During the second season of “Bloodline” (Netflix), you watch the implosion of the Rayburn clan. Slowly but inevitably, after the deaths of the family patriarch (Sam Shepard) and first-born son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), their once-secure facade of respectability gets stripped away. The series is as Southern Gothic as it is biblical, and with a turn to the dark side this season, cinematographer Jaimie Reynoso and composer James Levine combine to create an uneasy slow burn.
“If the first episode seems darker that’s because atmospheric conditions changed in the Florida Keys,” said Reynoso, who shot with the Sony F55 but changed lenses this season to emphasize imperfection. “It was a particularly wet winter with a lot of overcast skies.”
Showrunners Glenn and Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman wanted to counteract “the appearance of paradise with human putrefaction” for their “Crime and Punishment” riff, said Reynoso, who happily went with the new look, casting shadows on the Rayburns, especially Kyle Chandler’s John, the prodigal son, who murders his brother Danny, the black sheep of the family, and tries to cover it up in the second season.
“The first season was a memory trailer for the fratricide and in the second season there’s a lot more fear and internalizing of emotions,” added Reynoso. There’s also a lot of phone conversations and cars stopping.
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“I would generally take one of the cameras on my own shoulder, bring small monitors for the director and the focus puller and we’d just go and drive,” said Reynoso. “Because John drives a pick-up, we were able to put an electrician tied to the back with a broomstick with two different color fluorescent tubes. And he would sweep the exterior of the car, alternating colors, trying to augment what naturally happens out there. I found that very easy to do, very quick to set up and very effective. I could get very tight with a 25mm lens and pull out.”
For composer James Levine, the musical journey involved going further inside the Rayburns to experience their paranoia and self-loathing, as well as their struggle with memory, as Danny haunts John like a ghost, with flashbacks to warnings when they were teenagers. “We started with John and the music sits behind his eyes like a migraine that gnaws and simmers back down and and gnaws again,” explained Levine. “We spent a few weeks finding sounds and motifs that keep returning that are not necessarily melodic or percussive.”
Levine played with horn calls, boat calls, fog horns, “weird, abstract, synthesized horns for this noise inside of his head that he can’t escape.”
For lawyer Meg (Linda Cardellini), the youngest sibling and the family peacekeeper who seems to be in the most control but really isn’t, Levine came up with a two-note piano theme. For John’s wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), who fears his simmering rage, the composer manipulated a low bass Kalimba. For Sissy Spacek’s matriarch, Sally, there’s a nostalgic theme wrapped around child-like bells. And for Danny’s son, Nolan (Owen Teague), Levine uses hollow glass bells augmented at the end of the season by a more pleasant harmony as we learn more about their relationship.
As the family confronted their past and tried to save their future in “Bloodline,” Levine held on to his ideas and happy accidents and catalogued them, waiting for “the right moment to introduce a new idea.”