Bloodline (2015) has followed in the footsteps of its Netflix studio-mate House of Cards (2013) by titling each story segment as something other than an episode. Bloodline uses “Part” (House of Cards uses "Chapter"). This novelization of a TV narrative is more than just a semantic choice on the part of the production team. With a show like Bloodline, a dark neo-noir drama, the choice accomplishes two things: first, it signals to viewers that the story will be serialized. Second, it allows the individual units to function as unique narrative segments, not requiring each to follow an procedural-type episodic format.
Serialized drama means that the main narrative is being told in a whole, season-long format. There will be story arcs that span the entire season. This does not mean that small, individual B-stories can’t or won’t be resolved in individual parts or small sub-sets of parts, but the main narrative will move forward with each segment. This type of storytelling is similar to the structure of the novel, as Chris Jones pointed out in the Chicago Tribune, drawing the comparison between this new wave of television and the evolution of the novel in the 19th century: “Writers suddenly began to get better at making their chapters stand alone, as well as work within a larger whole.” Then, as now, the individual chapters could satisfy readers or viewers, but would also function to whet the appetites for what happens next. This format works well for a drama like Bloodline because it gives the main mystery time to breathe but also allows for the individual family storylines to be developed by the writers.
Each individual part of Bloodline deals with a different theme or element. For example, Part 1, sets up the family dynamic and sets viewers firmly in the world of the Rayburns and the Florida Keys. Part 5 brings tragedy that is external to the core mystery. There are parts that delve into the personal stories of John, Meg, Danny, and Kevin. These personal story ‘detours’ inform the overall narrative and deepen the connections the audience has with the individual characters.
By choosing this alternative storytelling technique, the creators of Bloodline have provided a framework that allows for a long, slow burn for their story, but doesn’t move so slow that the audience loses interest.