Bloodline: Season 1 (Netflix)

NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers for the first season of Bloodline (Netflix).

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The leads: Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn (USA Today)

Blackmail, drugs, lies, and more…. it’s ALL in the family!  Who CAN’T relate to family drama?  We know that parents can play favorites, we have roles w/in our families, and some have a harder time than others as adults (though raised in the same environment).  Can we let go of long-held grudges?  How far would we go to protect what we built?  

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John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) basks in his father’s praise at a family party.

I began watching this show w/o any prior knowledge, so had no expectations.  I saw one ad and knew that the parents were being played by GREAT actors (Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard).  I ended up getting REALLY into it after the first 3 eps (it’s NOT for the impatient viewer), and watched all 13 eps in one week.  (Season 2 will be out in 2016.) 

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Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) knows JUST how to win over his mom (Sissy Spacek)!

The tight-knit Rayburn family, headed by Sally (Spacek) and Robert (Shepard- still trim and striking at age 70), are respected/well-liked members of the community in a small beach town in the Florida Keys.  They run a lovely inn that is their pride and joy, aside from their grown children.  The second oldest son, John (Kyle Chandler- huskier than before but still handsome), is the sheriff w/ gorgeous wife Diana (Australian actress Jacinda Barrett) and two adorable teens (a boy and girl).  Another son, Kevin (noted Broadway actor Norbert Leo Butz), is fiercely protective of the little marina that he runs and deeply in love w/ his wife Bonnie.  The baby of the family is the also the only girl, Meg (Linda Cardellini from ER fame- looking better w/ age), a lawyer who helps her parents with their business.  Meg’s long-time boyfriend is Marco (Enrique Murciano from Without a Trace), a tall/handsome deputy working under John, and hailing from a big family of Cuban-Americans. What could upset their (seemingly) happy/ comfortable lives? 

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Danny at the bar- escaping from his family for a BIT.

Into this picturesque scene comes oldest brother Danny (Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn in a breakout role), the black sheep of the family.  All the sibs wonder why he has returned; Kevin doesn’t hide his disgust and disapproval.  Sally is overjoyed to have her firstborn home, especially when he takes an interest in the business (giving tours on the family boat, taking visitors fishing, and sharing his knowledge of the area in general).  It turns out that Danny has a way w/ kids.

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Father-son beer summit (Episode 4)

John, at first, is cautiously optimistic- he and Danny are very close in age and used to be tight as kids.  He is also wary, b/c Danny has been in trouble w/ the law before.  Robert is distant and cold, and it takes SOME time to figure out exactly why.  (There are innovative flashbacks and flash forward scenes which give us bits and pieces into the conflicts w/in the family.)

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Sally (Sissy Spacek), Meg (Linda Cardellini), and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) wait in the hospital.

Danny also gets close to his old/best friend, Eric O’Bannon (character actor Jamie McShane), who’s into making easy money.  Eric’s little sister, Chelsea (Chloe Sevigny- recently on The Mindy Project), begins to flirt w/ Danny- the guy she probably had a crush on as a young girl.  However, there is more to Eric’s schemes than what we first see.  (This is a thriller, NOT only a family drama.  There are some gruesome scenes that could be difficult for some viewers.)  I recommend this show to those of you who like to a good book, or those who want to get a sense like that from a series.  Is Danny a villain?  Or is he an antihero?  Well, he’s certainly a complex/mysterious guy!  I especially liked the scenes between Danny and John; the actors must’ve developed a LOT of chemistry before/during filming.  Character dramas are SO rare (in network TV), but I find them VERY appealing!         

House of Cards (Season 3)

NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers for the latest season of House of Cards (Netflix).

HoC_S3_AirForce1 Frank & Claire in front of Air Force One

Well, those two crazy kids FINALLY made it… to the White House!  However, it’s NOT all easygoing at the top for Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), or very exciting (as MANY viewers, including ardent fans, have commented).  A FEW eps were a BIT tough to get through- a rarity for this series in seasons 1 and 2.  There is less scheming, fewer asides to the audience (by Frank), and more talk re: policy changes (this is NOT The West Wing).   

HoC_S3_Doug Surprise: Doug survived the attack at the end of S2!

This is a BIT of a spoiler- Doug (Michael Kelly, slowly being revealed) survived the attack in the woods at the end of Season 2.  A LOT of time is spent on his recovery in this season- TOO much IMO!  Yes, Doug has a lonely life, sleeps w/ pros, and lives for his work (even when President Underwood has NO time for him).  We get to meet his older brother, his wife and kids, and learn more about that aspect of Doug’s life.   

HoC_S3_Frank_RussianPrez Frank reaches out to the (Putin-like) Russian prez- a FUN adversary!

I really liked the scenes between Frank and the tough-as-nails Russian president, who is like a taller version of Putin.  This guy is NOT intimidated easily by Frank- GREAT to see!  The actor did VERY well w/ the role.  Forget boring/wimpy adversaries like President Walker and even Raymond Tusk, this prez won’t back down easily!

HoC_S3_portrait Frank & Claire sit for their official portrait

This season is MAINLY about the (worsening) relationship between Frank and Claire.  They’re even sleeping in separate bedrooms (GASP)!  Robin Wright continues to shine, BUT we wouldn’t expect less.  Claire has a new role (aside from First Lady) this season, as you will learn.

HoC_S3_E7 Frank drinks & talks w/ his (potential) biographer.

Frank recruits a novelist to write his biography, BUT the writer goes off on his own direction.  Sorry, but he’s a boring character.  There is a journalist (played by Kim Dickens) recently the detective on Gone Girl) that is a BIT more interesting, BUT  thought she’d have more to do. 

hoc_ps3_157_h.jpgHeather Dunbar is a VERY strong counterpoint to Frank!

I LOVED seeing Heather Dunbar (played by the statuesque Elizabeth Marvel) as the total opposite of Frank in her demeanor, morals, tactics!  She takes on Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker, seems underused) in a debate scene (which is quite dramatic).  I’d seen Marvel on several eps of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.  Is Dunbar really as clean (moral) of a candidate as she seems?  What’s going on w/ Gavin?  Will Remy be back?  And how will Rachel be dealt with?  You’ll find out… IF you make it through the season.