Spoilers for Season 3
The first season of Netflix’s Bloodline still remains among my favorite seasons of Netflix original dramas. It is slow-burn greatness, a noirish family drama that ends with a phenomenally bleak, intoxicating final four episodes that go down like whiskey: They burn, but they feel so good.
Daniel Zelman and the brothers Kessler — Glenn and Todd (Damages, The Sopranos) — would’ve been smart to leave well enough alone. The first season fetched both Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn Emmy nominations, and propelled Mendelsohn to a flashy role in Rogue One. Mendelsohn made that first season work, and with his character dead, the best the series could do was to conjure up a long-lost son (Owen Teague, who is very good but no Mendelsohn) and repeat the same motions until the inevitable murder at the end of the second season. In the moment, I liked the second season (though not nearly as much as the first), but it didn’t sit well in the weeks after it aired. Critics were also considerably less kind, and were it not for the acting awards the series brought to Netflix (Chandler and Mendelsohn were nominated for Emmys again in the second season, with Mendelsohn winning for Best Supporting Actor), I doubt there’d be a season three. Netflix lost its tax credits in the Florida Keys, and a third season was left very much in doubt, despite the second season ending on a brutal cliffhanger.
Six weeks after its premiere date, however, Netflix finally approved a third and final season, cutting short the showrunners’ hopes of dragging out the Rayburn story into an unnecessary fourth or fifth season. Nearly a year later, only the most passionate fans of an already presumably small fanbase, of which I include myself, have stuck around.
Was it worth it?
Most of the third season falls under the category of “necessary but not enjoyable.” Having seen 23 episodes already, I watched because I needed to find out what happens in the end. The first eight (of 10) episodes go through the motions, more or less. Like season two, it’s all about the cover-up, only the Rayburn family is not only covering up John’s murder of his brother, Danny, but also Kevin’s (Norbert Leo Butz) murder of John’s partner, Marco Diaz.
In the third season, John has lost the race for sheriff (a major second season storyline that gets relegated to an afterthought in season three); his wife has left him (a seemingly crucial plot point that gets lost in a time jump); and he has helped Kevin frame poor Eric O’Bannon (the terrific Jamie McShane) for the murder of Marco. John Leguizamo also returns, playing a character who is something akin to one of Shakespeare’s ghosts, stumbling around to remind characters of their sins but playing no role in the plot. Beau Bridges’ Roy Gilbert is pulled in to complicate matters further by adding a drug-trafficking storyline, but it sputters. However, the second season formula remains largely intact. John rescues Kevin from a bad decision just long enough for Kevin to make another bad decision that gets the family mired deeper in the muck. At several points over the first eight episodes, it all looks like it will unravel, but the momentum always seems to work against O’Bannon.