bloodline season 3 review

The Rayburn family is a complicated bunch. John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) once believed they were good people who just did a bad thing, but in season three, the waters get even murkier. In the emotional, sometimes frustrating third and final season, the family takes some long, contemplative looks in the mirror.

Below, check out our spoiler-filled Bloodline season three review.

One Big, Unhappy Family

Creators Daniel Zelman, Glenn and Todd A. Kessler were originally planning five or six seasons of Bloodline, but it’s probably for the best they wrapped up with season three. The three seasons feel contained and complete. Only so much could go wrong on this show before it might’ve spiraled out of control, which it came close to doing during episode nine of this season, which takes place in nightmare land. It shows us John’s fractured and damaged state of mind, but comes across as a bit of a pitstop before the finale.

A significant portion of season three relies on the wrongdoings of Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz), the sibling who tests our empathy more than any other. When he continues to point the finger at everybody but himself, makes mistakes over and over again, and tries to pretend he has it all together, he’s challenging. The show has been afraid to test both its characters and its audience, but Kevin is more frustrating than ever this season.

There’s also the fact he is, like his brother John, a murderer. Unlike John, however, he spends most of the season running from his guilt over killing Marco Diaz (Enrique Murciano). He lives in his fantasy and naively believes Roy Gilbert (Beau Bridges), a monster with a bright smile, is there for him. At every turn, the character lives up to his reputation, which is his curse throughout the show. Bloodline is a deadly serious series, but one of the biggest laughs of season three has to be when one of the feds says in the finale, “I know this guy. He’s no fucking genius.”

If there’s one problem with the finale, it’s that it’s hard to feel much of anything for Kevin by the end. Butz is painful to watch in the role, as he should be, but after doing so much wrong, his arrest doesn’t have much of an emotional impact or provide the moral dilemma we expect from the drama. He’s desperate, riddled with insecurities, fear, and guilt he tries to bury. In the end, though, we’re no longer conflicted as we used to be about him; we almost actively want to see him caught.

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Sympathy For the Devils

It’s not exactly a news flash in season three, but each episode is a reminder Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) was hardly the rotten egg of the family, which makes his brief appearances sting a little more this season. As we see more of the remaining members of the Rayburn family’s bad side, we see more of the good that was in Danny – the good his father, mother, and siblings helped crushed in him a long time ago. Danny is barely present this time around, but he’s never been this empathetic. One part of episode nine that works is getting a glimpse of the life the character probably could’ve made for himself. John, Sally, and everyone else deprived him of that life.

The past remains pivotal to Bloodline. As the opening illustrates, it’s not something John can escape, although Meg (Linda Cardellini) certainly tries. She sails out of the story a few episodes in – a surprising, if frustrating, choice. She’s unquestionably the most empathetic Rayburn, and her trying to change her identity and live a new life is a storyline that isn’t as pivotal as one would hope. Of course, the show can’t stay in Los Angeles too long and must return to Florida, but it ends up almost leaving the character in the shadow of John, Kevin, and in a more pivotal role this time, Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek). Meg’s pain – which she’ll probably never bury, despite the new name and city – isn’t much of a focus as one would hope, especially after the death of Marco.

Meg’s limited time is one of the unpredictable turns this season that ends up leaving more to be desired. Bloodline is a show that hardly ever gives its audience what it expects or wants, though. Even though the series lost some of its power after a riveting first season, it always stayed true to itself. Few plotlines are tied up with a bow, although some are forgotten, like when John ran for sheriff last season. There’s no phony closure between Meg and Sally, which is a heartbreaker during their “phone call,” but by the end, her presence is missed.

Two characters we feel for every time they’re on the screen this season are Eric (Jamie McShane) and Chelsea O’Bannon (Chloë Sevigny). The death of Danny continues to help tear them down as well. Watching Eric and Chelsea fall, all thanks to the Rayburn family, provides some of season three’s most provoking drama. When the hearing begins, which can get a bit dry, every shot of Eric seeing his life get torn to pieces is crushing. When he freaks out and is unable to stay silent any longer, it solidifies the Rayburn family – who like to think they’re somehow above even the likes of Roy Gilbert – as the villains of season three. If this story was told from the perspective of the O’Bannon family, the Rayburns would be downright horrifying.

McShane would be an MVP of the final season if the rest of the cast weren’t firing on all cylinders as well. One disappointment over the course of these three seasons was the lack of conversation surrounding Bloodline. It’s respected, no question, but even season one never felt like it stirred up the passion and discussion it should’ve. Too many people missed have missed out on the dynamite work from Chandler, Spacey, Butz, Mendelsohn, Cardelinni, Sam Shepard, and the rest of this cast. The series is more than an acting showcase, but what an acting showcase it is.

Bloodline season 3 review

A Deliberately Messy Ending

There are two scenes in the final episode that, after a few bumps in the road, make Bloodline deliver where it counts most. The speech Sally gives two her two sons is five chilling, devasting minutes. Their responses are perfect: Kevin doesn’t want to listen and run, while John silently takes it all in. Sally, who’s unmasked during season three, drops down in the mud and gets dirty with the rest of her family, by simply sitting down and delivering a haymaker of a speech. It’s an example of what Bloodline sometmies does best: making you feel something for its characters even at their cruelest.

Sally maybe says more in the speech than John does in some episodes this season. He’s practically a ghost now. John is cut off from his family, his wife and kids. Somehow, even when he’s in a room with people, he appears more alone. John doesn’t say much and knows how to keep a poker face, but in each episode, you know there’s a war raging inside of him, and a crippling guilt and pain that’ll never go away. Even when he wants to try to make things right, so he can maybe ease his conscience for selfish reasons, we still feel for him. In each episode, from beginning to end, Chandler is remarkable. Not a whole lot of actors could probably make us care so deeply about John Rayburn.

It’s worth mentioning, as heavy as Bloodline is, Chandler is very funny at times. He knows how to drop an f-bomb for good comedic effect. He provides the few instances of levity in the final season.

Tthe show’s writers wrap up the series with John on an ambiguous note that is sure to divide Bloodline fans for years to come. Before Ray even opens his mouth to tell Danny’s son (Owen Teague) the truth about his father’s death – or another lie, depending on how you read it – the series cuts to black. Lies have eaten away at John his whole life, but I don’t think he’s going to tell one more. He’s done. We don’t need to hear him say anything; we know what he’s going to say. Bloodline was never going to provide a neat ending, and it doesn’t even begin to try, but there’s closure in John’s long walk on the dock. It’s not immediately satisfying, but it’s not meant to be and nor should it be. Bloodline concludes three (mostly) strong seasons with uncertainty, discomfort, and questions, all of which John will probably live with the rest of his life.

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