Bloodline Delivers a Strong, Frustrating End to an Uneven Series

Photo Credit: Netflix

Bloodline Series Finale Plot Summary:

John (Kyle Chandler) continues to experience a renewed sense of guilt over Danny’s (Ben Mendelsohn) death as he searches for Nolan (Owen Teague). Meanwhile, Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) learns he is a person of interest in a DEA investigation, and Sally (Sissy Spacek) receives news about her plans to sell the inn.

The Bloodline season/series finale is certainly an upgrade from the season premiere. As discussed in my review for that episode, the show frustratingly undercut its ability to present the drama as truly tragic by continuing to make the Rayburns extremely unlikable, but the season’s final few episodes clearly attempt to inject the story with a greater sense of sorrow. Though the majority of this empathetic disappointment is appropriately reserved for John, even the typically exasperating Kevin earns a bit of pity. The Rayburn saga also ends with a level of introspection and retrospection that helps frame some of the family’s most heinous actions as morally reprehensible mistakes rather than the intentional actions of sociopaths. This context doesn’t fully redeem the series’ other missteps, but it at least helps give the series a compelling finale.

As a family drama, the show’s primary responsibility is placing its characters into exciting situations that will reveal more about them and either strain or strengthen their familial bonds, and “Part 33” undoubtedly accomplishes this task. The finale contains some fantastic character beats for John, Kevin, and Sally, pulling each of these individuals to their absolute lowest points. Not only do these moments break the characters down to their core personalities, the situations also give the supporting cast the most emotional material the show has ever afforded them; Jacinda Barrett and Katie Finneran in particular give their strongest performances of the series as Diana and Belle are forced to confront their husbands. Chandler, Butz, and Spacek likewise knock their emotional scenes out of the park, further elevating the already strong writing.

Once again, though, Chandler’s John is front and center in the action. Having Danny return as a manifestation of John’s guilt might be a simple and fairly obvious move by the writers, but the decision is nonetheless effective. Mendelsohn and Chandler have tremendous chemistry and their scenes together finally reveal just how much John’s experiences have traumatized him. These moments are nothing short of mesmerizing and successfully remind viewers of the man John once was.

But as much as I appreciate John’s moments with Danny in the last two episodes, I can’t help feeling frustrated they didn’t occur earlier in the season. So much of the third season was spent destroying John’s redeeming qualities that reasons to empathize with him would have been nice to see. Similarly, having his hallucinations start after his diving incident made enough sense, but the events of the second season’s finale and third season’s premiere really would have been sufficient and more emotionally relevant causes for his hallucinations. Even some small hints or foreshadowing of John’s psychological break would have been useful and appreciated in a series with so much filler.

While the finale itself is strong, the episode’s quality makes the rest of the season even more frustrating. Where was this great character exploration in earlier episodes? Why did the show jump five months into the future halfway through the season? What in the world was up with the utterly pointless introduction of Ozzy Delvecchio (John Leguizamo)? Outside of the compelling courtroom scenes, much of the third season felt unfocused and unnecessary; between the time jump and sudden end to the legal battle, the season felt extremely disjointed and failed to properly set up the strong episodes to follow. As a result, the strength of the finale doesn’t feel earned. It feels out of place.

But nothing hurts “Part 33” more than the lack of resolution. Keeping plot points unresolved and ambiguous is an ambitious move for a show to pull and must be handled with extreme care to avoid upsetting viewers. The reason this decision doesn’t entirely work for Bloodline is that so much of this episode is build up; when you have an entire episode leading up to a single interaction, not showing that interaction is undoubtedly going to frustrate audiences and make for a less-than-satisfying conclusion. There is a reason that a traditional storytelling structure includes a resolution, and Bloodline would have benefitted from sticking with that structure.

Despite these issues, however, the finale is the season’s strongest episode and a powerful end to the Bloodline as a whole. After a satisfactory second season and a largely disappointing third season, “Part 33” stands as a return to the greatness of the first season.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Josh Sarnecky is one of Pop Break’s staff writers and covers Designated Survivor, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things. His brother, Aaron, is the site’s TV Editor, but Josh is the family’s reigning Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars champion.