We Never Said That
by DICK CHENEY
creators Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman
I have spent a lot of time in Florida over the years. Remember when Al Gore tried to steal an election there? At the time, people were really upset about Al Gore losing, even though they didn’t realize that his marriage best resembled the relationship between Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean on Better Call Saul and that the main words in his vocabulary were ‘solar’ and ‘lockbox.”
It was honestly amazing that Gore got that far. The Clintons all hated him, he was wacky as fuck, sweat a lot and talked with a weird lisp. The character of Daniel Rayburn on Netflix’s original series Bloodline is based on Gore, and the show’s storyline is actually a long metaphor for Gore’s position in the Democratic party.
Daniel (Ben Mendelsohn) has a long history of squandering his family’s goodwill as the black sheep. Once he arrives back at the family’s hotel in the Florida Keys for a ceremony honoring his parents, shit starts to go south very quickly. He enters into a sex relationship with Chloe Sevigny, always a critical mistake, and learns some things about his childhood that drive him kind of crazy. Because he is broke, he begs to be accepted back by his family. Instead of saying no, his father demands the other children vote on it.
His two brothers John (Kyle Chandler) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), and his sister Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellni) are a bit aghast to see him back in the fold. Chandler is the local sheriff, and he gets most of the screentime in Bloodline. Chandler vacillates between an asexual angst and a pent-up Steve McQueen-esque burning. He never touches his wife during Bloodline except for some chaste kisses, treating her more like a sister he has to protect than an equal partner.
This relationship model is inherited from his parents Robert and Sally, portrayed by Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. The two run Rayburn House, a beach-situated hotel, and yet spend most of their days apart. They also have a weird distance between them and their children. “We never say that in this family,” John explains to his sister Meg at one point. “What?” she asks. “I love you,” he replies, and he adopts an expression that resembles the meme face afterwards.
It’s apparent from the show’s opening episode that something very untoward has happened to Danny Rayburn/Al Gore. By the time ten episodes later that the circumstances of this depravity are actually explained and put in context, any sympathy we might have for Danny has completely evaporated. His main complaint about his life is that he was blamed for the accidental drowning of his sister thirty years ago.
This dark moment is relived in flashback, although the particulars of the day seem sort of besides the point. The soon-to-be dead daughter caught her hand in a coral reef; Danny was unable to pull her out and was blamed by his father, who beat the hell out of him. He could have done much worse; when George W. Bush was caught drunk driving, I hit him with my car.
Linda Cardellini plays Meg against her nervous, shuffling type, exhibiting massive dimples that do an astonishing job of conveying at once who she used to be and what she is. She is cheating on her boyfriend of five years when Bloodline opens, and when Danny finds out about this, he threatens her with the information as a means of inserting himself into his father’s will. She becomes grateful for the threat, because it prevents her from marrying a man she does not love.
Danny’s not done. He gets involved in smuggling immigrants and heroin. Then he hires someone to beat the shit out of his brother Kevin after he seduces Chloe Sevigny one tortured Florida night. Kevin uses the beating as the motivation he needs in his business and marriage. When he finds out Danny is the culprit, he is no more angry than he was before. People tend to believe they deserve the bad things that happen to them.
Between these moral dilemmas are wide shots of the interlocking bridges that take vehicles out to the Keys, but most of Bloodline seems to have been shot elsewhere, and whatever holds it together as a place is never clear except this: you do not want to go to there. There is only one nice person in the entire show, and he gets the hell out of Southern Florida as soon as he can.
Money is always flowing in and out of the state precisely because it is so electorally important. Gore did not win Florida, but his votes there allowed him to easily attain the popular vote. There really is no reason a popular, mandatory vote should not occur. This small matter has been forgotten over the last fifteen years, but how it must have hurt Al, knowing that 500,000 more Americans actually wished him to be what he almost was.
This slim frustration rankles more than a massive slight for Danny. He can accept that his father wants him gone from Rayburn House, because at least he isn’t hiding his true feelings for the boy. It is Danny’s siblings who really anger him, who pretend to care and then in that same moment treat him like a stranger. We all want to know where we stand.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.
“Nothing’s Fair In Love and War” – Three Days Grace (mp3)
“One Too Many” – Three Days Grace (mp3)