‘Bloodline’ Series Finale: How Things Ended, and Each Character’s Fate
Spoilers for all of Season 3 ahead, you have been warned!
Bloodline has ended, and with it, the story of the lying, murderous Rayburns. So how did everything play out?
Bloodline has been an increasingly messy experiment of a television show. Season 1 was a dark and often thrilling journey of a Florida Keys family, the Rayburns, who did a lot of terrible things and spent most of their time covering it up. The flash-forwards to a death were mind-boggling on two counts: 1) how could this family murder one of their own, and 2) how could the show get rid of their strongest asset?
Both happened, and Season 2 stalled out because of it, dropping the flash-foward construct to instead embrace fairly unrelated flashbacks and Danny’s (Ben Mendelsohn) ghost haunting John (Kyle Chandler). The rest of the season was a sleepy meditation on guilt, and what felt like major events (Danny’s son showing up) petered out into nothing. That season was punctuated, in the end, by Kevin’s murder of Marco (Enrique Murciano), which then kicked off the third and final run of episodes.
So which one would get this time, flash forwards, or flashbacks? Neither. With the end being nigh for the show, the first part of Season 3 flows along with a much better pace than Season 2, focusing ultimately on the twists of a trial for Marco’s murder. But then it loses its sense of self again.
Despite having the opportunity to end Bloodline’s story in any kind of way that might be satisfactory to viewers, the final two episodes of the series felt like someone was sweeping up in the writers room and decided to conclude the show with scraps of ideas from the floor. There was some momentum to start the season, but in the end almost nothing made sense or mattered. The most egregious example of this was us spending two seasons watching John Leguizamo creep around the edges of the story like some kind of evil portend, only to end up killing himself suddenly in the back of the car with Roy’s (Beau Bridges) men. The showrunners have spoken in the past about wanting at least four or five seasons for the series, and as things came to a close, it definitely felt like several seasons worth of contextless plot were thrown in at the last minute.
Still, whether you watched the finale or not, here is where the main characters all ended up, as well as a few thoughts on each and some closing thoughts on the series:
Meg is now jogging around … LA? Getting tattoos, hanging out with a newly established family of sundries under an assumed identity. We can guess that she’s free from the family’s “curse” (a weakly-established conceit) and is finally free of the Keys and the Rayburns’ troubles. As maybe the only non-killer in the family, Meg (Linda Cardellini) deserves to get away from the rest of them, but as such an important part of the story it feels very strange to not have her appear in the finale at all.
Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) had a rollercoaster of a season, from killing Marco and covering up his death to a hastily-constructed timeline for Kevin’s descent into drug running at the behest of Roy Gilbert — and then it all falling apart because of a federal investigation. Roy has a heart attack and eventually dies, which leaves Kevin holding the bag regarding the Cuban drug running. And while John tries to help him by getting Kevin and his family out of the country, they don’t even last two hours before it’s mentioned that Belle (Katie Finneran) forgot to turn her cellphone GPS off. Busted!
Now, this was satisfying in a certain way, because Kevin is a murderer and it seems like he might actually pay for his sins. He’s also not the smartest cookie, and Belle isn’t either (she also seemed to not have a problem with Kevin killing Marco, so long as he was honest with her about it), so for them to be thwarted in their escape plan (as ludicrously timed as it was) felt about right for those characters. Poor Rocky … this next Rayburn generation is going to end up a real mess.
Sally (and the Grandkids)
Speaking of that next generation, the show established late in the season that the profits from Sally (Sissy Spacek) selling the Inn would be their inheritance, but that is now moot since evidently the Inn will be underwater in ten years. Again, this plot meant almost nothing since it wasn’t ever a serious discussion with the family outside of Sally telling half of her grandkids in a brief scene. And where would Sally go? What was her plan beyond selling the Inn?
All that reveal gave us was a drunk Sally ranting about how she gave birth to each of her children, and how she evidently always hated John and knew he was evil from the moment he was baptized in blood. I’m not sure that I’ve ever more clearly noticed a scene having been written by someone who has no concept of biology, childbirth, or women in general. Most babies don’t just bloodlessly pop out, nor are they considered weak because they didn’t crawl out of the womb themselves and have to be delivered via C-section. I mean come on.
