Is there a thematic vision to the second season of Bloodline? As we cross the quarter-season mark, I’m beginning to doubt it. Plenty of themes emerged as the first season progressed, and it was much easier to spot them when looking back at the entire 13-episode run. This time around, however, it’s getting harder to believe that everything will come together in the end.
“Part 16” opens with a flashback, and we’ll return to this crucial memory several times in the episode. Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) gets into a car with Ozzy Delvecchio (John Leguizamo), introduced menacingly sucking on a lollipop. We’ll soon learn that Ozzy wasn’t a good influence on Danny; he’s likely to be a loose end that will come back to haunt the family that killed their black sheep. In the memory, Ozzy opens a glove compartment to reveal a gun. Danny told him he didn’t need a weapon and takes the bullets out. They’re planning something, and it looks dangerous.
In a clever visual touch for a show that I often wish had more of a visual language, we cut to another scene of two men in a car, with Danny’s son in the passenger seat and his uncle John (Kyle Chandler) in the role of aggressor. Nolan (Owen Teague) is applying for a job, and John takes the chance to belittle him in one of his nastier scenes of the season. He snarls, “Whatever else you’re hiding, I’m watching you. Clear?”
Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz) is running that pie-based drug deal out of the diner when he runs into a few cops he knows. The typically spastic Kevin acts paranoid; the guy who just exchanged cash for cocaine notices his odd behavior. As Kevin counts his cash, he sees the pie man at his passenger window … just as the pie man’s buddy plugs a Taser into his side. They yell at him, wondering if he’s a cop or just tight with the law. Why would they think he’s a cop? Because he got nervous? That doesn’t make sense. Anyway, they realize Kevin isn’t exactly a professional and they threaten to kill him, forcing the dumbest Rayburn to jump from the van and try to escape.
Nolan meets with Eric O’Bannon (Jamie McShane), revealing that none of the Rayburns are talking about what happened to Danny. He’s not going to be able to get them to talk. More urgently, Eric is out of cash. He has an idea, but wants to lay low, so he asks Nolan to deliver something. Will we get a parallel to the flashback of Danny getting sucked into a criminal enterprise? Like father, like son?
John gets a phone call in the middle of the night and drives off. They can’t find Kevin. Kevin’s wife Belle (Katie Finneran) panics. John calls Meg (Linda Cardellini), who is headed back to New York City. Sorry, sister. The Rayburn family is like a black hole. You can never really escape it. Jake (Michael Beasley) tells John that Kevin couldn’t make payroll and his business had to be shut down. Just as John starts to wonder what drastic action his brother may have taken, he gets a call that they found a body in the woods. Could it be another dead Rayburn? Nope. It’s the dealer whom we last saw abusing poor Kevin.
So, what happened here? Just as Meg is making calls trying to find him, Kevin calls on the other line. Meg asks what we’re all thinking: “What the fuck is going on?”
Meanwhile, Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek) isn’t concentrating enough on running the Inn — even though the shower is still busted in bungalow three! Lenny Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor) certainly isn’t helping. He asks Sally if she thinks the timing of Nolan’s arrival is strange. Then he suggests that perhaps he should leave. Please do. Lenny Potts is one of the most frustrating elements of Bloodline: He’s less a character than a plot device. He serves to remind viewers where we’re at by summarizing story lines with characters like Sally. And he says things like, “Sometimes there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel.” You know, the sort of thing people only say on TV. Anyway, Sally can’t let it go because she’s convinced Nolan knows more than he’s letting on.
We jump back to the Danny flashback and learn that Ozzy gave him the gun to rob a pharmacy. He wants all the drugs, and takes a hostage to make sure the pharmacist loads up a bag with the good stuff. We also learn Nolan knows Ozzy, and that the man who worked the robbery with Danny is still hanging around. Bet he’ll turn out to be trouble, too. He’s going to hang out with Eric for a few days and poke around. It turns out that Eric told him what went down with Danny at the Inn. Let’s hope there’s more to Ozzy as a character than just fuel for the Rayburn fire. It’s an encouraging sign that his scene ends with the line, “I got my own thing with the Rayburns.” Perhaps he’ll be more than a plot device.
