Bloodline: Part 23

"Anything to protect the Rayburn name."

We've got lots to talk about, so let's get to it.

Last season, the Rayburns disintegrated into criminals bent on covering up their family's terrible crimes, from child abuse to murder. No matter what line they crossed, they had their justifications. They had no choice. Their brother forced their hand. They did bad things, but that doesn't make them bad people.

They find that none of these excuses hold up anymore. Which is bad for them, since they are now facing their ultimate downfall once again.

Repent, For the End is Nigh

John knows Marco is very close to exposing all of the skeletons the Rayburns have in their closet. Informing his siblings/partners-in-crime only makes things more difficult. The pressure is on him to take care of everyone's problems. He thought he was being put through hell last season, but this is on a whole other level.

The one thing preventing Marco from putting nails in the Rayburn family coffin is the Internal Affairs case being built against Marco and Sheriff Aguirre, regarding their alleged cover-up of Aguirre's domestic violence. The case gets dropped when Ms. Ortiz, Aguirre's ex-wife, recants her earlier statements; the IA detectives are certain that Aguirre threatened her, meaning that he and Marco are likely guilty. But there's no time to worry about that, since Marco is now clear to get Eric O'Bannon immunity and use his testimony to bring down John, Kevin and Meg.

Time is running out for the three siblings, and the division between them has never been more pronounced. We see just how much they've grown to resent each other, for their past mistakes as well as their current circumstances. These people are masters of avoiding and redirecting blame.

The Blame Game

Kevin and Meg all but state outright that John should kill Eric. They also seem to have convinced themselves that they've done nothing wrong and that John is the only one to blame. After all, John is the one who killed Danny, so they shouldn't be punished for his crimes, conveniently forgetting or excusing their own roles in Danny's death and its cover-up.

This, in turn, seriously pisses off John, who finally explodes. In a furious and self-righteous tirade, John voices his anger at always being forced to be the man of the family even though he was the younger brother, shouldering everyone else's responsibilities and burdens all his life. We saw a bit of this during his last encounter with Danny as well.

Interestingly, they are each portrayed as being just as right as they are wrong. For instance, Meg and Kevin's belief that this is all John's fault. They're right, none of the drama we've seen this season would be happening if John hadn't impulsively killed their brother. But John's also right to point out, as indelicately as he does, that they share the blame as far as bringing him and Danny to that point: Meg's refusal to include Danny in the will, or Kevin's drugged-up threats to kill Danny prior to John doing so. Meg acts like she was the only one willing to accept Danny's return, when we know that's not true. And Kevin indignantly believes he can't be held accountable for his drug use anymore, presumably because he's in AA now.

Meg and Kevin simply abandon John to deal with the threat against them. Under impossible pressure, John starts tailing Eric O'Bannon with the intention of killing him before he can tell Marco what he knows.

Sins of the Fathers and Sons

The most unfortunate part of all of this is the knowledge that it could have been completely avoided before the series even began.

More light is shed on Nolan and Danny's backstory. We flashback to the time Danny introduced Nolan to his grandfather, Robert. It's an interesting scene: Three men representing three generations of the Rayburn family, with the latter two addressing the former with cautious reverence.

Nolan, however, was not privy to all of Danny's meeting with Robert. Overhearing Eve and Sally, he learns that Danny asked Robert for a loan to back his restaurant. Robert, still looking down on his eldest son, gave Danny a choice: have Robert loan him the money to finally "bet on himself", or have Robert continue sending money to support Nolan. Danny chose his son over his business, forcing him to resort to crime in order to stay afloat. This has a profound impact on Nolan. He is overcome with guilt, knowing that setting the fire in the restaurant is what led to Danny's return home in the first place. He blames himself for his father's death.

Damn.

Ironically, Nolan asks Diana to tell John that Danny's death was his fault. I'm very interested to see what happens when Nolan learns the truth about his uncle John.

