny with his money, or Marco with Meg, these people are all quite near their breaking points.
Danny has accepted the duplicitous nature of his family, and maybe that we're all duplicitous. He sees his mother give Meg's client an envelope of money. "It's good when the family can help other people out, because that's why people love working for us. Loyalty." This script was poetic, not just in its dialogue, but also in its symmetry, both from a macro and micro sense. For me, this middle episode, with all the characters' individual turning points, might have felt like the beginning of the end. On a smaller scale, as the episode closes with the same distressed Kevin from episode two, his comeuppance might not have felt as sweet as you would've liked. It portends the doom we saw in episode one.
Bloodline, with its real black sheep, might feel like an entirely different show now. It's not. It's the same show, just with a different Danny. Maybe the Danny this family has been blindly saying what they've known for so long. The Rayburns have created their own Frankenstein. Danny is Lou Bloom in paradise, and his siblings have turned to pawns (though, really, they were always like this). Danny's learning they can't change enough. "Sometimes things happen and you get clear in your mind," he tells SeaSea. "You know who you are, you know what you want, you know what you have to do." How far is Danny going to slip down this path?
I've never seen someone hurt this bad.
- Loved Danny's hustle montage in the middle. Establish badass character switch. Check.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how secretly pissed do you think Danny is about Kevin and SeaSea? Ben Mendelsohn nailed that fake Oh, yeah, it's totally, totally fine, I don't care thing.
- Kyle Chandler, aka Mr. Smooth, was incredible in the police confrontation scene; holy hell, that was so much fun to watch. Not only was it fun, it was also important: We see John's got a mean streak, too, just like Pop. Business life and personal life don't mix well for this guy.
- El Buen Vecino actually seems like the worst neighbor. Okay, not as bad as Justin Bieber, but pretty bad.
- Meg is an all-star lawyer, and maybe she's questioning that she can do more than the small-town scene. GO TO NEW YORK. BE YOUR OWN PERSON. CUT THE CORD.
- Kevin's deal-gone-awry has tinges of A Most Violent Year. I'm scared. We've entered true psychological thriller territory now.