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Bloodline is a 2015 television series that debuted on Netflix on March 20, and stars Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. It aired for three seasons and concluded in 2017.

It's an important weekend for the Rayburn family, but when the oldest son, Danny, returns home, the celebration threatens to turn into a time of reckoning for the family and their deep ugly secrets...


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Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: After his sister drowned under his supervision, Danny was viciously beaten by his father, Robert. We don't find out until the season finale that it was Sally who convinced John, Kevin and Meg to lie and tell the detective that Danny got hit by a car.
  • Aborted Arc: Extensive examples due to the rushed nature of the final season.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Played straight with Danny early on (and for years prior to the story's beginning), having to constantly appeal to members of his family to be let back in only for old wounds to prevent that from ever happening.
    • Subverted with John. When Danny tells him the only way he'll leave is if John gets on his knees and begs him to leave like Danny begged to return. When John doesn't, Danny starts walking away... Then John beats him down, drags him into the shallow water and drowns him.
  • Anti-Villain: Danny Rayburn is a petty criminal and degenerate who brazenly associates with the seediest of characters. He also knows right from wrong and has standards. His criminal actions are largely meant to spite his self-righteous family.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
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    • The flashforwards heavily imply the Rayburn's planned Danny's murder by gunshot. Instead, it was a heat of the moment drowning. In essence it was implied to be first-degree conspiracy, when instead it was manslaughter.
    • Season 2 pulls it via Intended Audience Reaction: After the first season appeared to coast way too much on Kyle Chandler's likability to make the objectively completely unsympathetic John work as the show's hero, the second is largely a slow, methodical deconstruction of his character and ends with him becoming worse than Danny ever was.
  • Berserk Button: For Robert, it's Danny. Robert has never forgiven Danny for letting Sarah drown, and he apparently doesn't want him around because he doesn't want to be constantly reminded of her death and the beating he inflicted on Danny because of it. Kevin seems to have modeled his button after his father's, but is way more vocal about it.
  • Best Served Cold: After he discovers that his siblings helped cover up the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, Danny makes it his mission to punish them in carefully in-direct ways.
  • Big Brother Bully:
    • Danny can very easily assume this role over any of his younger siblings.
    • John apparently picked on Kevin as much as Danny when they were kids.
  • Big Little Brother: John and Kevin are notably bigger and physically stronger than Danny. But because he's their older brother, it really doesn't make him any less of a threat to them. That is, until John finally snaps.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: a pitch black version of this.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: As much as they project their charisma and respectability, this is what John, Kevin and Meg are under the surface. Danny also counts, but less so, since most people already suspect he's up to no good.
  • Black Sheep: Danny although compared to what his relatives did, he's more of a White Sheep.
  • Broken Pedestal: John, Kevin and Meg slowly come to the realization that the Rayburn family isn't as great as they think it is.
  • By-the-Book Cop: John Rayburn. In the beginning.
  • Cain and Abel: Seems like a pretty straight-forward case between Danny and John. At first.
  • Consummate Liar: From the very first few episodes we see that the Rayburns very casually lie to their friends and loved ones, to each other, and to themselves all the time. The lies don't seem like that big a deal at first (even to them), but they mount up very quickly and have lasting repercussions.
  • Cool Old Lady: Sally Rayburn. Naturally, as she is played by Sissy Spacek.
    Sally: You gonna light that joint or should I?
  • Cool Uncle: John's kids consider Danny to be one, and he pretty much is. He's just not above using them to toy with John.
  • The Corrupter: This is what Danny is thought to be. And, to a certain extent, he is.
    • In season two, Roy Gilbert.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Those poor immigrants who are locked inside the hold of their smugglers' boats, screaming and fighting desperately to escape, only to burn or drown if they aren't instantly killed when the boats are blown up so that the coyotes can avoid the Coast Guard.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Meg Rayburn, to a point.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Sarah Rayburn, who tragically drowned when the Rayburns were still children. Her presence and death had major consequences for the entire family, especially Danny who was forever blamed for her death.
