Bloodline (TV Review)

Bloodline (TV Review)

Netflix keeps churning out solid original programming as the on-demand company continues its quest to take over the world. Bloodline is the latest offering from Netflix, and it is a show that features a stellar cast and a story about a renowned family whose past its dragged up and ripped apart with the return of a prodigal son and the death of the patriarch.

The Rayburns rule the Florida Keys, and when their hotel is celebrating its 45th anniversary, older brother Danny, the clear black sheep of the family, returns to the Keys to see the rest of his siblings (another two brothers and a sister), things are really shaken up, and the dark secrets of the family slowly get exposed, focusing mainly on the long-ago drowning death of their other sister.

blood4The cast here is a definite strength of the show, led by the always strong Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, ER). Chandler plays John, the good brother, who has grown up to become an important law man in the area. Cardellini is the lawyer sister, and Ben Mendelsohn plays the evil, yet kind of good, but definitely evil, Danny. Each of the actors in the show are able to create characters with depth and story to them, as the past is dug up and they need to face who their family really is, when memories and truth about the drowning of Rachel begin to come to light. The events of her drowning, and the aftermath, shook the family to the core, and now the adult children must deal with a past that was based around lies, manipulation, and the ostracizing of the bad seed: Danny. It is not only the central characters that are portrayed by strong actors, but there is an excellent supporting cast as well, filled with actors that are well known, or at least recognizable, bringing their roles to life.

The narrative of Bloodline is interesting, as it provides us with flashbacks to the younger days of the Rayburn children, as well as little hints of events to come. From the early episodes, we know everything is going to hit the fan with Danny, and that John is going to be playing a major role in the whole ordeal, but the show still manages to make it very interesting on how we are going to be getting to that final, culminating point. It makes for an interesting method of story telling, and for interesting TV.

blood3Bloodline isn’t a perfect show, and it actually moves quite slowly at some points, almost having too many good characters and secondary story lines to focus on. At times it feels like it is taking us away from the central plot, and there is no real reason why, but in the end, it does allows us to see a richer version of the characters had there not been the meandering secondary story lines. Aside from that, there is really a reason for everything, and all the minor events of the lives of the Rayburns that is exposed is for the greater good of the story. Even if an event feels minor, it plays a role in the complex construction of the family, and of the events that will befall them.

BloodlineSince the plot is far more character-driven, it does not lend itself to the traditional binge watching that Netflix is best known for. Bloodline is a show best taken in over a little bit more time. A couple of episodes here and there, instead of planting yourself on the couch until the whole adventure is over with (like something like House of Cards).

blood5My only complaint about the show would be the ending…literally the last line of the season. I get it that Bloodline deserves another season, as we really do want to see the continued fallout from the climactic event, but it created a bit too much of a random cliffhanger that kind of felt out of place in the scheme of the show. It is obvious how it will create havoc when Netflix decides to bring us Season 2, but I thought it could have been left for now, and brought up in the early episodes of the second go-round.

Even with that minor blip, Bloodline is a good, intense show, that gives us very layered and strong characters that we can easily cheer for or against as the episodes progress. Well worth a watch.

House of Cards: Season 3 (TV Review)

House of Cards: Season 3 (TV Review)

Frank Underwood is the President of the United States.

And he is still just as vicious as he has always been.

In the third season of the Netflix original series, House of Cards, we go into the Oval Office to see how Underwood handles the responsibility of being the most powerful man on Earth, and one half of the most powerful couple in the world.

cards2Although something has changed in this season: people are starting to stand up against him. Finding it difficult to get things done with the bureaucracy of the White House and Congress, Frank needs to go to different lengths to get things done. Only now, every move he makes is very visible in the media, and he is constantly questioned about his actions. It provides us with a new look at the way he deals with things with a ton of problems in his face.

Season 3 provides us with some continuing story lines, some of which aren’t completely necessary. I could have lived without the story of Doug trying to hunt down Rachel, to get revenge for the attack in the woods. While it really created and rounded the character of Doug, at times it felt like it was filler, as we waited to get back to the good stuff with Frank and Claire.

