“Part 17” is the most interesting episode of the season so far. It has a different rhythm than what we’ve recently seen from Bloodline, perhaps because it was directed by co-creator Daniel Zelman, or perhaps because the season is finally settling into its own groove, offering something distinct from its acclaimed first year. The longest episode to date, “Part 17” is more tonally consistent and less eager to please, drawing out scenes in more believable, character-driven ways. The 68-minute runtime is almost certainly too long, but for a show that often feels rushed, it’s nice to see what happens when it takes its time.
John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler, doing his best work of the season) is drinking and having visions of Danny (Ben Mendelsohn). He talks to Nolan (Owen Teague) about what he told Lenny Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor). John, more encouraging than normal, tries to tell Nolan that Danny was a good guy, even though he may not have been a good father.
Speaking of bad fathers, Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) is about add a new No. 1 to his long list of dumb life choices. He drove from the safety of the motel room to Lowry’s house, where he’s going to return the stolen drugs, much of which he sold and/or used. In other words, John will have nothing to hold over Lowry anymore — if the stolen product isn’t on the street, he loses his leverage. John knows what’s happening and how unbelievably stupid his brother is. He looks in his rearview mirror to see a vision of Danny smoking and laughing.
Kevin gives the drugs back to Wayne Lowry (Glenn Morshower), then asks, “We’re good now, right?” Sure, because that’s how it works in the real world. He’d be killed just for what he shoved up his own nose, much less what he sold. And so, Kevin flees right into the arms of the police. It gets worse: He was dumb enough to still have drugs on his person. This guy might be the biggest fool on TV.
Lowry tells his boss that he’s useful again, thanks to his recovery of the stolen drugs and the leverage he holds over John. He’s going to finance a run and the spoils will go up the food chain. “I can still make you money,” he says. Not much later, John goes to meet with Lowry and learns what he already knows — the deal is off. Kevin saved Lowry’s ass. Lowry wants information from John to help with the run. He wants to know where the feds are looking and where they’re blind. Morshower is good in this role — he’s not the typical casting choice for a heavy drug kingpin.
John talks to “Ghost Danny” in his car. (Anyone else reminded of Dexter’s father from the Showtime hit?) “What would you do?” he asks. Should he comply with Lowry’s power play, or go back at him and let the chips fall where they may? Or maybe there’s a third option?
On cue, Eve (Andrea Riseborough) shows up at the Inn to talk to Sally (Sissy Spacek). She claims to just be looking for a place to stay, and doesn’t reveal her identity just yet. However, it’s not long before Eve mentions something about 16 years ago — when Nolan was born — which is enough for Sally to piece together a few suspicions. While John and his wife (Jacinda Barrett) are fighting and Meg goes to see Kevin in jail, Eve and Sally talk. It’s an interesting scene: It’s not about much on the surface, but Riseborough and Spacek are arguably Bloodline’s two best actors and they really convey the tension of two mothers trying to figure each other out. At the end of the scene, Eve reveals that Robert Rayburn (Sam Shepard) was sending money to care for his grandson. When Sally gets back to work, Eve spies a couple checking in with expensive baggage. She’ll later call them to get their credit card number. Eve is a con artist. She’s going to be trouble.
While John looks into patrol schedules and hears chatter about the pending Lowry shipment, Meg finally gets some much-needed character development. After corroborating Eve’s story about the monthly pay-outs from Robert’s secret account, she finally calls her boss in New York City. The Rayburns live in such an insulated bubble that Meg didn’t even realize she doesn’t have a job anymore. When it finally sinks in, she goes out drinking, then she runs into her ex, Marco (Enrique Murciano), with a different girl. A very awkward scene follows about how she cheated on him and how he deserves someone better. It’s a nice character-driven scene — not to mention a moment of relief from the Danny/Lowry investigation — which is something we haven’t seen much of this season.
John gets a call from Lowry, who wants information and guarantees. What is John going to do? While he watches his family enjoy a casual breakfast, he imagines a future where his daughter, Jane (Taylor Rouviere), grows up while her father is in prison. She would believe “he got what he deserved.” Unfortunately, both of the available options could lead to jail — helping a drug lord, or letting him release a tape that implicates John in his brother’s murder. It looks like John will play along. He gives Lowry the Coast Guard schedule and tells him the safest path is through Sugarloaf.
Meanwhile, Kevin gets out of jail because Meg put up his bail. She says, “I’m not even mad at you anymore.” Seriously?! She says she wants to stay and help, but fails to mentions that if Kevin hadn’t been such a dumbass, she might still have her job. I don’t buy this scene for a second.
As Sally refuses to give Eve money (which will almost certainly lead to further problems), the shipment and the bust are going down. We’re led to think that Marco and the DEA are going to the wrong location, and that Lowry and his team will make the deal through Sugar Loaf. After John asks his partner if he’s a good person and “Ghost Danny” asks John if he thinks he made the right choice, the hammer comes down. The DEA and the police light up Lowry’s people. We hear Danny say, “I thought you’d go a different way with this. Couldn’t go through with it — being the bad boy like me.” John will let Lowry talk and see what happens. After all, as he correctly notes, “He’d talk eventually anyway.” Ghost Danny even suggests that John wants the truth to come out. And it looks like it has: Marco calls and tells him to get down to Lowry’s bait shop right away.
But yet again, John Rayburn catches a break. Wayne Lowry is dead. He was stabbed 10 to 12 times; they haven’t found a weapon. Marco and John go to talk to Vicente (Chaz Mena), the guy who put them on Lowry two episodes ago about the trafficking deal that got his daughter killed. Vicente says he realized something had to be done, then hands over the bloody knife. The mild-mannered Vicente stabbed a drug kingpin a dozen times despite the fact that he typically has armed guards — and on the night of a major deal, no less, when Lowry would be rolling with a lot of security. Apparently, Vicente is a ninja.
- The unique pace of “Part 17” allows it to stand out more than any other episode we’ve seen this season, but it was undeniably a little slow at times. Bloodline should never run almost 70 minutes.
- Who else noticed that John and Nolan have flip phones? What year is this? The phones make a neat snapping sound for dramatic purpose, but I haven’t seen one of them in years.
- It may have been a mistake to introduce Ozzy (John Leguizamo) and then drop his character entirely in the next episode. I wondered what he was up to this whole time. Probably just hanging around at Eric’s place, sucking on lollipops.
- I bumped this episode up to four stars for two reasons: Its unique pacing, and because Chandler delivers what is easily his best work of the season. Zelman knows this character better than anyone, so perhaps he was able to direct Chandler to a more complex, internal performance than he’s been allowed to give in this plot-heavy season. Let’s hope it continues, especially now that the Lowry arc seems to be concluding.