Never have I been more fascinated by a character than Danny Rayburn from Netflix’s Bloodline. In fact, I’ve watched the first season of Bloodline 4 times in its entirety solely to analyze the every move of Danny Rayburn.
Danny is the estranged eldest child of the Rayburn clan whose return home wreaks havoc on his seemingly perfect family. On the surface, Bloodline appears to be the story of a well-respected family in the beautiful Florida Keys; however, all is not as it seems. The past comes back to haunt the Rayburn family, proving that secrets and lies posses the overwhelming ability to destroy everything that once was. Of course, as the show begins to unravel, Danny shines as we travel through the depths of his character and the events of his past that led him, and his family, to where they are now.
Danny elicits this sense of uneasiness in the pit of my stomach each and every time he’s on screen. Perhaps it’s that I am unsure of his motives, or I’m afraid of what he’s capable of, or the fact that he’s always sweating and disheveled, enhancing the uncomfortableness of the character. It becomes evidently clear in the pilot episode that Danny is the black sheep of his family and there is deep history here that we don’t know. His return home puts everyone on edge. Despite their best efforts to accept him, they prove time and time again to treat him like an outsider. But why? What did he do? Where has he been? Why did he come back? Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? Something about him just ignites the mind into a fury of inquisition.
What makes Danny so fascinating is the fact that while he may be a grown man, he is truly just a shadow of his inner child deeply affected by his past; a boy yearning for the love of the family he lost long ago. It’s actually quite heartbreaking to watch this man come home to his family and be treated like an outcast. One of the most heartbreaking scenes comes in episode 4 when Danny fixes up his father’s old pickup truck. He surprises everyone with the repair, and he, his father and his two brothers take it for a drive. It’s the happiest scene in the entire show. Everyone is relaxed, carefree, and enjoying being together. However, Danny’s world turns upside down when they return from their trip and he goes to lunch with his father, who offers to pay him the amount of money of his choice in exchange for leaving and never coming back. Turmoil floods Danny’s eyes in that moment and pain washes over him as he comes to the realization that he will never be a part of the family. No matter what he does, he is a constant reminder of the past and his family can’t let it go. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Danny then learns of his family’s greatest betrayal all those years ago, and he reaches his breaking point.
The switch flips in Danny’s mind and he plots his revenge, taking us on an incredible journey into the human psyche of what happens when a man is pushed to the point of no return. He vows to make his family pay for the suffering they’ve caused him and show them what it’s like to feel what he feels. Danny’s once questionable moral compass turns all the way to the dark side as he does everything in his power to destroy the Rayburn clan. And it’s Danny’s descent into madness that makes him one of the most compelling and captivating characters on television.
While I don’t condone Danny’s actions and find them to be outright evil, I must admit that I understand where he was coming from and how he was driven to commit them. He is so bad, yet after you analyze the show as I have, you are left to wonder, is he really the bad one? Or is he just a boy whose family ostracized him when he needed them most? He loved his family. That was clear. But after he learned of their betrayal, the switch flipped to hate and there was no turning back. There is no excuse for what he does. His actions are unforgivable, but I know why he did what he did, and that’s what makes him so fascinating.
It would be unfair of me to talk about the character of Danny Rayburn and not mention the genius behind him, Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn. Ben Mendelsohn is a FANTASTIC actor and his portrayal of Danny is one of the finest I have ever seen. Everything about the way he acts as Danny is perfect. The way he carries himself, making everyone uneasy every time Danny is on screen. His ability to do an American accent, despite the fact that he speaks with an Australian accent, in order to give character to the way Danny speaks. The way he smokes, his mannerisms, timing, facial expressions, etc. etc. etc. I could go on and on about how much I love Ben Mendelsohn in this role. He does a tremendous job. In case you don’t believe me, he won the Emmy this past year for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He deserved it, and I am so proud.
Bloodline will conclude with its third and final season this spring, and while I wish there were more, I am more than looking forward to seeing how the story will end for Danny and the rest of the Rayburns. Regardless, Danny Rayburn will always be one of the all time greats in my book.
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