“There have clearly been some things going on with this family.”
– Sally Rayburn in Bloodline
Bloodline is Netflix noir—a compelling and extremely disturbing cocktail (the characters really knock back the booze) of decisions and their consequences. Toss into the shaker parents, siblings, soft-drawl accents, foreshadowing, flashbacks in black and white, flashbacks in gemstone blues, return of the family outcast, love, hate, angst, beach, ocean, mosquitoes, heat, humidity, murky darkness, storms, full moons, boats, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and burned bodies, and you, the viewer, are anxious, anticipating the ominous, knowing more tragic shit’s about to hit the fan.
His name is Danny. He’s the oldest son in the pathological Rayburn family, a skeleton his parents and siblings desperately want closeted.
Engaging in a binge, I called the Sisterhood after each episode, begging Laura, Erma, and Casey to watch Bloodline. “The brother Danny is soooo creepy. I vacillate between feeling sorry for him and despising him. I really want to discuss it with you.” I needed to discuss it, the moral dilemma(s), the multiple hideous choices made, a category of decisions and actions that catapult more decisions and actions in various directions, mostly south.
Yes, I reacted to Bloodline as if it were based on a true story, because, well, it could be. Thoughts swirled, question marked. Is it nature or nurture? Both? What happens when the people who’re supposed to protect and defend instead label you a nightmare?
Then I wondered how many Dannys are out there. But more specifically, how many politicians exhibit signs of psychopathology? You know, the superficial charm, sense of entitlement, ability to manipulate, to deceive, to pass the buck of blame to victims.
Seymour Hersh’s revelations detailing the death of bin Laden underscore the extent of Obama’s duplicity. Here’s Hersh’s wrap-up paragraph:
High-level lying … remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.
Enter politicians sociopaths psychopaths into a Google search for insight into the ease with which social programs are eliminated, wars are waged, Kill Lists are created, and DNA-altering weapons are exploded. We’ve asked for years now how Cheney, Bush, Obama, the Clintons sleep at night. The answer is simple: sweet-dream fine.
Sally Rayburn, the family’s matriarch, wants another chance for her firstborn son. But Danny’s a psycho. No amount of chances, apologies, and attempts to include and embrace are adequate adhesives. Nothing can put Danny back together again.
Long after I finished the last episode, I continued to obsess, wondering if there’s a point, or several, when a course can be reversed, a child saved, a marriage, family, community, nation, consciences.
Modifying the Sally Rayburn understatement that opens this piece, I say, “There have CLEARLY been some things going on with this country.” One of these “things” is the mythology advanced by the powerful to delude us with freedom and democracy rhetoric while continuing to inflict carnage and despair both at home and in resource rich countries. Anyone who believes we have a representative government that acts on behalf of the powerLESS or intervenes for humanitarian reasons is either floating in oblivion or morally blind.
Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org