Meg finally gets to Kevin, who’s in full Bug mode in a motel. He’s high, paranoid, and wants to confess to Meg. Not long after, John gets to the motel and discovers a whole new level to Kevin’s stupidity. Kevin tells him that he kept some of the stolen drugs and has been selling them. It’s hard to believe John wouldn’t just punch him in the face, especially after he hears about all the people who could identify Kevin. Could this season be about Kevin being a bigger problem than Danny ever was? Might Bloodline be suggesting that every family needs a black sheep? That Kevin is more than misguided enough to step into Danny’s shoes?
At this point, “Part 16” jumps around a bit. Lenny and Nolan meet and the investigator learns that Nolan doesn’t know a whole lot about what John and Kevin did at Danny’s apartment. John goes to meet with Chelsea O’Bannon (Chloë Sevigny), who is trying to find her brother Eric and believes he can protect him. Kevin calls Belle to tell her that he’s fine but he can’t leave where he’s hiding and can’t tell her anything. Of course, she hangs up on him. Run, Belle. Run far away.
John follows Nolan to get to Eric, then picks up Danny’s former buddy. John is going to use Eric. He orders him to do what he tells him. He’s not going to help anyone else. He’s not going to protect anyone else. John is interested in protecting his family above all things — everyone else can drown. They bring Eric in, even getting Chelsea to encourage him to help.
With Eric in custody, John goes to Lowry (Glenn Morshower), saying that O’Bannon will give him up and what he knows. Lowry ain’t buying what John’s selling, and it’s easy to see why. This is John’s leverage? An easily discredited informant? The bigger issue is that Eric being in custody and Lowry’s cocaine being back on the street might spook Lowry’s superiors into doing something rash. So, John is basically threatening Lowry. He’ll strike a plea, protecting Lowry’s family, but only if he gets Danny’s tape.
Back in the flashback, Ozzy bursts into the pharmacy much more violently than Danny did. After he learns that someone tripped the alarm, he pistol-whips the guy, spattering blood all over his shirt. The woman Danny was using as a hostage looks shell-shocked, and that’s the moment when I realized she’s played by Andrea Riseborough, who plays Nolan’s mother. Was she in on the robbery all along?
Lowry comes home to find his front door wide open. He yells at his family, generally freaking out a bit. He runs outside, increasingly paranoid. Cut to the police station. Lowry will play along. They agree to a deal that aims to bring down the network of drugs and trafficking running through the Florida Keys. Not so fast, though. While Meg is on the phone with her New York bosses (whom she failed to call earlier in an unbelievable bit of plotting), Kevin runs. Dumb move, Kevin.
Sally admits to John that she asked Lenny to look into things, and that she’s suspicious. She knows Kevin and John went to Danny’s apartment before he died. John comes up with a story about giving the stolen drugs back to Danny so that he could return them. He risked his career to protect his brother. That’s the story. For reasons I don’t fully understand, the typically skeptical Sally believes it. She has always hoped that her kids would look out for each other, and John’s story is certainly easier to believe than the truth, but it’s still tough to buy.
Finally, Kevin is driving as we hear the great “Liar” by Henry Rollins. Pay careful attention to one particular line: “I’ll turn you into me.” Kevin has become Danny. Actually, he’s much worse than that — Danny was significantly smarter than Kevin ever will be. He’s been dragged into his dead brother’s world, but may not have the street smarts to survive in it.
- The best scenes in “Part 16” are the flashbacks to the robbery, continuing that pattern in which Ben Mendelsohn haunts the show.
- The season’s twists and turns are increasingly frustrating to watch. Does the Lowry/Kevin/pie story line make any sense?
- Despite those screenwriting issues, there’s still reason to believe Bloodline can right itself. The ensemble is undeniably strong, and I remember being uncertain at this point in season one, too. Let’s hope they start tying things together soon.
- Andrea Riseborough is a fantastic British actress. Check out her work in Brighton Rock and Shadow Dancer if you get the chance.
- Hearing “Liar” reminded me of one the best Beavis and Butt-Head clips of all time. Enjoy.