The second season of Sundance Channel’s brilliant Rectify begins in the immediate aftermath of the brutal attack on protagonist Daniel Holden (Aden Young).
Let’s bitch it out…
Rectify is unlike any other show on television. That’s not hyperbole – that’s a fact. This is a show that trades less in plot than characters, and even that is a bit of a stretch. In truth, Rectify deals in mood and imagery, which is why things seem to move so languidly and certain moments or objects end up being fixated on. That’s also because we’re so heavily attached to our protagonist, Daniel Holden. After 19 years in prison, everything is new to him and the series goes to great lengths to highlight how alien the experience of everyday life must be for someone in his position.
The season two opener is different from other episodes, however, since Daniel is effectively sidelined in his coma for its duration. We still spend time with him (in flashbacks, as well as dreams/hallucinations with Johnny Ray Gill’s Kerwin), but for the most part we follow other members of the Holden family. For this reason things seem to move a little faster (for Rectify – it’s still very much its own beast compared to other shows). ‘Runnings With The Bulls’ effectively reintroduces many of the characters and their individualized perspectives, though it doesn’t do so in a way that would be much help for individuals coming in without having seen S1. And so we’re reunited with prickly Amantha (Abigail Spencer) whose exterior masks how upset she is, distant mother Janet (J. Smith-Cameron), and emotionally and religiously invested Tawney (Adelaide Clemens – the series’ break-out star).
The women of Daniel’s life have always played a larger role than the men, so it wasn’t a surprise that we saw less of Ted Sr (Bruce McKinnon) and Teddy (Clayne Crawford). Near the end of S1, however, Teddy became more integral in Daniel’s life and that continues to a certain extent in this premiere. We learn from Sheriff Daggett (J.D. Evermore) in a roundabout fashion that Daniel’s release prevented the family tire company from securing a bid for work with the police force and later, in one of the most interesting scenes of the premiere, Teddy stands over the prone body of his step-brother and looks as though he wants to murder him.
The reaction is almost understandable, which is a testament to Crawford’s ability to make a jerk like Teddy into a nearly sympathetic figure. After all, his life and marriage were presumably going well until Daniel’s release from prison a week ago and now he’s fighting with his wife, nursing bruises on his neck where Daniel attacked him, unable to drink coffee for the same reasons and he’s losing business, just as he anticipated he would. It’s not difficult to make the argument that Teddy’s life has been worsened by Daniel’s return. The difference between Rectify and any other show is that Teddy doesn’t try to murder his adversary, or even talk about how much he hates him in a long-winded, TV-eloquent speech. All we see is Teddy’s hands tighten around the figurine (a symbolic proxy for the conflict between the two men) as though he’d like to do the same to Daniel’s neck. The fact that this is as far as it goes when Amantha steps back into the room to confront Teddy is classic Rectify: everyday moments blown up and focused on in amazing detail without compromising the show’s grounded-in-reality philosophy.
- Senator Foulkes (Michael O’Neill) continues to be a smarmy prick, counseling Sheriff Daggett on the politics of pressing forward with the case against Daniel until public sympathy about the attack has dissipated. Daggett finds himself in an unexpected and far more complicated position than last season – you can him wrestling with his responsibility to investigate the new crime. It’s already given Evermore more material to play with as an actor, as his character was fairly one-dimensional in S1 and that’s a good thing.
- The final scene (dream?) with Kerwin and Daniel in the clearing is a beautiful demonstration of Rectify‘s affective abilities. It’s not quite on par with the powerful scenes we saw in some S1 episodes, but Kerwin’s passionate confession that he lived in hope of Daniel’s release and how much he loves his friend is emotionally stirring. That should be enough to keep Daniel from taking Amantha’s advice to stop fighting, although he remains in a medically induced coma at the end of the hour (again, bucking the traditions of conventional television)
That’s it from my perspective. What moments stood out for you? Are you hopeful that Teddy and Sheriff Daggett will get more depth and nuance this season? How do you feel about Daniel’s relationship with Tawney? Sound off below
Rectify airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on Sundance