The Really Bad People

The threats can't all be from within the family, though. This season has done plenty to set up the external dangers to the Rayburns. Franco Aguirre and Ozzy Delvecchio are troublesome to be sure, but the real threat is Roy Gilbert. At first appearing as a mere shady benefactor, Gilbert is in reality a devious criminal mastermind who uses a philanthropic image to conceal the fact that he is a drug kingpin; Gus Fring, anybody? He has a keen interest in the Rayburn family, and has done a good job at putting them under his thumb whether it's backing John's campaign for sheriff, involving Meg in corrupt backdoor dealings, or buying out Kevin's boatyard for his drug running purposes.

This is a powerful man with a lot of influence. Here we see him overlooking the case file on Danny and listening to the incriminating tape recording Danny gave to Wayne Lowry. This is the same tape John found missing from the police evidence locker. Which means Gilbert even has people working for him inside the Monroe County Sheriff's Department.

Despite his menacing presence, Gilbert seems to want to help the Rayburns. This is probably why he sets his sights on Ozzy, who is confronted near the end by Gilbert's right-hand man, Luis. Armed with a pistol, Luis orders Ozzy to come with him.

Pride Before the Fall

As with last season, everyone is desperate to survive, and are forced to make huge decisions because of it. John abducts Eric and takes him to the latter's rundown hideout, planning to kill him with Ozzy's gun. His siblings believe they can no longer rely on him to get them out of this. Kevin, wanting to avoid jail time for the sake of Belle and their unborn child, believes he and Meg should confess to Marco and try to cut a deal. Meg is unable to face Marco, leaving Kevin so she can seek out their mother. Each of them suffer their own individual breakdowns.

In a scene fraught with tension, John holds a gun to Eric's head. He's prepared to silence the man who could destroy him, but he ultimately can't bring himself to pull the trigger. Instead, John releases Eric, allowing him to expose the Rayburns if he so wishes.

I think this is partly because he's just fed up with constantly having to get his hands dirty to protect a family name he no longer respects. Beyond that, it shows us that John doesn't really have it in him to commit premeditated murder. His killing of Danny happened because he had been driven past the point of rationality. John gave into the great rage passed down to him from his father, devolving into a state of violent savagery.


That savagery exists within Kevin too. He reaches his breaking point when attempting to confess to Marco, selling out John, only for Marco to rebuke him. He already has Eric O'Bannon in the wings, so he doesn't need or even want Kevin's confession. Marco fully intends to see him, Meg and John go to prison for Danny's murder, rubbing it in Kevin's face. Kevin goes blank and does something unbelievably stupid. Shocking, I know.

Earlier this season, I wrote that Kevin was starting to become the new Danny. He was trying to clean up his act for awhile there, but he comes full-circle upon grabbing a small dolphin statue on a nearby table and whacking Marco over the head with it. Kevin proceeds to bash Marco's skull in, killing him the same way Danny killed Wayne Lowry's hitman. Bye-bye, Marco. I can't wait to see how Kevin excuses himself for this one.

He's not the only one in for a rude awakening, though. Meg returns to the inn, overwhelmed with grief as she tries to face Sally. She's ready to make a confession of her own to her mother, but we don't see how this plays out. It can't be good, though, right?

This certainly looks like the beginning of the end. John realizes this, and decides to take Danny's advice from decades past: he gets in his car and just drives away, leaving everyone and everything behind. Honestly, it's the most respectable thing John has done all season. The lengths he went to preserve his family were tearing him apart, so I don't really blame him for abandoning them. Of course, he's not the first Rayburn to try running away. Danny did, and so did Meg at the end of last season, and both ended up being drawn back. Let's face it, John is the only one capable of keeping the Rayburns from falling straight into oblivion. And he's going to have a miserable time running away with no one but his brother's ghost for company. There isn't any other love quite like the love between misery and company.

Well, on to the final chapter...

Bits and Pieces:

* I realize I didn't give Sam Shepard due praise for his work as Robert in season one, since he was gone so suddenly. And now that I finally have a chance to, it's only after he has passed away in real life. I always thought he was a terrific actor, as well as a writer. His brief appearance in this episode only confirms that for me. With only a couple of minutes of screen-time, he still perfectly captured Robert's venomous attitude beneath his grandfatherly exterior. It justifies the great shadow his character casts over the entire series. RIP Sam Shepard.

