Netflix’s original drama Bloodline starts its second series today, with all ten hour-long episodes going live at once. This means that, if your mates start feeding you flaky reasons for cancelling all of a sudden, you’ll know exactly what they’ll be doing; binge watching their weekends away. In case you haven’t seen Series One, I’ll be honest: You’ve been wasting your valuable telly time. Please go and sit yourself down for the emotionally harrowing, tense, sweaty 13 episodes and then come back to this love letter to the show (which may contain some spoilers for the first series, but definitely not the second). Bloodline is probably the best thing on Netflix, which is high praise coming from someone who once, during a power cut, travelled for 35 minutes on two tubes to get to her sister’s house to use the Wi-Fi and watch an episode of Orange Is The New Black. But for some reason, in the UK, Bloodline has been unfairly slept on. Over in the US, it's been up for Critic’s Choice Awards, Emmys and a Golden Globe. Over here, the most acknowledgement Bloodline has had is when the Guardian named it the "39th best thing on TV" – below, embarrassingly, Car Share and Great Canal Journeys. It's as though House Of Cards is the only series people in Britain are still using a week’s annual leave to stay at home and binge watch.
It’s hard to watch a show where you’re supposed to root for such morally dubious characters
So why is Bloodline so underrated? One theory: it’s hard to watch a show where you’re supposed to root for such morally dubious characters. The plot follows the Rayburn family – that’s John (Kyle Chandler), Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) who are happily living in the Florida Keys, where their mum Sally (Sissy Spacek) runs a hotel, when oldest brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) comes back and their father Robert (Sam Shepard) dies. Danny’s a bad man; he’s into drug dealing, has a shady past and a worse haircut, and just loves to blackmail his family. His siblings are pretty keen for him to just piss off back to Miami and leave them alone, but when he’s like ‘er, no thanks, I’ll just hang around here and run drugs through the family business’, things get dark very quickly. We’re used to TV’s protagonists only doing bad things for a cause – to protect their family, for someone that they love, to help other people or just because it’s the ‘right thing to do’. It’s a bit murkier if, like Meg in Bloodline, your reason for doing something terrible to a family member was a mixture of not wanting him to expose your secret affair with a client, and trying to cut him out of your dad’s will. Or, like John, your main priority is preventing your brother messing up your career – and reputation – as a police detective. The show’s tagline is “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing". Only… they actually are bad people. At some points, Danny’s siblings come off worse than he does. The whole family is morally bankrupt and each of them seem to be only out for themselves. If their sole problem was drug dealer Danny committing a few crimes, then the Rayburns would have called the police. But John is the police! And that’s what makes the show so interesting – we haven’t seen such muddied lines between good and evil on TV since Dexter.
And please can we talk about the way Bloodline’s filmed? Somehow, it makes you feel hot and sweaty like you’re actually in the Florida Keys, while at the same time, tense. Every single scene has an undercurrent of fear and anticipation. At any moment, Kevin could hoover up a big pile of coke and blurt out the family’s secrets. At any time, Danny could snap and hurt people. This show is a tension headache made into ten episodes. It’s almost impossible to binge watch because you need to relax and turn all the lights on after each episode to shake off that lingering feeling of paranoia. The best part about Bloodline though (apart from Ben Mendelsohn, who, as Danny, is creepy as f**k) is the constant false endings – every scene could be a cliffhanger. It’s not uncommon to pick up the remote to press “watch next episode” (nobody actually waits twenty seconds for the Netflix’s autoplay function, right?) thinking it’s the final moments of the show, before realising that er, nope. That’s just a super-tense scene AND THERE’S MORE. Honestly, the tagline for this show should be, “Don’t start checking Instagram, that’s not the last scene, you’ve still got another 20 minutes, put your phone down”. And if all of that hasn’t convinced you to watch Bloodline, consider that it was produced by the same team as glossy legal drama Damages, about a corrupt civil rights law firm, with a script so gripping it got Glenn Close onboard as its leading woman. Which explains how Bloodline landed two of Hollywood’s most serious ‘actor’s actors’ – Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard – and encouraged Friday Night Lights' all-round good man Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) to break his nice-guy reputation and go dark as John Rayburn. If it’s good enough for them, it’s definitely good enough for us. So remember: “Are you watching Bloodline?” – the only acceptable way to start any conversation this weekend.