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[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from the second season of Bloodline.]
Netflix has yet to renew Bloodline for a third season and it’s not clear what Ben Mendelsohn’s future on the show is but regardless of his physical presence, Danny Rayburn will continue to be a core component of the dark family drama, according to the show’s co-creators.
“It feels like the DNA of the show is really informed by Danny’s influence on his family, so that will always be there, either in death or being haunted by his memory. At the center of this tragedy is the effect of this black-sheep brother on the family. So we never want to get too far from his murder and we never want to get too far from the influence he had on his family,” co-creator Glenn Kessler tells The Hollywood Reporter, pointing out that the second season probably only spanned three months. “The immediacy and proximity of this horrible act that the siblings have committed, it would never be about getting so far away from that so that they’re still under the crucible of these pressures they’re living under and living this double life.”
As for Mendelsohn’s role on the show, Kessler merely says that he and the Bloodline crew love working with him and his work on the show and “would love to continue to keep him as a focal point in some way.”
Mendelsohn was certainly a key figure in the second season, appearing in flashbacks and as an apparition seen by his killer, younger brother John (Kyle Chandler). But Kessler says the version of Danny that John sees isn’t “a literal ghost,” in the minds of the writers
“In effect that person’s psyche is being given voice to and it’s in the voice of that person,” Kessler explains of the “ghost Danny” scenes. “It is the part of John that overlaps with Danny’s psyche and Danny’s mentality is being given voice to in the form of Danny. John, who is struggling with things within himself, John’s Danny-like qualities are being given voice to.”
It made sense to have John continue to interact with Danny in this way not only because John killed Danny but also because of the brothers’ close relationship.
“Probably the sibling John is most intimate with is Danny and their connection in life — John was always his defender — it was a dynamic that was established very, very early in their lives between those two brothers,” Kessler says. “There was an intimacy of that relationship that led to that killing. And now that Danny’s gone, John is still dealing with that intimacy and that part of himself, which is like Danny. He can’t get away from it, Danny’s influence on his life. It was something we wanted to explore, and it gave rise to another way of how we could use Ben.”
One of the moments when Danny’s “psyche” appears is at the very end of the season, joining John as his brother drives away from the Keys. As the two speed off, the question lingers of whether John’s simply fleeing or going somewhere deliberate. Kessler says part of the answer can be found in the flashback scene in the season’s ninth episode, when, as teens, Danny is teaching John to smoke and telling him that he plans to get out of the Keys.
“He warns John that if you stay here you’ll never get to be who you really are, never get to be free. That resonates with John, so by the end of the 10th episode in this moment of crisis, he kind of has an epiphany and the actions he takes kind of follow through on what teenage Danny said to him: ‘Get out and save yourself,’” Kessler explains. “Absolutely a third season will pick up on that idea and what John does with that [and how it affects the family] now that he’s taken the action that he’s never been able to take in his life: Slough off his responsibilities to the family and look out for himself.”
Echoing what Chandler himself has told THR, co-creator Daniel Zelman says as John discovers who he really is, there are likely darker aspects of his personality. Zelman says that in working with Chandler for the first time, the Bloodline co-creators discovered “a capacity for darkness in him” that allowed for “a sharpening of who we thought that character was and where we think he can take that character, long-term.”
As John drives away, youngest brother Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) confesses about Danny’s murder to John’s detective partner Marco (Enrique Murciano) and attacks Marco with a statuette, leaving him bloodied and lifeless on the ground.
Co-creator Todd A. Kessler says that Marco’s investigation into Danny’s murder is driven by the emotional connection Marco, who’d been engaged to Meg (Linda Cardellini), has to the Rayburn family. But he discovers the Rayburns are not the people he thought they were.
“There’s a huge trajectory for him to follow as he recognizes that he’s been lied to, deceived and becomes suspicious that the family had much more to do with Danny’s death than what they’ve told him. The person who cares the most who feels closest to the family is Marco, and he has the most distance to fall,” Todd A. Kessler says. “Story-wise we wanted to take him on that journey.”
Someone else who by the end of the season isn’t as he initially seemed to be is Beau Bridges’ mysterious businessman, Roy Gilbert, who initially presented himself as a family friend supporting John’s run for sheriff. Something that’s just barely hinted at in the second-season finale, though, is Gilbert’s involvement in the drug-trafficking ring Wayne Lowry (Glenn Morshower) was a part of, listening to the tape Danny gave Lowry.
“He is out there as a force of antagonism to the Rayburn family,” Glenn Kessler explains of Gilbert. “That was one of the fun propositions of the end of the season was to understand that Gilbert … is not who he represented himself to be and has strings in many different areas of illicit activity…This is a man who under the front of being a legitimate businessman has a whole underbelly that puts the Rayburns in the crosshairs. Now with John running for sheriff going forward and being beholden to this guy, there’s a great possibility and there’s a great probability that this is all going to come to a climax between them.”
While it’s only a matter of time until Gilbert’s illicit connections become a problem for the Rayburns, it’s not necessarily a matter of time until the Rayburn siblings get caught. And in an emotional sense, they may already be paying the price for their actions.
“I think there definitely is a scenario in which they could get away with it and that’s part of the tension and that’s the big question that hangs over the whole thing,” Zelman says. “There’s a literal way of being caught and ending up in jail, and we have ideas about that in terms of the long-term arc of the series and where the series would ultimately end up. The other way in which one has to deal with the consequences of what they did is the internal consequences that they come up against.”
Zelman says he and his co-creators, who’ve said they have a larger plan for possibly five or six seasons of this series, have ideas for how those consequences could manifest themselves and those could change. Also, since there are three people involved in Danny’s murder, they might not all suffer the same fate.
But for now, the Kesslers and Zelman are waiting to find out the fate of their series and whether it will be renewed for a third season. But when Todd A. Kessler spoke to THR on June 1 he didn’t have much of an update.
“There’s not much to say. The [second season] just launched on Friday (May 27) and Netflix is evaluating how it’s doing for them and it’s performing and are very hopeful that there will be a future as are we,” he says. He notes that a third season would be financially “challenged” by the end of Florida’s tax incentive but points out the show wasn’t set there for the tax breaks.
“We decided to set the show there and film the show there because it’s crucial to what the show is, not because of the tax incentive, but it does affect things financially for us and the show will be challenged because of that. It makes things more difficult,” he says. “We’re hoping there will be more to come.”
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