This poor family. Eric (Jamie McShane) is in jail and also working on a road crew, which would never happen for a murderer (at least not that quickly). John didn’t kill him, but he colluded to end his life by pinning Marco’s death on him. As for Chelsea (Chloe Sevigny), she had a swift fall from the not-great life she was already living, ruined not only by her brother’s trial and conviction, but by her randomly and suddenly stealing pills from work when she had already been put on notice. Though she was part of the machinations to try and spook John and bring him down, that plot was dropped almost as quickly as it came about, and Chelsea now apparently works at a biker bar.
The finale culminated in John’s struggle about whether or not he should tell Nolan the truth about what happened with Danny. Being counseled by both the ghost of young Danny (Owen Teague, who also plays Nolan) and adult Danny, who share a terrible wig, neither option feels particularly like freedom for John, despite how how it was presented. This family loves telling secrets and getting other family members to lie about it later. So John could either lie now and perpetuate the pattern, or he could tell Nolan the truth and let the chips fall where they may for once. The reason the latter doesn’t feel that revolutionary, though, is that not only did we already see Kevin already get his comeuppance, but John literally confessed both him killing Danny and covering-up Marco’s murder to the Sheriff (David Zayas, who was suspicious of him for quite a bit of the series and never really a pal), who laughed it off and then brushed off as PTSD. Everyone thinks John is crazy, and why would anyone believe this kid? What was the point of any of this?
Here’s a short list of the plot threads that were introduced without context and then disappeared just as fast this season (I’m not even going back to things like Mia Kirshner’s appearance in Season 1): John’s best friend, Diana and John’s separation, the random brunette who may or may not be half a Rayburn, Sally’s illness, Sally being in a car wreck, family therapy, John’s affair with the detective we’ve never seen before, Eric O’Bannon’s death (and then non-death), the sudden return of John’s son, the return of Nolan, some guy who Roy killed, Jane having sex and apparently bringing guys to the house, Ozzie’s revenge on John, Sally’s affair with Roy, the picture with Danny, Eric, and John removed (were they friends? What was the implication about their past?) and the list goes on. Any one of these could have made for an interesting plot thread, and any one could have contributed to Bloodline being a nuanced family drama. Instead, we got nonsense hours like “Episode 9,” which was the epitome of a time waster (especially since the show introduced a Twin Peaks-y format it had never used before, ultimately didn’t matter, and didn’t have time to use again).
The only redemptive moment in “Episode 9” was when John was dreaming about a different start to this story, when Danny comes home. A whole episode could have (and should have) been devoted to how things might have worked out differently, which was a bitter juxtaposition to the truth and horror of how things did occur.
For two seasons, I enjoyed Bloodline for its unique setting, though the show never really did enough with it. The writers were great at crafting the look and the language of Florida lowlifes — Danny, Eric, Ozzie — but it never became an important part of the story. It would have been great to see more of an exploration of that community and how they were at war with the Rayburns, but that also never played out. Similarly, the show is stacked with a fantastic cast, almost none of whom were given a storyline outside of spiraling out because of guilt and trying to cover up their crimes. There was plenty more to explore within the family and in the individual stories of John’s family and the second generation. Instead, we got a full episode of John just wondering what was real and what wasn’t. Kyle Chandler is great, I get it, but so is the rest of your cast.
In some ways, Bloodline should never have gone past one season. But since it did, it missed a major opportunity to expand the story beyond John versus Danny. Losing Ben Mendelsohn after the first season was tough, and the series never really recovered. Danny was inherently the most interesting character, and his interactions with the family shook them up in a way that was narratively compelling. Instead, we discovered that yes, (nearly) all of the Rayburns are pretty garbage people. Plenty of shows have thrived on that conceit, but there’s usually one character who can bring redemption, someone for us to root for. Bloodline didn’t have any of that. The Inn will be underwater in 10 years? Good, wash it all away.
… But for what it’s worth, I would definitely watch a spinoff starring the Coroner / Fixer.