When Netflix made the surprise announcement they were cancelling Bloodline it appeared they didn't want too much of a good thing. It was the plot twist no one saw coming.

The show had received buckets of critical praise, won numerous awards and made a breakout star of Ben Mendhelson, whose magnetic performance as bad apple Danny Rayburn was truly outstanding in a show that consisted only of outstanding performances.

But more than all that, Bloodline was hugely symbolic for the streaming giant. As Netflix's first real push into premium content creation it signified their intent to take on the likes of HBO and AMC (home of respected and beloved shows like Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul respectively) at their own game.

It was an indicator that Netflix wanted to take control of their own destiny rather than being reliant on the whims, deals and contracts, of others. Instead of having you sign up for a video store in your lounge, Netflix's vision was to have you signing up specifically for Netflix content.


It was a bold and expensive strategy. Quality costs and Bloodline's reported cost was around US$7million to $8.5million an episode. There's no doubt this investment paid off in those early days, the show's plaudits firmly establishing Netflix as a serious player in quality show creation.

But now that Netflix is pumping out praised dramas, docos, and comedies every month Bloodline's millions-per-episode price tag has obviously been judged as too high a price.

The cancellation caught the show's creators by surprise. They hadn't been shy in revealing that the Rayburn family's dark story would play out over five or six seasons. Word has it they scrambled to cram, cut and complete their tale in its third and final season.

Having binged through it this week I can't help but think that, ultimately, this was a good move on Netflix's part. Bloodline was great, but having now seen how it all plays out I don't believe an elongated journey of two or more seasons would have been worth it.

It's not that it got bad, the acting on this show was simply far too good for it to ever be anything less than entirely engaging. But its accelerated pace this season meant the meandering was kept to a minimum while the pressure of resolution only added to the gripping tension of the series.

Without the time limitations Bloodline would have plodded on at its usual slow pace. I hate to think how long the trial - which even now took up a large chunk of episodes - would have dragged on for if the series hadn't been hurtling towards finality.

While the compromises showed (the subplot involving John Leguizamo's unhinged character Ozzy was fairly pointless and unnecessary while Meg Rayburn was largely shunted off), and not everything worked (the WTF? episode dedicated to exploring the mental state of Kyle Chandler's character, the stoic and dour John Rayburn) it is to the show's credit that for the most part everything was nicely wrapped up by the end.

The fates of the various Rayburn family members were all revealed, their myriad dark secrets all exposed and out in the light. They even concluded on a nicely ambiguous final scene that invites speculation and discussion. For what it's worth - and minor spoiler warning ahead - I fully subscribe to my partner's theory that John's ever-present series narration holds the key to which way he decides to play it in those final moments out on the pier...

"We're not bad people... but we did a bad thing," is the lie he repeats continually throughout the series. While other anti-hero shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad had charismatic leads who offset their villainy with lighter moments of humour or moments of personability, Bloodline was a show that really challenged you to stay sympathetic to its characters.

It offered no respite from what they did, no redemption. It remained as uncomfortable as the muggy, sweaty, Florida heat in which it was set. It's difficult to continually root for murderers, liars and idiots as they go about ruining (or ending) the lives of those around them.

Ultimately Bloodline was brought down by the hubris of its young upstart backer. If Netflix had shown slightly less ambition, planning right from the start to wrap the show up in three seasons instead of six I suspect we'd be hailing Bloodline as a modern classic instead of a show that was merely very, very good.