“Every word on that tape is a lie.” John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) has an amazing ability to spew political nonsense. He’s just heard his dead brother’s voice on a confessional tape held by drug lord Wayne Lowry (Glenn Morshower). The man John is trying to frame for Danny’s murder now has evidence that can control him. There’s no way both characters will make it out of this situation alive.
In the first of several frustrating scenes in “Part 15,” which features plotting that moves too fast to be realistic, John comes home to tell his wife (the hideously underwritten Jacinda Barrett) that he’s going to run for sheriff. There’s an argument to be made that he makes this decision to exert more control over the Rayburn investigation, but would he really put that kind of pressure and spotlight on himself at this specific moment? Wouldn’t he lie as low as possible?
While Meg (Linda Cardellini) is ordered to take a work sabbatical that will send her back to the Florida Keys, and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) does drugs and swears at himself in the mirror like Ed Norton in 25th Hour, the most pretentious Rayburn begins planning his campaign. He’s getting advice from power players around town, and keeps hearing that Danny’s story and downfall will be liabilities. Even if they can prove he was just a black sheep who got into a bad situation, “this is going to be your opponent’s main line of attack.” John’s adviser says what we’re all thinking: “Why the hell do you want to be sheriff?” Bloodline has yet to answer this question in a satisfying way, but perhaps John’s motives are supposed to be murky. Perhaps even he doesn’t know why he’s running.
Belle (Katie Finneran) tells her troubled husband that she ran into a power player at her store who wants to meet Kevin. While the dumbest Rayburn considers this proposal, John looks at the investigation board for the Lowry case, knowing he’ll have to sabotage it. Marco (Enrique Murciano) comes to him with news about gas cans found in the mangroves. As they discuss the likelihood of Lowry running another shipment, Marco gets a call: Someone who was attacked at a restaurant wants to talk to him and John — but the victim isn’t the one who called, it was the attacker. He’s upset, looking for the traffickers who killed his daughter, and thinks the waitress who works there, Elena Cortez, can lead him to them. Is this John’s first chance to bury something for Lowry? To look the other way? Or could it be a chance to bury Lowry, to regain the upper hand? Before he can even consider these questions, he’s threatened by Elena’s attorney. Lowry doesn’t want him opening this case.
Kevin goes to a boat party to meet with his potential benefactor, a man named Mr. Garnet (Tom Nowicki). He immediately goes into pitch mode for his dream marina. It’s only a matter of minutes, however, before Kevin realizes that he’s not up for this challenge. He hasn’t planned for things like “holding costs” or prepared a budget. This is one of the most interesting themes of Bloodline: The members of the Rayburn family think they can handle anything and believe they’re better than most people in the Florida Keys, but they constantly fail when faced with adversity. Kevin is losing it, swearing at himself and doing coke in the bathroom, when some big dude comes in. He wants some. And then he wants more. Kevin came for one business opportunity, but he might be leaving with another.
Sally (Sissy Spacek) takes a trip up to Danny’s apartment in Miami, where she meets Lenny (Frank Hoyt Taylor). They know that John was there more than once, so he’s been lying to his mother. So many loose threads are already dangling, but the Rayburn matriarch might be the most dangerous one.
When Meg gets back to the Keys, she learns about a paper trail that could get her in serious trouble regarding the witness who backed off the Carlos case last season. Yes, Lowry is blackmailing both John and Meg, which makes Carlos another loose end in the Danny murder. Not long after, Meg catches up with Carlos, begging him to talk to John, trying to get him back under Rayburn control. Issues of class, so prevalent in season one, have been a little absent in these first two episodes. Let’s hope they reemerge in this story line.
Kevin is in his office when Jake (Michael Beasley) comes in and tells him he’s leaving. He’s just come to say good-bye. Kevin begs him to stay, promising him that he’ll pay him soon, with interest. He won’t even shake Jake’s hand. He’s so pathetic. He says things like “You’re all I got” to Jake while his wife is pregnant with his child. As most pathetic characters do in moments of crisis, he panics his way into what will almost certainly be a stupid decision: He grabs some of the stolen drugs and texts his bathroom buddy. Kevin, who thought he was better than his struggling-to-do-right brother Danny, is about to become a drug dealer.
There’s a fun scene in which John and Marco try to obtain a warrant from a judge on a fishing trip — this is how legal conversations can happen in the Keys, on a boat, with someone wearing a Gilligan hat. I wish the writers of Bloodline introduced more scenes like this one, if only to switch up the tone. The drama would be more effective if the series were less monotonously grim.
As Grandma Sally finally meets Nolan (Owen Teague), Kevin begins his new enterprise. As much as I question the believability of the scene, it’s well-directed by Michael Morris. Kevin is in a booth at a diner when someone sits down across from him. He finds some rare courage, telling his new contact how things will go down. It will involve pie. There’s a sample of the product in the sugar. If he likes it, he’ll bring the money and Kevin will tell him where to find the rest. Kevin is selling drugs in a public location while an active investigation could come crashing down on him about his brother’s death, his business is going under, and his wife is pregnant. He’s basically playing catch with hand grenades. After the deal goes down, Kevin walks out with more pride than we’ve seen from him in a long time.
John meets with Carlos about the witness tampering, and learns that it was Meg’s idea all along. She wanted Carlos to help the Rayburn family. She wanted to move cocaine through the inn. It looks like John has another problem now. Maybe he’ll move out of the spotlight and end his campaign? John tells Meg the news, just before he gets a call from Marco — they’re going to search Elena’s apartment.
As the raid goes down, Chandler sells the emotional turmoil inside John’s mind. What they find could either implicate his sister or aggravate Lowry to the degree that he releases the tape. A lot of bad things could happen. He tries to manage the situation, telling people he’ll search the bedroom, but he panics when a shed is broken open in the back. He finds an incriminating photo, then stashes it away. Yes, the lawman just stole evidence — and immediately afterward, he announces his run for sheriff. (We also see Kevin get a text for more drugs at the same time.) John’s speech is almost too perfect. He tells a story about the meaning of right and wrong, a story about his mother questioning why he did something he wasn’t supposed to do. If only more of the Rayburn family asked why. As Elena goes to meet with Lowry, we cut to John in a car with the stolen photo. He tears it up. He’s going to protect the operation. He’s officially a corrupt cop. And now he’s running for sheriff.
- Is it just me or are the Rayburns getting dumber? I’m worried that this could be the fatal screenwriting flaw of season two. These characters are drifting from realism, doing stupid things that no one would in real life.
- Much has already been written about the loss of Ben Mendelsohn, but let’s not forget that the first season also had Sam Shepard and Chloë Sevigny, both of whom are also absent this year. The loss is obvious, and I hope the greater ensemble expands soon. (Good thing Andrea Riseborough and John Leguizamo’s introductions are coming up.)
- This episode ended with Verdi’s “Messa Da Requiem, No. 2: Dies Irae.” The closing songs are very well chosen on Bloodline, usually relevant to both theme and tone, while interesting enough to carry viewers into the next episode.