  • Dead Person Conversation: We discover that Danny frequently imagines an older version of his deceased sister, Sarah (Mia Kirshner), who acts as a sort of inner voice that questions his actions and motives. Fitting, as her presence has haunted his life in more ways than one.
  • Defiant to the End: When he's finally provoked John into attacking him, Danny is smiling and laughing sinisterly. Until John starts drowning him.
    • Of all people, Eric O'Bannon. Though clearly scared, he accepts he's going to die when John captures him and keeps calling out John for his hypocrisies and evil deeds, even when he has a gun to his head. Subverted in that John can't do it and lets Eric live.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The whole cast spends the series hurtling toward this. By the end of the series every major character who lives is dragged into its pull.
    • John has pretty much lost his mind out of guilt over killing Danny and framing Eric for Marco's murder. He also has lost his wife and kids. The one good thing he has left, the respect of the community, is turned against him when he can't relieve himself of the guilt because no one believes his confession.
    • Sally can't escape the curse she feels is a part of Rayburn House because it's going to be reclaimed by the sea and no one will buy it, leaving her trapped there and unable to leave any inheritance to her grandchildren.
    • Kevin is caught up in a DEA sting of Roy Gilbert's smuggling operation. The DEA thinks he is Roy's partner, rather than just a someone he manipulated, because he lied while trying to impress an undercover agent. Even worse, with Roy dead the only person left for the DEA is Kevin himself.
    • Meg has abandoned her family and is living under an assumed name trying to drink herself to death over her guilt for being involved in Marco's murder.
    • Eric is in prison for the rest of his life having been framed for Marco's murder.
    • Chelsea has lost her job and been prevented from getting a new one as a nurse. This happened because she was caught stealing Percocet to deal with the stress of his brother's trial and her mother's death, the first crime she ever committed, and then was railroaded by hospital administrators who think her brother is a murderer.
  • The Dragon: Rafi Quintana is this to Wayne Lowry. Wayne Lowry is this to Louis, the White Shirt Man. And as it turns out, Louis is this to Roy Gilbert.
  • Emo Teen: Nolan, Danny's son. gives off this vibe. Subverted, in that his brooding, antagonistic nature is borne out of genuine angst and anger.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Rafi Quintana reveals to Danny that he stopped smuggling immigrants across the sea after he had to blow up a few boatloads of them on Wayne Lowry's orders, to the point that he is shamelessly unsettled even thinking about it.
    • For that matter, Danny is even more unsettled by the crimes Quintana committed. So much so that he deliberately orchestrates the man's murder.
    • Ozzy Delvecchio is clearly a villainous man, but even he sees through the Rayburn family's bullshit and is disgusted by it. It's a big part of his motivation for blackmailing them.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Marco really should not have turned his back on an insanely desperate Kevin Rayburn.
  • First-Episode Spoiler: John kills Danny and tries to Make It Look Like an Accident.
  • Framing Device: The Rayburns' present predicament serves as the main story, but we only truly understand them and what they're going through by getting glimpses into their Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Gainax Ending: By the end of the series John has become completely unhinged and we see more than a little Through the Eyes of Madness.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Not a rivalry per se, but it seems as though Meg could never match up to the eldest daughter, Sarah, in her parents' eyes. Even years after Sarah died.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: By the end of the second season, Roy Gilbert has been revealed as this (to the audience, not the characters). Sally has an aversion to him and says he and Robert were never friends, he's obviously not above some shady political deals, and he's the employer of "White Shirt Man," who gave Wayne Lowry his orders in the first season.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Danny may be trying his hardest to ruin his family's reputation, but can you really blame him?
  • Honor Before Reason: Lenny Potts, Robert's war buddy and private detective, seems to embody this.
  • Hospital Hottie: Chloe Sevigny as Chelsea O'Bannon, a nurse.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kevin Rayburn. He is known for making huge mistakes based on emotion and impulse.
    • He shoots himself in the foot over this several times in the second season. It turns out especially bad when he tries to come clean to Marco, only to suddenly bludgeon Marco to death with a small dolphin statue when he tells Kevin that he and all of his siblings are going to jail.
