The following story contains spoilers about Episode 9 of Bloodline‘s just-released third and final season — proceed at your own peril.
Bloodline took a quite a detour before it crossed the finish line.
In the penultimate episode of the Netflix drama’s final season, which dropped on Friday, viewers were given a ringside seat to an extended, presumably near-death hallucination of John’s (Kyle Chandler). The hour-long journey through the far reaches of the eldest Rayburn sibling’s psyche marked the posthumous return of Ben Mendelsohn’s black sheep Danny, who forced his brother to finally face the consequences of his actions (namely, the role he played in Danny’s four-decade downward spiral and, ultimately, his death).
John snapped back to reality by the end of the episode, but questions remain: What were the circumstances surrounding John’s diving mishap? Was it an accident or did he (gulp) attempt suicide? Was his buddy Mike (Mark Valley) actually on hand to save him, as Sally (Sissy Spacek) stated, or was that assertion also part of John’s dream?
Below, exec producer Todd A. Kessler helps us wade through the murky waters of the mystifying yet emotionally resonant (and impeccably acted) Episode 9.
TVLINE | Did you intentionally want to leave the audience wondering what happened to John in the water?
We wanted to try to bring the audience into [John]’s experience, so, hopefully the audience is as intrigued as John is confused about what is reality. That was the intention… There are clues though. At one point Sally says that it’s a good thing Mike was there and able to save him.
TVLINE | OK, so that part was real.
Yes. But even into Episode 10, John is still trying to process what is happening… It was an exciting episode because it allowed Kyle, in playing John, to bring in many different colors he hadn’t been able to access for the other 32 episodes. And [it brought] us closer to what John is thinking about and experiencing.
TVLINE | Can you shed some light on what did happen to John? I’m still not quite sure.
There is a real [phenomenon] that we found out about during our time [shooting in the Florida] Keys, which is Shallow Water Blackout, which often happens to free divers who can hold their breath for up to seven minutes, or some huge amount of time. And when they start heading back to the surface, because their body has been deprived of oxygen, they just black out. It’s a terrifying thing. It’s usually 10-12 feet before they hit the surface when they blackout. And then they end of surfacing and regaining consciousness, but have no idea where they are. The terrifying thing is once they regain consciousness, if no one is there with them, they panic and then end up drowning. So the details of that episode and John drowning were inspired by Shallow Water Blackout. The fact that John was harboring this huge secret that he’s trying not to talk about [made his subsequent confusion all the more] terrifying.
TVLINE | Was it your intention to have the audience wondering if John attempted suicide?
Yes, absolutely. And Danny’s presence in the episode when he picks up John and starts talking about how John is usually the one who answers the call for help, but this was John making a call for help, [reinforces that]. After Episode 7, where John is out in Los Angeles with Meg and just kind of staring into the void, [perhaps] he was contemplating whether suicide was a way out for him. Suicide is absolutely on his mind. He may not even be sure if he attempted it or not. He can’t believe that he would be someone who committed suicide; he can’t accept that side of him.
Check back tomorrow for Kessler’s thoughts on the ambiguous ending to Episode 10 (aka the series finale). In the meantime, weigh in about the change-of-pace penultimate outing below!