* Marco and Aguirre turn out to be hypocrites who are almost just as guilty of corruption as John. Still, despite Aguirre's political ambitions and Marco's personal issues with the Rayburns, I believe that their commitment to police work and seeking justice is what truly drove their investigation into John and his family (at least, until these last few episodes). Like John, they are deeply flawed men who desire to do good, or, at the very least, want to bring down people they believe to be way worse than themselves.

* The last Danny flashback was the saddest one yet. We learn that he spoke with Nolan one last time before he boarded the bus to return home, as seen in 'Part 1'. After the restaurant fire, Danny has nothing left and believes that the gangsters he owed money to were responsible, unaware that it was actually Nolan. He chose to go home so he could earn the money to get them off his back and protect Nolan; we all know how that turned out. No wonder Nolan is plagued with guilt. There was clearly a lot that Danny wanted to say to his son but didn't know how, so he simply told him to take care of himself. Let's hope he does.

* The O'Bannon siblings might be my favorite characters. Eric is a lowlife punk, but he totally earned my respect by staying loyal to Danny and remaining defiant even as John pressed the barrel of a gun into his eye. Chelsea is one of the only major characters on the show who isn't involved in some dark criminal activities, largely due to being a smart, good-natured, no-nonsense person. And she saves her brother in this episode when Ozzy pulls a gun on him, getting the drop on him with her shotgun. They may come from white trash, but the O'Bannons are pretty badass and a hell of a lot more likable than the Rayburns. The scene is doubly amusing as it shows John watching it all with bated breath, clearly wishing that Ozzy would solve his problem for him by killing Eric over nothing.


Quotes:

Danny's Ghost: (to John) Oh, those are dark thoughts. Dark, dark thoughts.

Robert: So you're a good kid?
Nolan: Yes, sir.
Robert: You respect your father?
Nolan: Yes, sir.
Robert: It's important, respect. Being a father is a tough job. It's hard to get it right. But we try, don't we?
Danny: Yes, sir.

Kevin: This is fuckin' crazy. I mean, Meg and I, we didn't even do anything.
John: ... What did you just say?
Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. Even if you exclude his role in murder and covering up murder, Kevin deserves to be in prison like five times over. That he even thinks he's innocent or deserves to be spared any blame is as arrogant as it is ignorant.

Kevin: You need to handle this. Okay? Because we're done now.
John: You're done? Am I the only one in this family that's ever taken responsibility for anything? Huh? Have I always been there to help you when you need help? (to Kevin) Anytime you needed anything, I was there. (to Meg) Anytime you needed anything, I was there. And when Danny needed help, where the fuck did Danny go? He was supposed to be the big brother, but he came to me! I fuckin' took care of everyone! I have always taken care of everyone! And I'll tell you something, the day I stop taking care of your bullshit, you are lost.
Meg: Fuck you.

Eric: I'll say "Hello" to Danny for y--
John: FUCK YOU!

Marco: What is it about your fucking family that you guys think you can lie and lie and lie, until it's convenient to tell the truth.
Kevin: I know! I know, we're fucked up!
Marco: Yeah, you are fucked up. And we're not making a deal.

Danny's Ghost: Where're we going?
John: ...
Danny's Ghost: Yeah. Fuck it. Just drive.

It's true that Bloodline's sophomore season was not as enthralling as the first. It was not as uniquely intense and lacked its original aesthetic, but I felt Season 2 was a great continuation of the story, raising the stakes for our characters and never losing the show's thematic richness or its sense of style. Four out of four bloodstained dolphin statues.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Wow, Logan -- congratulations big time on finishing season two! Especially since you did these first two seasons in such a compressed time frame.

Logan Cox said...

Thank you, Billie! I really appreciate it. I'd probably get them done a lot faster if I knew how to summarize, but it's hard for me to resist delving into every little detail.