The Netflix original series Bloodline (2015) is the latest in a group of dark, noir, serialized dramas that includes shows like True Detective and Ray Donovan. Bloodline’s brand of neo-noir involves dysfunctional dynamics layered over a season long murder mystery.
Roger Ebert listed ten characteristics of noir filmmaking, several of which are instantly recognizable on Bloodline. Two in particular stand out: “A movie which at no time misleads you into thinking there is going to be a happy ending” and “locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with a high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all.”
Bloodline opens with voice over from Kyle Chandler’s character John that plays over a dark nighttime visual of a boat burning. As the trailer and the tagline promise: We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing. Ebert would certainly agree that this is not sending the message that happy endings are on the way. The series continually delivers on this foreboding promise, ultimately providing the backstory and explanation about how the characters got to that dark place.
Additionally, the setting of the Florida Keys plays brilliantly to a noir theme. The Rayburns run an upscale bed and breakfast. While fancy vacationers come and go through the house and grounds, the family is deteriorating. This rotten underbelly is, as Ebert pointed out, classic noir. The Keys provide that stark neo-noir contrast of bright electric colors and beautiful beaches and then the seedy, alcohol fueled dark and grimy spots of local bars and day-to-day life.
Season One delivered on the promises of its neo-noir premises. Netflix renewed the series for a second season and it will be interesting to see how, or if, the series deals with the aftermath of that first season and how the writers and production team choose to work within its noir format.