Some of the best scenes revolve around Underwood and his meetings with the Russian president as they try to negotiate (several times) over issues in the Middle East, a UN mission, problems in the United Nations Security Council, and with near constant manipulation of one another. It makes for good TV, and it provides us with someone who is not afraid of Underwood, and is not afraid of using his own tactics against him.

cards3We also get a continued look at the media, this time with Frank allowing a book to be written about him that is supposed to promote his idea for America Works, an all-inclusive plan to eliminate unemployment in the country. Here we are provided with an almost sensitive side to Frank, along with perhaps the weirdest scene in the entire series, during one of his late night meetings with the author he has hired to write the book.

New competition rises for Frank, as the primaries begin before the upcoming general elections. This creates the usual back alley deals and tricks in order for him to get where he wants to be. It also exposes us to one of the better characters on the show, Jackie, played extremely well by Molly Parker.

cards4House of Cards provides us with the entertainment that we are used to: a ruthless power couple constantly trying to expand and maintain their grip on power. This season is a little different than usual, in that Frank has now achieved everything he had wanted. He sits in the most powerful chair, so what could be next for him?

Legacy.

The third season is easily watchable, with a consistently strong script, good acting (highlighted of course by the lovably evil Kevin Spacey), and excellent directing. While not every part of the season is must-watch TV, the central story line remains exciting and entertaining, and we are always left to wonder how this man is able to get so many things done. He is good at what he does, and still is not afraid to stomp on whoever gets in his way.

House of Cards Season 2

House of Cards Season 2

Note: Since I first posted this, I have finished the season. I have added my comments about the season as a whole at the bottom of the post.

Released for one day. 7 hours later, I have cruised through the first half of the newest season of the Netflix original series, House of Cards.

And it has not disappointed thus far. At all.

house-of-cards-season-2-posterThere is so much to like about this show, but really, it is Kevin Spacey being so deliciously evil that you can’t help but cheer for him, that really makes it all so great. He is absolutely ruthless, and his journey begins just where the first season left off. We have to wonder where he will stop, or where all the deals and promises he makes will have to end. They have to end at some point, don’t they?

There are some big moves in the opening couple of episodes of Season 2, but I won’t spoil them, since this is a show that is worth watching on your own. But there are some good storylines that have come out, and a couple of the smaller characters from Season 1 are getting their own plots now, to the benefit of the show. Of course, there is still plenty of backdoor dealings to keep the more casual fan interested.

I’m sure I will write another post about this series once I have completed the season (which, at this rate, could be later today). Truly addictive television, House of Cards is the best of the Netflix originals, and easily worth the subscription on its own.

After finishing Season 2, I will add a couple of thoughts, without revealing any spoilers.

The best thing about Netflix releasing their entire series’ at once is you can absolutely devour them in a short timeframe. The sad part is that once it is done, it is a really long wait until the next year comes out. I will instantly feel this way about House of Cards. After thrashing through the entire year in less than 24 hours, I will now be forced to wait, like the rest of us, until Season 3 is released, presumably next year sometime. At least, I am assuming they will have a third installment. It is definitely successful enough, and it is more than definitely good enough.

This was captivating political television. There were really good twists and turns throughout, and some maneuvers that one would truly not imagine seeing. As I had noted above, I really liked the new stories with the minor characters. They stay throughout the year, and they are developed well, to the point where you don’t mind watching their segments, and are not just craving to get back to the story of Frank Underwood and his devious schemes.

As for an overview of the entire season, it is great, better than I would have expected. Too many shows promise such great things with the first year, only to disappoint going forward. I wrote about this in my review of the second season of Homeland. But they didn’t mess with this one. There was still work for Underwood to do at the end of the shows first run, and he gets back to business in the second go at it. The schemes, ploys, backstabbing, and back room politics are all still there. And it is absolutely engrossing.

I recommend the newest season of this show with the highest regard. It is truly excellent.