  • Hypocrite: the Rayburns.
    John: We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing.
    • Robert is a beloved family man and a well-respected, upstanding figure in the community. He's also got a hidden temper that can sometimes become violent, putting strain on his marriage to Sally, and culminating in his brutal beating and ostracizing of his oldest son, Danny. It's implied that he is secretly disappointed in Kevin, and that he still prefers his long-dead daughter, Sarah, to his still living daughter, Meg. People who claim to have known him for years aren't shy about mentioning the dark side as opposed to the good reputation he's cultivated.
    • Sally is almost defined by her motherly image and deep love for every member of her family. In the past, she walked out on her family after her and Robert's relationship began to break down, neglecting her children and resulting in Sarah's accidental death and Danny's tragic fall-out with the family. Sally is also the one who coerces the rest of her children to lie to Detective Potts about Danny's beating on their father's behalf.
    • Danny is obsessed with gaining his family's acceptance and being in their lives, feeling that they are unfairly turning their backs on him. Even as he taunts, bullies, threatens, manipulates, and involves them in extreme crimes, all while shifting from familial to passive-aggressive to malicious as it suits him.
    • As a stern police officer and dedicated family man, John feels that he is the one in the family always counted on to be good and responsible, and resents Danny for constantly disturbing the peace in the family and for the unlawful activities he participates in. He turns out to be Not So Different if not even worse when he murders Danny in a moment of blind rage and conspires with his siblings to dispose of the body.
    • Despite his fun-loving, human Teddy Bear veneer, Kevin is quick to criticize people for what they are doing wrong or for causing trouble and upsetting others. And he holds Danny in deep contempt, being the quickest to blame him for all his family's flaws. Kevin's quick temper and Manchild tendencies has forced his wife to leave him, causes unnecessary friction within his family (especially where Danny is concerned), and is the sibling who is the least unsettled about covering up John's murder of Danny. Also, despite Kevin's fiery temper and tough-guy attitude, he's really a bit meek and cowardly.
    • It's said that Meg is most concerned with making sure that everyone is happy and doing well. We learn from the very beginning that she's cheating on her boyfriend, Marco, the revelation of which ruins any chance of them getting married. She delays putting Danny's name in Robert's will (even when she and pretty much everyone else claims to be okay with it), fearing his influence on the rest of their lives. Her need to please is apparently derived from being Out of Focus in her own family, as Sarah was the first and favorite daughter. According to Chelsea O'Bannon, Meg was somewhat smug and knowingly drew in many different boys in high school, giving her a bit of a slut status; in truth, she's likely more of a covert Attention Whore.
  • Identical Grandson: Everyone remarks that Nolan is the spit image of his father Danny at that age. Which he would, he's played the same actor who plays young Danny in flashbacks.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Danny kills a hitman by bludgeoning him to death with a large seashell.
    • In the season two finale, Kevin bludgeons Marco Diaz to death with Marco's small dolphin statue.
  • Ironic Echo: "She's with an adult."
    • "When's it gonna end..."
  • It's All My Fault: Sally Rayburn starts to feel this way when the family secrets begin to resurface and everything becomes destabilized.
    • As of the season two finale, Nolan Rayburn feels responsible for his father's self-destruction and death in the first season. Nolan had learned that Robert told Danny he would only agree to fund his restaurant or continue supporting his son and not both, and Danny chose Nolan. This hits Nolan hard, since he is revealed to be the one who burned Danny's restaurant down when he thought his father would rather turn to crime than ask his family for help.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Each of the Rayburns seem to have this in common.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The series finale piles it on in a big way. The Rayburn Inn, the symbol of the family legacy that all their misdeeds were supposedly in the name of protecting, is going to sink into the ocean within a decade. This discovery causes Sally to get roaring drunk and treat John and Kevin to a devastating "The Reason You Suck" Speech that marks the beginning of the end for the family bond. Meg has deserted the family entirely, happily living a new life in California under an assumed name. Kevin's last-ditch attempt to flee from the consequences of his dealings with Roy and the Cubans fails and he's thrown in prison. And John is left completely alone, his wife and kids wanting nothing to do with him, not even able to find absolution through a full confession when the stress he's been through causes it to not be taken seriously, and left wandering through the doomed inn with the ghosts of the family echoing all around as his guilt slowly devours him.
