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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first season of Bloodline.]
Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) is long gone, but he will still be part of the Rayburns‘ future when Bloodline dives into its second season.
“We’re now at the starting point where this story can launch from,” co-creator and executive producer Todd A. Kessler tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And it’s taking not only the audience but the characters on this tremendous ride to get to this place where they have an understanding of why their siblings have done what they’ve done in relation to Danny.”
The first season of the Netflix drama ended with John (Kyle Chandler) killing his troublesome brother Danny after a heated argument. Mendelsohn is under contract and expected to be back for the second season, Kessler notes, as Danny’s influence doesn’t go away.
“The first season really takes the family and these characters and brings them in essence to a starting line,” Kessler reiterates. “Now the three siblings are responsible for, well, one is responsible for a murder, and the other two are responsible for covering it up. So their lives are forever changed because of that. There will be an exploration of the impact of that leading a double life on the family.”
Going into season two, the Rayburn family is still reeling from two major losses. Before Danny’s death, patriarch Robert Rayburn (Sam Shepard) passed away in the fifth episode, something that was always planned as the end of that collection of episodes’ first act.
“There’s such a center of gravity around the patriarch and matriarch of the family. And if you remove that center of gravity, and that’s essentially what we do by having Robert die, everyone looks to John to take that role,” Kessler says. “And it also allows for things that can never be resolved, now that Robert is dead.”
In the wake of Robert’s death, Danny becomes a more frightening person to his siblings.
“There’s a certain inevitability to how things unfolded. I also think that Danny’s creating the inevitability. He’s pushing that,” co-creator and executive producer Daniel Zelman says. “I don’t think he’s specifically thinking, I want them to kill me so they have blood on their hands, but I do think he’s pushing them to an extreme place. Because he wants them to, and particularly John, he wants to show that John is not the good guy everyone thinks he is, that John is capable of getting pushed to being knocked off his pedestal. Ultimately it backfires on him, because he gets killed.”
Now that John has blood on his hands, Kessler says the pacing of the series will speed up in season two.
“We knew we were taking our time with the storytelling, and as the season progressed, it turns into a thriller. So in the second season, we’re no longer in that place,” he explains. “There’s a very hot opposition out there that they have killed someone. I think that we now have greater flexibility in our story, because something we already know has hugely happened for these characters.”
One thing viewers will jump into in the second season is increasing tension between the three siblings involved in Danny’s murder and those who don’t know the truth. In the finale, it already seemed like the family matriarch, Sally Rayburn (Sissy Spacek), was on her way to finding out what happened, as she’s told by Detective Potts (Frank Hoyt Taylor) that her kids are lying to her.
“One of the fun things about the second season is finding out exactly what he knows and how he knows it, and what he’s going to do with that information, and then what Sally’s going to do with that information,” co-creator and executive producer Glenn Kessler says. “That’s certainly a thread that’s going to move forward and create jeopardy for the children.”
Although Meg (Linda Cardellini) left the Keys for a change of scenery in New York at the end of the first season, Glenn Kessler says she’ll find it challenging to extricate herself from her family.
“This is a family whose lives are so entwined. Everybody has their tentacles into everybody else. No one to this point has been able to step away and live their own life, and that’s something obviously that Meg is desperate to try to start to do. Part of the tension for her character is the struggle, and what does she owe herself and her family at this point in her life, and what is her responsibility to them?” he explains.
One of the seeds planted in the first season that could drag Meg back into the drama is how John uses his speech, the voiceover woven throughout the season, to involve her in his motive for why Danny turned against his family.
“In the third episode, John says about Meg, and some of this might play out in future seasons as well, that she made a mistake, and maybe she shouldn’t have done what she did. What he is referring to is that by the end of the season, Meg has decided to disinherit Danny and not bring him back into the business,” Zelman says. “What that is creating for John, and we may hear more of this going forward, is John is creating a motive for why Danny turned against them, so John can one day say to people, ‘Well, my sister did do this thing, and I think that’s why he became angry and I think that’s why he started dealing drugs.… He went off the rails.’ John’s trying to add details that exist in the real life of the family so that if anyone were to look into it, they would say, ‘Oh, look at honest John, he’s coming clean.’ “
But in fact, John’s remarks enable him to come clean without fully doing so, Zelman says, and to justify things in his own mind.
“We don’t think that it’s something that an audience, just on one viewing or just having seen the first season, can completely absorb the different layers of that, but the echoes of that speech will continue to play out in future seasons,” Zelman adds.
Danny’s death will also affect the relationships between the remaining siblings, Glenn Kessler explains.
“For the first time in their lives, [they] don’t have this buffer of the black sheep. They don’t have this unifying force in their lives that no matter how difficult their own relationships get, they can look outside at this fourth party and know that we all have to be bonded as we deal with him,” he says. “They now have to deal with each other in a real way for the first time in their lives, and sibling rivalry and resentments and frustrations and all sorts of historical things that have been tamped down because of Danny’s presence – these things no longer can be tamped down.
“Allegiances start to shift, and all sorts of issues start to come into the relationship because they’re finally starting to come into light in a way that they were never able to before or never had to before. And of course it’s happening at the worst possible time, because these three siblings are shackled together in the cover-up of this murder. They’re not free to have challenges and issues that might be OK for them as siblings, because they’re actually supposed to be working together,” he continues. “There’s a force that’s starting to push them apart because they’re actually starting to deal with each other in a full way for the first time in their lives.… Each of these characters and each of these actors have moved them to a place where you can absolutely see how the day comes, several seasons down the line, where it’s every man for himself.”
Production on the second season will begin in either late August or early September, Todd Kessler says, with Bloodline expected to be back on Netflix in the second quarter of 2016, or “probably sometime in May.”
And there’s potentially more to come after that. “When we sold the series, we sold concepts for six seasons, and it’s really a deep dive into further relationships in the family,” Todd Kessler says.
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