I’d almost forgotten how much of an emotional wallop Rectify packs.
Let’s bitch it out…Although it took me a moment to remember where we left off plot-wise at the end of S2, Rectify‘s tone and performance is immediately familiar before the credits roll.
‘Hoorah’ finds nearly every character at an unfamiliar place. In the wake of Daniel’s (Aden Young) admission of guilt, there’s an untethered feel in nearly all of the story lines. No one is certain how to proceed. There’s an uncertainty in what comes next: for Daniel (Aden Young) it is what can he do to make peace with his family, for Amantha (Abigail Spencer) it is whether to pursue management at ThriftyTown, for Jared (Jake Austin Walker) it is what will happen when Daniel leaves town – and them – behind. Meanwhile Janet (J. Smith-Cameron) remains stuck in denial, trying to fix everything with food, while both Ted (Bruce McKinnon) and Teddy (Clayne Crawford) grapple with how to process Daniel’s assault on Teddy back in S1*. Everyone is basically paralyzed or uncertain of what comes next.
*At times it is difficult to remember that so little time has passed between episodes/seasons, especially the fact that Daniel’s attack of Teddy only happened a few weeks ago when for the audience it has been nearly two years.
Although Daniel is our protagonist, ‘Hoorah’ plays much more like an ensemble piece. Daniel drives the responses of nearly all of the main cast, but he himself is almost entirely isolated outside of a few key scenes. The main exception is a hellish dinner when Teddy stops by unexpectedly to confront him about Tawney’s (Adelaide Clemens) location and Daniel’s true motivation for telling her about the tire store attack. Apart from that, and his interactions with Ted around the unfinished kitchen repairs, Daniel spends most of his time alone. The other exception is the scene at the park when Daniel tries to engage a mother playing with her child. This scene is important for multiple purposes: 1) it reminds us how Daniel is perceived by the community at large 2) it speaks to Daniel’s love and appreciation of the freedom that he was denied for 19 years and 3) it reminds us how his family are among the few people who truly understand him.
This is why it’s so important that Daniel has Amantha at episode’s end. It’s understandable, but heartbreaking that Ted doesn’t know how to process his feelings about Daniel’s attack on Teddy. Considering how understanding and patient Ted had been throughout the series, it’s a significant development when he orders Daniel to move out, especially since – much like Tawney** – Daniel has nowhere to go. Despite Amantha’s anger for refusing to fight and her confessed inability to motivate him, she still offers him her spare bedroom and blow-up mattress. She may be pissed, but their bond runs deeper than that.
**The connections between Daniel and Tawney continue, despite their complete lack of physical interaction in this opener.
The premiere gets a lot of mileage about the ambivalence of life and how often we end up in a place we never expected that we just need to make the most of. It speaks to the series’ deep rooted interested in the human condition: Rectify is so personal, intimate and familiar (at times it is so real that it is painful). In this sense, ‘Hoorah’ is a solid return to the world of Rectify and sets up a season full of challenging, difficult situations. For better or worse, the question about Daniel’s guilt has been decided (this is clarified in the opening moments) and now everyone has to come to grips with his inevitable exile.
- Unless of course Sheriff Daggett (J.D. Evermore) and DA Sondra Person (Sharon Conley) discover something in their investigation. Despite warnings/threats from Senator Foulkes (Michael O’Neill), the pair quietly pursue their investigation of Daniel’s case, including the allegations about Hannah’s character and George’s corpse. Initially there’s a suggestion that this will ignite the Senator’s wrath, but considering his very realistic looking stroke in the diner in the episode’s final moments, that may not be an issue. The stroke has the potential to be a game changer: Foulkes has long been the biggest advocate of Daniel’s guilt, so without him on the front line, there may be more sympathy for Daniel’s account of what happened that night now.
- Tawney is completely isolated from the main cast, electing to stay with married couple Mitch and Beth. Beth sees right through Tawney’s claims that she is alright and speaks candidly about how marriage counselling helped them when they were experiencing marital difficulties. Later when Tawney calls Teddy, he’s flabbergasted that she is only a few blocks awa, completely failing to understand how significant the distance is and why she can’t simply come home. Perhaps if he were more self-aware Teddy would realize that they aren’t even speaking to each other in more than vague, cliche statements (Tawney is “just checking in.” Teddy is “keeping my head down”).
- Pretty much every scene with Jared makes me feel bad for him. His chat with ex-girlfriend Claire (Abigale Corrigan) reinforces how Daniel’s confession has consequences for everyone, and later when his parents discuss Tawney’s miscarriage, they don’t even acknowledge Jared’s presence until he reminds them he’s there. Jared is trapped in that awkward liminal stage where he’s not quite a man, but he’s too old to be treated like a child. It’s a very quiet, contemplative portrayal of a teenager.
- I loved Teddy’s entrance during the family dinner. The camera is positioned to maximize the distance between the diners and Teddy. It’s as though he has to cross a massive divide just to reach them.
- John (Luke Kirby) tells Amantha that his bags are all packed and he’s ready to leave. Umm…OK bye! I like the actor, but this on-again, off-again thing between John and Amantha has officially run its course.
- Edited: I just realized that I forgot to mention Teddy and Janet’s great scene when she arrives on his doorstep with food for Tawney and he’s forced to confess that he doesn’t know where his wife is. The fact that he can’t even let Janet in the door shows just how guarded he is. Plus Smith-Cameron lamenting “I never should have told you to call me Janet” is heartbreaking.
- Finally, I’ve spent the last year trying to convince friends that Rectify is a show that’s worth the investment and I’m hopeful that the series’ availability on Netflix has garnered it a few more eyeballs in the interim. We’ll find out soon, but regardless of how it does, SundanceTV has already made the wise decision to renew Rectify for S4. Yay!
- John (when Amantha asks if Daniel said he “did the deed”): “I think sometimes he thinks he did and sometimes he doesn’t. I don’t think he truly knows.”
- Jared (talking about recent events to Claire): “It’s okay, I guess.<pause>Not, it’s not.”
- Wynn (describing Thriftytown…and a lot more): “Life happens and there are worse places to end up.”
- Daniel (when Amantha admits she drank a bottle of wine waiting for him to knock on the door): “Sounds productive.”
Your turn: are you happy that the series is back? Do the characters feel untethered to you? Does Janet need to accept that food won’t fix these issues? Will Tawney and Teddy find answers in couples therapy? Can Daniel and Ted bridge the divide? Do you care if John leaves? And will Sheriff Doggett and DA Person come around to Daniel’s side? Sound off below.
Rectify airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on SundanceTV