I’ve been looking forward to the release of this series on Netflix for months. With an all-star cast and the same team that brought us Damages, it is almost guaranteed to be a hit. The first episode did not disappoint, with a great mix of tension and background, we got a good sense of the characters and a hint at the demons that plague them.
Meet The Rayburns
The episode opens with voiceover from John Rayburn, played by Kyle Chandler, giving us an ominous warning that he feels something bad is coming. We then get a flash of all of the members of the immediate family starting their day as they make their way home for the weekend to celebrate the anniversary of the family-owned hotel, and the dedication of a pier in the Rayburn name.
Danny – Danny is the first born and the black sheep. We first meet him passed out on a bus as he travels to his family’s hotel in the Florida Keys. Whenever we see Danny in this episode he looks strung out and dirty, giving the impression he leads a pretty hard – and possibly vagrant – life.
Kevin – Kevin is the baby boy of the family and our first shot of him is waking to alarm and realizing he’s running late. Kevin has a short temper and seems to be the hot-head of the family. He tends to be argumentative in this episode whenever Danny is present or brought up.
Meg – Meg is the only daughter in the family and we learn she goes to law school in Tallahassee. Our first impression of Meg is seeing her getting banged in the backseat of a car in a pit stop en route to the hotel. She is interrupted by a call from her mother and we get a glimpse of her paramour’s face right before she kicks him out.
John – John is the second born son, but in the absence of Danny seems to have risen to the “eldest sibling status” in that he takes care of everyone and seems to be the most responsible of the siblings. He is the County Sheriff and has a wife and two children. Apart from his voiceover, we see him driving to the hotel with his family in tow.
Sally – Sally is the matriarch of the Rayburn family, and she has a soft spot for all of her children, but especially Danny. We see her managing some hotel business before Meg arrives to tell her to forget it all and concentrate on the weekend. You can tell Sally is the one who actually gets shit done around here. Sissy Spacek is the actress who portrays Sally and I love her.
Robert – Last, but not least, we have Robert, the patriarch of the Rayburn clan. To be honest, my first impression of him shirking his duties and going kayaking was not a pleasant one. He seemed to be the kind of guy who skates by, charming his way through life. I do love to listen to Sam Shepard talk though, so I forgive him for his seemingly lazy ways. For now.
The Family Arrives
The Rayburns and their more distant relatives and friends have all started to arrive and get settled for the weekend. Sally asks John to go to the bus station to pick up Danny, much to Kevin’s annoyance that he’s a grown up and can’t find his own way. Considering someone just dropped him off in a boat, I am not sure he really has much of a leg to stand on, but I digress. John does his brotherly duty and heads to the bus station to wait for Danny’s arrival.
Danny, on the other hand, has decided to exit the bus a few stops early and turn around because as he tells the odd lady on the bus, “This was a bad idea.” It’s never really made clear if the character played by Mia Kirshner (we never get a name, and she’s not even listed as a cast member on IMDB as of yet) is real, a figment of Danny’s imagination, or an apparition of some sort. My money is on ghostly figment of his imagination. He goes and buys a ticket back to Miami before running into an old friend. Danny then spends some time getting high in a boat with Eric O’Bannon, who is a pretty shady guy. He offers Danny some work to get back on his feet, but refuses to tell him what the work is until he has agreed to do it.
John eventually bails on the waiting game and returns to the party after tug-of-war has already started. #whitepeopleactivities. Just after he has finished breaking Sally’s heart by telling her Danny didn’t show, he comes strolling in to the party like this was the plan all along, leaving John standing there looking stupid. Kyle Chandler can stand there looking any way he wants and I will still buy tickets to that show.
We flash forward to John carrying Danny’s unconscious body through a swamp in a monsoon. There is more seersucker on these two than is really necessary to show they are rich white guys. John’s voiceover says he has always tried to help his brother.
Back at the hotel, Danny is telling Meg to add a chair to the family table because he is bringing a date, Cheryl. For some reason this sends all of these kids back to childhood and they start yelling at each other about how he can’t bring some hussy to sit at his mama’s family table and Danny is all “Fine, then I won’t sit at the table either,” and that is not an acceptable solution apparently. Eventually Meg tells them all to unwad their panties and she’ll make room at the table.
I should also point out we meet Marco, who Meg has been dating for about five years and he was not the man who was sexing her up earlier.
The Actual Party
I’ll be honest, once the speech portion of the party got underway, I understood why they didn’t want the inappropriate-as-fuck girlfriend at the table. Her comments during Robert’s speech were enough to make my cheeks burn with awkwardness in my living room. At the end, Robert decided to comment on each of his children and he was very complimentary of everyone until he got to Danny, who he threw under the bus for only coming home when he needs money. Danny laughs it off and stands to make his own toast, but decides to put his prepared speech back in his pocket and instead goes for the laugh by asking his dad for $20. He ends by holding up his glass and saying, “To the Rayburns!” to which weird Cheryl responds, “To the FUCKING Rayburns!” I cringed on my couch.
