The whole Damages writing team reunites for Bloodline, a drama project they prepared for one year before presenting it to Netflix, who loved the idea and went for a direct-to-series order, the way they usually do. So yes, it’s elaborate and you can sense nothing is hazardous in the pilot script. Every detail counts. They know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re heading. It’s reassuring. And exciting too. Especially when you know you can watch the other 12 episodes on marathon mode since Netflix drops them all at the same time.
As good as Damages was -and everybody who watched it from day one to the end knows how well-crafted it was- it has never been a ratings juggernaut. FX even cancelled it before DirecTV saved it for two more years, offering it a proper ending and even more. Some would say it was too smart to pleasure a large crowd, that it looked pretentious, giving the false impression only a few people were invited to the party. Others will tell it was not a FX show in essence, since the two leads were women contrary to 90% of the channel’s other hits. Maybe it was more of a HBO show. Or a Showtime one. Maybe it was badly promoted. Wrong place, wrong time… anyway! It was a good damn show, with an incredible cast, and Bloodline, as different as it is, is going right in the same direction, in another genre: it’s a big family primetime soap opera. Not the Revenge tedious kind. The high profile one we were waiting for. Especially now Dallas is dead (again). Is Florida the new Texas?
Those who’ve seen Damages’ season 3 –the others, please don’t feel excluded, it won’t take long- probably remember the big storyline resolving around the Tobin family, where everybody was guilty of something, with the classical hidden secrets and other stuff. The writers nailed it, even though it was secondary, since Patty and Ellen (and Tom to some extent) were the real deal, always were. In a way, Bloodline is their chance to make it fully this time. The Rayburn family is the central point of the show and nothing else really matters.
The pilot starts with a flashforward. Something Damages was one of the first shows to use as prominently in its narrative process. Here, it’s more of a lazy ruse to catch people’s attention right away, before drawing at a rather slow but effective pace the portraits of our main characters. Danny is the one who’s the most important, present in almost every scene, and when he’s not, he’s the one everybody’s talking about. Every good story needs conflicts. Bloodline has just one: him. And he’s enough, weirdly. It’s an unsettling character. Sometimes you just want to slap him in the face because he seems so pretentious. Sometimes you want to hug him because he looks so sad and his family seems so mean to him. Sometimes you admire his boldness to say whatever he wants to say and make everybody uncomfortable just because it’s fun. Most of the time, you just want to understand what happened in the past, what he did exactly to be so hated by his own family.
The other characters are promising but they spend most of the pilot preparing for the huge party the family is throwing, managing guests and arranging their schedule to welcome their brother even if they all hope he won’t come. John, played by Kyle Chandler, is presented as the savior of the family, the one who’s always fixing things, the kind of character you dislike because he’s too good to be true but as the secrets unravel he doesn’t look so innocent. Nobody is, in fact. And there’s a mysterious blonde, played by Chloë “Fantastic” Sevigny. Is she a ghost from the past -I litteraly mean ghost here- or a real person? I won’t spoil the end of the pilot, but one thing I’ll say: prepare to be surprised! That’s the moment when the show is really starting, the moment when you realize Bloodline might be even better and addictive than you thought it would be.
Creators announced that Bloodline was going to be a show that “no one had ever done on TV before” and as much as I know so far, based on the pilot script, it’s not only ambitious and pretentious to say that, it’s also false. They want it to be an addictive and exigent family drama, and it surely can be. It almost already is. But it’s not because it’s well-written and smart that it has never been done a thousand times already. That being said, yes, Bloodline looks like a must-see. And there are beautiful landscapes. I think I forgot to mention that.