Bloodline: Part 5

"He told a lot of stories, but he didn't talk much about himself. If you think about that, it says a lot about him... Christ, this is a lot of pages."

I don't know if there's another show I've seen that builds a sense of foreboding as well as Bloodline.

The whole tropical setting definitely helps. The sparkling ocean under white clouds and a hard blue sky, the swaying palm trees on the sunny Rayburn resort, it's hard to imagine anything breaking the tranquility of this place. So, of course, that's what is going to happen.

Death in the Family

Right at the start, Robert Rayburn dies of a stroke while out working on the beach. This is our first death in the family, not counting the long-deceased Sarah and the soon-to-be-deceased Danny.

The Rayburns deal with the mourning realistically, I think. Sally is trying to be strong. Meg is ashamed to have spent her last hours with Robert talking about business and the will. Kevin takes solace in the last drive he and his brothers took with him in the truck. John feels overwhelmed at having to be the one to speak on behalf of the family for his father's eulogy.

Then there's Danny, who decides he's not going anywhere now that his father is dead. He lies and says Robert asked him to take on more responsibilities at the inn. Since Robert seemed to be the only serious opposition he faced in returning, and obviously no one's going to find out about their last conversation, it seems like Danny might finally be home to stay.

History of Violence

What struck me about this episode was the fact that we finally get some insight into the Rayburn family beyond sporadic, confusing flashbacks. Here, we have Sally reveal some of the secrets of Robert's past firsthand, after John asks how bad his troubled youth really was.

Despite their current prosperity and good reputation, the Rayburns have a rather dark history that stretches back even further than the current generation. According to Sally, Robert's grandfather owned a ranch in Texas and was a total degenerate. Robert's father was a violent drunk. And Robert himself was apparently a hell-raiser as a young man. He dropped out of high school, having left home as a teenager. This was the result of a vicious fight Robert got into with his father, after finding out the latter had savagely beaten Robert's stepmother and locked her in a cellar. Robert's father cut him with a steak knife, and Robert stabbed him in the throat with a grilling fork. He told Sally he left home because he would have killed his father had he stayed.

So it seems dysfunction and rage are Rayburn family traits that get passed down from one generation to the next, and now John knows it. On the one hand, it gives him the push he needs to get through his eulogy. On the other hand, it makes him feel more guilty and conflicted about what his father did to Danny, which inevitably comes through in the eulogy itself. Earlier in the episode, Danny remarks that Robert treated he and John so differently that it would be like they were talking about two different people if Danny were to speak at the funeral as well. I think the reason Danny decides not to is because John's speech made him realize that they are not so different. In a way, they're both still trapped in their adolescence on account of their father. The same tragedy shaped them both into the men they are.

This knowledge also puts a different spin on Robert's last scene with Danny, where he attempts to bribe his son into leaving and starting over elsewhere. Maybe Robert recognized that he did to his son what his own father did to him, and was trying to get rid of Danny while giving him the same opportunity to leave his old life behind. But like Danny said, it's too late for that. Robert left home when he was 17. Danny is a grown-ass man.

Tragedies Collide

The Rayburns were already in a vulnerable state in the wake of Robert's death. Sally has to pretend to be bright and happy for her guests. Feeling especially guilty right now, Meg viciously cuts off her lover Alec for contacting her during the funeral. Kevin once again loses control of his emotions when his estranged wife shows up for the funeral, leading him to go on a drunken bender. And as stated, John's eulogy hits a little too close to home.

Enter Lenny Potts.

The way they present this character, I thought he was going to be some kind of antagonist. His arrival seems to seriously rattle Danny, John, and Sally, who each try to avoid him initially. It seemed like it had something to do with John's past, something traumatic. Plus, he's also shown to carry a gun.

However, I couldn't have been more wrong. Lenny Potts is actually a pretty moral guy, if a little unscrupulous. He's Robert's old friend and fellow veteran, a former Monroe County police detective who is now a private investigator. He personally extends his condolences to the family, tells stories about Robert, and even offers John advice on the case he's working.

The reason Danny, John and Sally are so wary of him is because Lenny Potts is another ghost from the past. As it turns out, Lenny was the policeman who questioned Robert and the Rayburn children about the circumstances of Sarah's death and Danny's injuries thereafter. And another family secret is revealed to us as well as to Danny: Potts interviewed each of Danny's siblings, and they all lied that Danny had been hit by a car. Potts knew what Robert had done, and always regretted not doing more for Danny in that case. Which is why he gives Danny the taped evidence of his family's culpability.

That's why John keeps looking at Potts as if he were a hurricane in the distance. He knows, as Sally seemed to know and Danny sort-of knew, that Potts is capable of breathing more life into the past tragedy that has haunted the Rayburns. You can tell in hindsight that John's just waiting for this shoe to drop the entire time Potts is around. And his fears are realized in the end when he opens the old case file and discovers the tapes are missing. Robert's death only delayed the inevitable. If there was ever a catalyst that would inspire Danny to go against his family, this is it.

Bits and Pieces:

* The most poignant moment in the episode is when Danny is looking over the old photos of Robert and Sarah. Then he sees a younger Robert bursting into the room the way he did in the past, right before he'd beaten Danny. It's a dark way of displaying that, even though Robert's gone, he still lives on in the legacy and memories he left behind.

* I feel bad for Belle, in love with a guy who is far too immature for her.

* Danny and Chelsea O'Bannon sleep together, but he brushes her off like it's nothing serious. Sad.

Quotes:

Chelsea: So what does this mean for you?
Danny: Uhhh... Dad's dead.

John: People ask me, all the time, they ask me if I'm gonna take over the family business. And I ask myself: What would that be like? To live like dad. Walk onto that porch and look over my kingdom. But I will never know that feeling or that pride, because I didn't build it. He uh, he ruled his kingdom. He could be tough. He could be hard. He had a vision for the family, and he knew exactly what he wanted us to be. If you didn't tow that line, if you didn't live up to that vision, you uh...
Flashback Lenny Potts: How old are you, John?
Flashback John: Fourteen.
John:... Dad expected the best from us, because he wanted the best for us. Everything that I have, that we all have, is because of him. He made me who I am... N-now, my brother Danny, he'd like to say a few-
Danny: (shakes his head)
John: Well, I know how he feels... I know how we all feel.

Danny: You know what, it was 30 years ago. Who gives a damn?
Lenny Potts: Your father was my good friend, but he had a mean streak. Now what happened to your sister was an accident, but your father... he took it out on you.

We are getting deep. Four out of four recorded lies.

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