Kyle Chandler as John, David Zayas as Sheriff Aguirre.
“We all get the family that God dumps on us.”
After the overeager panic of the first three episodes, Bloodline has found its footing. At the halfway point of this 10-episode season, the show has regained its confidence and careful attention to character development. We’re back in that Florida sun, where guilty characters are allowed to sweat a little. And it’s become easier to sense the influence of consulting producer Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), a brilliant novelist who is very familiar with tales of people who can’t escape their pasts.
“Part 18” opens with a strong flashback between Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) and Eve (Andrea Riseborough), in which she discourages the reformed father to see his son, Nolan (Owen Teague). From there, we jump to the present day, where a naked Eve talks to her new man, an also-nude Ozzy (John Leguizamo), in a motel room. It’s a bit clichéd that Ozzy is naked, drinking canned beer, and smoking in a motel, but this is nevertheless an effective scene, if only because it’s nice to escape the claustrophobic world of the Rayburns. (The actors certainly make it worthwhile, too. Leguizamo has long been underrated, and Riseborough’s star is just beginning to rise.) Ozzy hates the Rayburns and wants his immediate vengeance, but Eve uses her sexuality to calm him down and play the long game. This plot has just begun.
Meanwhile, Meg (Linda Cardellini) talks with Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), the Rayburn family’s new black sheep, about the pending charges from his DUI and possession charges. He’s getting off WAY easy: He pleads, goes to a substance-abuse program, gets a year of probation, and his license is suspended. He’ll take the punishment, of course, but now he absolutely can’t mess up again. That won’t be easy for a man who constantly makes the wrong decisions.
Back at the inn, we get a nice recurring bit about the broken shower in bungalow three that Sally (Sissy Spacek) hasn’t bothered to fix. She’s losing her grip on the business and maybe even her sanity, as we see when Spacek nails a great laugh-cry scene near the episode’s end.
After a boring scene about John Rayburn’s (Kyle Chandler) impending run for sheriff, Kevin attends his first substance-abuse meeting. He’ll likely meet someone here whom he’ll either screw over or get screwed over by. He meets a nice guy named Doug. Kevin will probably get him killed. Poor Doug.
Sheriff Aguirre (David Zayas) is holding a press conference about the Lowry cases and the confiscated drugs. He takes time to note that the murder of Danny Rayburn is still an open investigation, which angers John. Did Aguirre only mention it to smear his campaign for sheriff? John and Meg seem furious that the case is still open, even though there’s plenty of unanswered questions worthy of an investigation. When Kevin and Meg hear about Aguirre’s statement, we see an interesting character offset: John’s brother wants him to become sheriff to control the situation, while his sister tells him to drop out. Always listen to Meg.
After Belle (Katie Finneran) criticizes Sally for enabling Kevin’s vices, we see John snooping around the evidence room, looking for the tape Lowry had as blackmail material. He finds the evidence box and the recorder … but it’s empty! There’s no tape. Did Lowry give it to someone else before Ninja Vicente murdered him? Did Marco (Enrique Murciano) grab it to protect John? Or did Aguirre take it for its political value?
Nolan comes to do some work with Kevin, a nice corollary to the flashbacks in which Nolan gets chef training in Danny’s kitchen. One of those flashbacks arrives immediately, and it’s Teague’s best scene to date. He’s sarcastic and defensive in his father’s presence. Dad plays along, giving him a hard time about whether or not he’s a virgin, and even offering him a beer. Danny plays “cool dad,” and it seems like it works.
John tells Meg that dropping out of the race is not an option. He tells her about the tape — how it went down with Lowry — and how he doesn’t know where it went. Cardellini does a great job soaking it all in, straight to Meg’s booze-soaked gut. While she glowers at him, he asks her to run his campaign. She slaps him, then agrees.
After Belle orders Kevin to invite Nolan over for dinner, we meet a wealthy Floridian named Roy Gilbert (Beau Bridges), the kind of guy who controls political fates. He’s surprised they didn’t hire a more experienced campaign manager, but the Rayburns argue that the family name will help. Meg sweet-talks Roy a little too well here, given that she couldn’t even hold down a job a few days ago, but maybe protecting the Rayburn name is just what she does best.
Marco has a very interesting (and well-shot) interrogation scene with Eric O’Bannon (Jamie McShane). Uh oh, Eric could tell John’s partner a few things. Why did Danny come back with the drugs? Eric has no idea. Why did Lowry clean house, but leave Eric alive? It is because he killed Danny? This is an interesting twist, leading us to think that Eric might take the rap for John’s crime. We flashback to Danny and Eric. Danny tells him to split and that he’ll finish with John, then swing by later to pick up Nolan. He never did, of course — and Eric knows he was supposed to see John.
Meg and Eve are talking and drinking. Eve mentions that Sally asked her to not have the baby, and Robert paid to raise Nolan so she’d stay quiet. Now Sally doesn’t want to honor the arrangement. Meg isn’t playing along. There will be no more money. Wouldn’t this whole dynamic — the baby that the Rayburns paid to keep quiet — be a HUGE black eye for John’s campaign? Does Meg not see that possibility? Do the show’s writers?
Ozzy swings by to see John, claiming that he’s looking for a place to stay. John smells something fishy, but lets it go. After another Danny flashback, in which he tells Nolan that he’s putting down roots, Meg asks Sally what they should do about Eve. Sally is strident: “I want that woman to leave.”
John finally asks Marco why Eric was being questioned yesterday, getting a bit brusque with his partner. Marco fights back. He finally says, “I also know that shit went down before Danny died that you haven’t told me about.” John wants to move on, but Marco says that’s not his call.
After Chelsea (Chloë Sevigny) orders her brother to leave, we witness Kevin’s Dumb Move of the Episode: He finds some hidden tequila and chugs it moments before Nolan walks in. Will Nolan use this discovery to manipulate Kevin? He holds the secret at dinner, but there’s no way this will end well.
Elsewhere, Meg faces with her first major campaign decision: Should they get dirty with Aguirre, just as Roy suggests? She balks at first, but predictably relents, getting an envelope of dirty deeds to use against the competition.
In the episode’s most crucial scene, Ozzy plays a vicious game with John: After offering to pay for lunch with his daughter, he mentions that he’s staying at the Red Reef Inn in room seven, which is the place where Danny was almost killed — and where he made that crucial tape. A mere mention of the room puts the fear of God into John. While he goes to the motel to learn Ozzy isn’t staying there, we hear this new troublemaker call the Rayburns “a bunch of fucking liars.” Ozzy gets the line of the week, too: “Bet you start pressing John Rayburn and all sorts of shit starts spilling out.” How soon until he starts pressing?
- This was a very well-shot episode, with a lot of low angles and stylish camerawork. Director Dennie Gordon introduced a stronger visual language than previous episodes have had. I hope Bloodline keeps it up.
- I’m very happy that the show has returned to the slow-burn style that defined most of season one, rather than the desperate pace that seeped into the first three episodes of season two.
- A few interesting parallels to note this week, as the trio of troublemakers each pick a Rayburn to pressure: Nolan works for Kevin, Eve talks to Meg, and John provokes John.
- Meg is a bit too conveniently level-headed in this episode, given that she lost her job and drunkenly embarrassed her ex in “Part 17.”
- Several commenters have noted how much Owen Teague’s Nolan reminds them of Danny. The resemblance is partially because Teague also played Young Danny in season one’s flashbacks. Without knowing it, we’ve been trained to compare Nolan to Danny.