Rectify breaks from convention to portray a day in the life of three characters. Typically emotional responses result.
Let’s bitch it out…
Last week’s episode turned out to be rather significant as Daniel (Aden Young) got frustrated with being handled with kids gloves and took off in his mother’s car. Amantha (Abigail Spencer) was politely told by her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) to stop living for Daniel (for the millionth time) and told to consider moving back to Atlanta. And Teddy (Clayne Crawford) used his marital difficulties to emotionally manipulate Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) into mortgaging their house on his ill-advised rim business plan.
‘Donald The Normal’ takes as its canvas a day in the life of each of the three – Daniel, Amantha and Teddy. It’s a character snap shot in keeping with the series’ interest in the mundane details of the everyday and despite focusing almost entirely on three characters, none of the show’s emotional depth is lost. On the surface only Daniel’s day is “worthy” of examination as he ventures to Atlanta to visit the family of his former cellmate, Kerwin, and yet – as virtually everything on this show turns out to be – even the least eventful days have compelling, emotionally resonant aspects.
I won’t lie: Rectify makes me cry nearly every week. There’s something about the pacing, the quietness of the scenes and the impeccable acting that just gorges on my emotions (and if that imagery seeks overly evocative it’s only because you haven’t seen me cry). This week is no different. Daniel barely makes it inside the Kerwin family house before he’s enveloped by Kerwin;s mother in a tight hug. Cue waterworks – for a character that we don’t know and have never met before. That is a testament to the emotional impact of this series and I say this as someone who didn’t really understand Kerwin’s function in S1 beyond “the friend who treats Daniel like a human being.” The fact that Kerwin’s family is humble, authentic and kind reflects the friend that Daniel knew (and lost) on death row. The moment that Kerwin’s mother cries while suggesting that Daniel’s mother must be so happy to have him back just gutted me (not only because she’s so upset, but because we know that it’s not so simple as that).
The earlier portion of Daniel’s “day off” in the big city is similarly engaging. I loved Frances Fisher’s guest turn as Peggy, the witty, educated and compassionate woman that Daniel meets in the art museum. Their interaction offers a hint of the life that Daniel could have if he weren’t infamous, but alas that life belongs to “Donald” and not Daniel. The reality is confirmed later on when Daniel is identified and badgered by a fame-seeking couple in the diner; they represent the anti-thesis to Peggy in their lack of respect for his feelings (never mind his personal space). Whereas Peggy sees the sadness lurking behind “Donald”s affable persona, the moment that Daniel breaks out of character in the diner, the couple feel slighted and wounded, as though they are the ones who have suffered some indignity (Side Note: I loved it when Rick, the male half, suggested that “they let the wrong guy out of prison” simply because Daniel told him to – politely – fuck off). It’s a mildly hilarious mediation on the insanity of fame, but more importantly, it’s a depressing reminder of what Daniel can expect from life when he’s still “Daniel Holden”. The promise of a fictitious life as a bookstore owner in Mobile, AL is so much richer and engaging…but it’s just another performance (in some ways, so is his dutiful visit to Kerwin’s family). There can be no respite for Daniel unless he moves to a place where no one recognizes him; instead he returns home to find function and solace in the destruction of his mother’s kitchen.
The other two tales are less emotional, but no less satisfying. Amantha, smarting from her mother’s comments, spends a lackadaisical day contemplating a move back to Atlanta (out of spite) before deciding that she must remain for her brother. In a way this decision is just as depressing as Daniel’s pre-determined life (exhibit A: Amantha doesn’t even own books that are unrelated to her brother’s case). Whether or not Amantha has realized that she’s lost perspective of her life is unclear, though there is a telling moment when she confesses to her mother that the only friend she made in Atlanta was Luke Kirby’s Jon Stern – another connection to Daniel. And so, just as Daniel returns to his mother’s house, Amantha accepts the offer of a tedious life stocking shelves in the Thrifty Town, which is arguably the most depressingly defeatist decision she could have made.
That leaves Teddy, whose marriage continues to slowly implode. He tells Tawney early on that he can’t forget what she confessed about Daniel and it’s clearly affecting both his mental stability and his perception of acceptable behaviour. It’s interesting that his adulterous friend Kent shows up at the moment that Teddy’s marriage is at its worst and Kent’s wife June (who observes how much Teddy loves Tawney) ends up being described negatively by Teddy. I wonder if the tire convention occurred now if Teddy would have joined in on the pool shenaningans with Kent (I don’t doubt it, actually). As it stands, Teddy is no longer able to interact with his wife – he’s either sober and dismissive or drunken and lecherous. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that he ends up confiding about Daniel’s sleeper hold/coffee ground attack to Sheriff Carl Daggett (J.D. Evermore) – not because Teddy wants justice, but because he doesn’t have anyone else to confide. As much as I want to hate the character, the way that Crawford plays Teddy makes him deceptively complicated; so much so that I find myself creeped out by his interactions with Tawney even as I recognize how pitiable he truly is. It’s a masterful juggling act and although I yearn for Tawney to leave Teddy (and maybe hook up with Daniel), I can’t deny that Crawford is excellent at portraying a sympathetic jerk.
- Anyone else cringe when Daniel began ripping up the kitchen? There is, at times, a surprising amount of dread-inducing foreshadowing on this show. With all that talk of kitchen renovations and costs throughout tis second series, it was inevitable that something like this would happen. And yet, seeing the destruction in the final moments of the episode…it’s hard not to grimace. It’s too late to go back now, isn’t it?
- Florene (after Daniel confirms that he’s not a member of AA): “Well thank god, we’ve lost so many to them.”
- Daniel (describing his relationship with Kerwin): “He liked to keep the dialogue going.”
- Tawney (when she refuses Teddy’s drunken advances): “You just scare me a little bit, that’s all.” Amen to that, sister.
- Teddy (after telling Carl about the coffee grounds attack): “I mean, it’s all in hindsight, Carl.”
Your turn: did you tear up during Daniel’s interaction with Kerwin’s family? Would you like to see more of Frances Fisher or do you think her relationship with Daniel should remain a one-off? Is Amantha digging herself deeper by setting up roots in Paulie? And do you agree that Crawford somehow manages to make Teddy a sympathetic asshole? Sound off below.
Rectify airs Thursdays at 9pm EST on SundanceTV