Netflix-BloodlineNetflix’s new original series Bloodline begins with one of those familiar tropes of fiction, film, and television alike: the return of the prodigal son. In Bloodline, the prodigal son is Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), the oldest of four, who returns to his family’s hotel for a 45th anniversary celebration. Back home, his two brothers and sister await, seeming to dread his arrival and the chaos they expect to come along with him. His younger brother, Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), believes he will only hurt their elderly parents, while his sister Meg (Linda Cardellini) just wants to placate. His brother John (Kyle Chandler), is the only sibling excited to see Danny come home. Behind the siblings looms their father Robert (Sam Shepard) and mother Sally (Sissy Spacek), who are big fish in the little pond of their small Florida Keys town. Something happened, long ago, that haunts them all and centers around Danny, who has become the family scapegoat. It takes several episodes to get a hint of what this central event is: the death of a sister, Sarah, which happened during a boat trip with Danny thirty years before.

If Robert Duvall were some kind of cult leader we’d all be in trouble. The man is a marvel.With the tiniest of adjustments in facial expression alone he conjures such a surge of adoration that I would wade through piranha infested waters for him, pant hems hitched, without a moment’s hesitation. Consider his 1962 film debut as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.One jolting sidestep out of the shadows, clenched jaw loosening, eyes gathering crinkles at the corners, and Duvall transforms the boogey-man of neighborhood lore into man most likely to snuggle with baby bunnies.In roughly two wordless minutes of screen time at that.You can’t blame Scout for wanting to take his hand.He’s one of two actors I’d feel compelled to squeeze like my own grandfather if I ever saw him in person (the other being Michael Caine).Sure, he played the only bastard to ever shoot John Wayne in a movie. Sure, he loves the smell of napalm in the morning. Sure, he’s had many sinister turns as an actor in his roughly fifty year career, but he can so easily wipe any bad sentiments clean with the slightest smiling squint of his eyes it’s scary.