  • Love Interest: Chelsea O'Bannon for Danny Rayburn.
  • Madness Mantra: "When's it gonna end, Danny?"
  • Mama Bear: Sally is fiercely protective of all of her children.
  • Manchild: Kevin is notably childish, immature and weak-willed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Danny is very much this. And though it isn't very apparent at first, so are his siblings.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: John suffers this big time after killing Danny. It nearly causes him to have a heart attack.
  • Mysterious Past: The family doesn't know where Danny has been or what he's been doing in his absence. John eventually discovers that he put his culinary education to good use and briefly owned his own restaurant in Miami, before it got burned down by gangsters he was entangled with. This comes into play big time in the very end, when John has killed Danny only to later be confronted by Danny's long-lost son.
  • Never My Fault: Slightly subverted in that the Rayburns do realistically own up to and apologize for their poor decisions and failings when they have to. However, all of them are still very realistically prone to avoiding blame or redirecting it when it comes their way. The one who does it the least is the mother, Sally.
  • Nice Girl: Chelsea O'Bannon is down-to-earth and fairly friendly.
  • Nice Guy: Marco and the man Meg is cheating on him with.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: All over the damn place. It's pretty much a running theme.
  • Not So Above It All: John is known for being the cool-headed, responsible man who everyone in the family can rely on. Until he finally loses control and kills his brother for refusing to go away.
    • Despite his constant judging of Danny, Kevin ends up doing the exact same things he did. He sleeps with Chelsea, he abuses drugs, he embarrasses his family, he deals drugs, works with criminals, and eventually murders someone with a blunt object.
  • Oh, Crap!: John has several of these moments, but the most notable one comes at the very end of the season when Danny's son enters the picture.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: After Danny's death we're finally given context for several of the flash foreward scenes.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The woman that Danny sometimes sees and speaks easily with is the ghost of his sister, Sarah, who died under his watch when she was a little girl. Or rather, he envisions the woman she might have grown up to be.
    • Again in the second season, with John occasionally seeing the ghost of Danny.
  • Poisonous Friend: From the first episode, it looks like Eric O'Bannon is going to be this for Danny. It's actually the other way around.
  • Poor Communication Kills: This series makes an excellent case against lying, keeping secrets and manipulating the truth to protect one's own image, especially when dealing with family.
  • Posthumous Character: Sarah Rayburn.
  • Precision F-Strike: Notably, Sally exchanges these during her first encounter with her grandson, Nolan. In a way, it's the moment they start to bond.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Danny has one when John finally snaps and starts attacking him.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Kevin seems to exhibit some of this in season two, with his reckless drug use, his various poorly thought out dealings with criminals and his eventual murder of Marco in an emotionally fragile state.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Both John and Meg have a reputation for this, among their family and in the community.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Or lack thereof. The show was unceremoniously cancelled during production of Season 3 after the state of Florida declined to renew a crucial tax break for film and TV production. This forced the writers to cram the remaining material (reportedly two or three seasons' worth) into less than one season.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Danny and his siblings trade these back and forth with each other.
  • The Resenter: The Rayburns all seem to harbor resentments toward each other for something, but Danny is the biggest one.
    • In season two, Ozzy, a petty criminal, deeply resents the upper class Rayburns, who put on the veneer of a good and wholesome family when he knows they have a host of skeletons in their closet.
  • Revenge: Danny's confrontations with his family.
    Danny: I want you to know what it feels like.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: John, at the end of the season two.
  • Sibling Team: A very dark example when John, Kevin and Meg start going outside the law to protect the future of their family.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Rayburn brothers. Meg can degenerate to this too when put under stress.
  • Smarter Than You Look: On the outside, Danny looks like a sleazy, mischievous, punk and a loser. He is all those things to some degree, but people underestimate how unpredictable and destructive he can be on his own.
