Bloodline Season 3 Premiere Plot Summary:
Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) struggles with the aftermath of his meeting with Marco (Enrique Murciano), while Meg (Linda Cardellini) comes clean to Sally (Sissy Spacek) and searches for her brothers. Elsewhere, John (Kyle Chandler) attempts to go on the run and ignores his family’s pleas to return home.
If the first season of Bloodline was defined by John’s claim that the Rayburns weren’t “bad people, but [they] did a bad thing,” then the second season could be summed up as “JK, we actually are awful people.” There in lies the major problem with the final season’s premiere: most of the Rayburns have either lost the majority of their redeeming qualities or were never likeable to begin with.
Bloodline is the story of a family’s moral decay because of the secrets they’ve been forced to keep and the violence they’ve resorted to. For such tragedies to remain engaging, the audience must have a stake in the characters and care for them to some degree, receiving a periodic reminder of the flawed but good person a character used to be or an occasional revelation that this tragic figure still has some redeeming qualities. At this point in the series though, the Rayburns have either fallen so far that empathizing with them is difficult or have continued to be so unpleasant that lamenting their demise is impossible.
As a result, the emphasis on Kevin and Meg’s dramatic decisions in the second season’s finale make “Part 24” a frustrating episode. Obviously, Kevin murdering Marco is something the show needs to address, but Kevin is such an insufferable character that I found his attempts to control the damage he’d done less than compelling. Norbert Leo Butz sells the idea that Kevin has truly reached his breaking point and brings the dramatic material to life, but why should the audience care about this development when Kevin has always been little more than a hotheaded screw-up? Other than his feelings for his pregnant wife and the discovery that Kevin’s father and brothers are the cause of his personality flaws, Kevin is a one-note character with nothing to redeem him. Without a real reason to care for Kevin, the incredible weight of the situation is lost.
Similarly, Meg continues to be the blandest of the Rayburns. Whatever crisis occurs, Meg never fails to fall into the same pattern: (1) try to bring her siblings together and fix the problems they’ve created, (2) become overwhelmed and give up, (3) enter into a drunken stupor, (4) rinse and repeat. Not only are these Meg’s go-to behaviors, this pattern also represents all we know about Meg as a character; she is dedicated to keeping her family whole until she can’t bear the toll anymore. All of Meg’s efforts in “Part 24” thus feel deeply repetitive and fail to bring anything new to her dimensionless character.
Of course, that leaves us with the final and most compelling Rayburn sibling. John, as the protagonist, has always been the most fleshed out character in the show outside of Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) and the most likeable member of the family (due in no small part to Kyle Chandler’s natural charisma). While Kevin and Meg’s storylines aren’t engaging because neither of them has ever been particularly likeable, John’s character arc is in danger because of just how far he’s fallen. Thankfully, John still shows shades of his original self, so his struggles remain truly tragic and heartbreaking to watch. John’s call to his daughter is especially important for this reason. Unfortunately, even though John’s development remains captivating, “Part 24” doesn’t give him much material to work with. Going on the run is a dramatic decision on its own, but his actual journey is not particularly interesting and will almost inevitably end with him returning home to his family. If anyone has the ability to turn this season around and keep the audience invested in the drama though, it’s Chandler; the writers just need to give his character something stronger to work off of.
The final season premiere isn’t a bad episode, but “Part 24” is a rather weak start to the show’s race to the finish. The series still remains one of the most well-acted original dramas on Netflix, but the beginning of the show’s third season illustrates how easy it has become to feel disinterested in the Rayburn family. If the writers want Bloodline to end on a strong note, they’ll have to place John into more exciting situations and find new ways to make viewers care about the characters other than John. Otherwise, the greatest tragedy will be that the series failed to live up to its phenomenal first season.