Bloodline and the Roots of Bad Behavior

December 30th, 2015


I recently watched the first season of Bloodline. One of the main characters, Danny, behaves very badly to his family, including lying, threatening and manipulating. At the end of the season, he reveals his psychological truth and why he behaves this way.

(Beware, spoiler alert.)

Surprisingly, Danny’s motivation doesn’t come from revenge or anger or wanting to hurt others, but from an unbearable and desperate desire for communication and understanding.

In the penultimate episode of the season, brothers Danny and John finally confront each other, and John apologizes for some of his actions during their shared childhood. He also insists that Danny leave their hometown immediately because he’s been acting so dangerous. Over and over again, Danny refuses.

As the tension builds, an exasperated John finally says, “What the fuck do you want?”

Danny lets loose with his deepest wish: “I want you to know how it feels! Just to know what it feels like to have to beg, to have to go through your whole life apologizing for everything, I want you to know. You want me to leave — beg me! Get down on your knees and you beg me to go. Beg me!”

All of his lying and fakery comes down to this: Danny is incredibly isolated in his pain.

Throughout his childhood and adult life, he has felt radically misunderstood and hasn’t been able to express himself honestly using words and language. He hasn’t been able to truly relate one human to another and seems desperate for his pain and experience to be seen and understood by his family.

He can’t have this soothing experience and probably hasn’t been able to have it his entire life. To Danny, the only recourse is to force the others in his family to feel this wretched, unbearable pain. If John can’t understand, then Danny will bend reality by lying, threatening and manipulating until John is forced to feel this desperate pain himself.

I think that Danny believes this is the only way to get relief and end his suffering. And if his own suffering doesn’t end, then at least he will have brought his closest kin into the fire with him, and he will no longer be alone. It’s a poignant, heartbreaking portrayal of why people do bad things.

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