  • Spanner in the Works: As of the first season finale, Lenny Potts, Danny's son, and possibly even Sally Rayburn appear to be this to the remaining Rayburn siblings, since all three of them apparently suspect the latter three to be involved in Danny's death.
    • In season two, Ozzy Delvecchio threatens to be this, but he's ultimately more of an over-ambitious nuisance.
  • A Storm Is Coming: This is how John's narration describes Danny's return home.
  • Take Our Word for It: Danny is a bit easier to sympathize with than he probably should be since we get hardly any flashbacks to his supposed countless screw-ups, but do get to see plenty of his father breaking his arm and the others lying about it.
  • Thicker Than Water: A big theme of the series is examining how true this trope really is.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Done especially well with Sally, as they managed to find an actress who looks exactly like Sissy Spacek did in the '70s.
  • Time Skip: More than once in the first season finale.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In season two, Kevin just cannot stop making huge mistakes. The most egregious example is in the finale when he tries to end his predicament by spilling his guts to Marco, only to end up impulsively killing Marco when he rebuffs him.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Marco in the season two finale. Not that we can really blame him. He's reached a Broken Pedestal stance regarding the Rayburn family, especially John and Meg. And after John tried to sabotage him with an Internal Affairs investigation, Marco becomes fiercely determined to bring them all down.
  • Troll: Danny acts like this toward his siblings. A lot.
  • The Unfavorite: Again, Danny Rayburn.
    • It's implied that Meg feels like she is this to her father, specifically that he will never love or value her the way he did Sarah.
  • The Un-Reveal: We never see what it was that Danny wrote down for his toast before changing his mind in the first episode. Sally later reads it and breaks down into tears.
  • Unstoppable Rage: We're led to believe that Kevin is the one most prone to this. That is, until John finally reaches his breaking point in dealing with Danny.
    • Marco is on the receiving end of Kevin's in the season two finale, culminating in his bloody death.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Though we do get a whole season to know his origin and what kind of person he is, Danny becomes this due to his Mysterious Past and the sheer extent of his criminal acumen.
    • Surprisingly, Ozzy turns out like this as well, killing himself after two seasons without doing much more than spook the various Rayburns.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: John, Kevin and Meg are this to Robert, feeling very strongly about making him happy and earning his approval. None of them are really sure how much they succeeded or failed at this after he's dead.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • The second episode is centered around a cryptic meeting between Robert and Danny while the former was out kayaking. We only see the beginning, in which Danny appears to make an Implied Death Threat, then it cuts to afterward when Robert is hospitalized. He's suffered a seizure, and Danny claims he saved him from drowning. Kevin suspects Danny did something to their father, and casts doubt in the minds of his siblings as well. In the end, it's revealed that it happened as Danny said. After Robert leaves their conversation on a sour, unsatisfactory note (and giving Danny yet another reason to hate him and his family), Danny sees him have a seizure and fall into the water. After a moment's hesitation, Danny goes in to rescue him. In hindsight, he clearly knew that he would somehow be blamed for what happened to his father and that, despite doing the right thing, his family still won't accept him.
    • John, Kevin and Meg agreeing together that Danny is not worth losing their good lives over, and working together to cover up John's cold-blooded murder of him.
    • John faces this again at the end of season two, when he ultimately can't bring himself to shoot Eric O'Bannon in cold blood to protect the Rayburn name. He even lets Eric go and tells him to tell the truth. Which suggests that John's murder of Danny was a crime of passion.
  • White Sheep: John and Sarah. Later subverted with John.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Alec, Meg's paramour, is last seen with her (briefly) in New York in season 2. He's never mentioned again after Meg returns to the Keys.
  • Your Cheating Heart: We are introduced to Meg Rayburn as she's in the middle of having sex. And it's not with her longtime boyfriend, Marco.
    • It's revealed in season 3 that Diana and John's former partner kissed a couple years ago. The latter participant is *very* confused when John brushes his present-day confession of this off to immediately interrogate him about the O'Bannon case.
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