As the party progresses, everyone in attendance seems to be getting pretty drunk. Danny speaks to his dad at the bar sounding slurred and bitter. Robert walks away trying to avoid conflict. Danny lays his drunk ass on the dock while the rest of the family dances and has fun (Cheryl face plants while dancing) until we end up back at John’s house where Danny is staying. John takes the dog out and Danny asks him to speak to their father about him returning home and joining the family business. John says he will and then gets a call saying he’s needed at the docks.
We flash forward again to John still carrying Danny’s unconscious body. He gets him to the family boat with more voiceover about how this couldn’t have been avoided. If it always rains like this in the Keys, then I’m never visiting.
While John is riding out to the crime scene, Danny tells John’s wife, Diana, about a girl he was seeing and proceeds with the most awkward overshare I have witnessed recently. I felt like he might be talking about the mysterious woman from the bus and who we see him interacting with again later in the episode, but that is just a theory. Diana tells him how this girl needs help while he laments being alone and not having found the “right one” as of yet.
Meanwhile on the water, John and Marco have been directed to a body by a night fisherman. A girl floating in the water hung up in some bamboo. Marco comments she can’t be more than 16. This scene was shot beautifully, starting with the floating sandal in the murky water being backlit by their flashlights.
The Prodigal Son Is Not So Welcome
The next day Danny turns down whatever sketch job Eric offered him. While Danny is diving for lobster, he spots the seahorse charm from the bus girl’s necklace on the ocean floor. He grabs it and goes to the surface to find that instead of the charm it is actually a fishing hook and he is bleeding. This was another visually appealing scene with the way they filmed the blood in the water before revealing the hook in his hand.
We return to day two of Rayburn partying with a lively volleyball game. John speaks to his father about Danny’s desire to return to the family fold. Robert passes the decision off to the other three siblings, who discuss the issue later that evening while Robert plays some sweet tunes on his ukulele. Kevin is firmly in the no column, Meg is waffling, and John thinks they should let him come back because there are things Danny did for him when they were kids that the other two know nothing about. He thinks if they tell him no, he’ll be gone for good, and he says he wants Danny in his life and in the lives of his children.
While this conversation is taking place, we flash back and forth from the hotel to Danny at a beach bar with Eric doing blow. Eric is giving him an earful about turning down his job and is trying to convince him to tell his family to fuck off. Eric eventually pisses Danny off enough to get him to flip the table and tell him to shut up right after he spots the bus girl sitting at the bar looking at him.
Danny leaves the bar with bus girl, trying to get her to pop pills with him. She says she doesn’t need them because she is not in pain. This was the point I started thinking she was not real and potentially dead. He says he should go with her and she tells him that he can’t and instead they go skinny dipping in the ocean. She swims off and he can’t keep up. Danny stops swimming and starts screaming underwater while having flashbacks of a young girl running up the beach on a sunny day.
Walk of Shame
The next morning the family is standing around staring at Danny passed out buck naked on the dock. Sissy Spacek’s facial expressions owned this scene. Shame, disappointment, anger and defiance passed clearly over her face in about 30 seconds. She takes Danny a towel and tells him to cover himself up because they have guests and then walks back to the house like, “I dare you to say something to me.”
Later, he and John are fishing on the family boat. They are reminiscing about learning to fish with their dad when Danny segues the conversation to what their father said about him returning. John lies and tells him Robert said no, he cannot come back. Danny starts to get angry and tells John that he didn’t try hard enough. After arguing, Danny tells John he will leave tonight, which John tries to talk him out of. Danny is having none of it and leaves off with, “Secret of life? Knowing when to leave.”
Danny Departs In More Ways Than One
That night during the bonfire (this is the longest party ever), John drives Danny to the bus station. He again gives a half-hearted effort to get Danny to stay, but it doesn’t work. As Danny stands in line to board the bus, John’s voiceover starts once again and we flash back to the boat in the rain with John and an unconscious Danny.
John pours gasoline all over the boat and Danny then grabs a flare. John looks back at Danny as his voiceover says, “I’m gonna to tell you everything.”
Right before he blows up the boat the catchphrase from the show’s trailer is spoken, “We aren’t bad people, but we did a bad thing.”
John then drops the flair and is flung away from the boat in the explosion. The episode ends as he surfaces away from the boat and watches it burn.
This episode was a very solid premiere for the show. It left me wondering where we could be going to end up blowing up your brother in the family boat and how are we going to get there. Some other questions I had:
- Whose body was that floating in the water?
- Who is the guy Meg was having sex with?
- Who/what is the girl from the bus?
- Why is Sissy Spacek flawless?
I’m looking forward to seeing how this whole series plays out. I think as long as Cheryl never makes another appearance, this should be a very entertaining series.