Rectify makes leaps forward for several characters as we hit the mid-season mark.
Let’s bitch it out…
One thing that Rectify has always excelled at is demonstrating how overwhelming the everyday world would be for someone who spent nearly two decades in a tiny cell. Some may quibble that Daniel Holden (Aden Young) would be well aware of certain modern conveniences, but he would most definitely be deprived of particular experiences.
‘Act As If’ plays like a perfect counterpart to last week’s ‘Donald The Normal’ in that it – as AV Club highlights – features Daniel “wandering through environments he’s just short of being ready to handle”. Whereas last week he was playing more of a part, here he’s staying true to himself, and he’s being forced out of his shell by Lezlie (Leon Rippy) – an eccentric hippie who owns a roadside antique shop and believes Daniel is the “loneliest person” he’s ever met. At times it seems as though Lezlie’s interest in Daniel is dangerous, but ultimately the older man seems more interested in forcibly drawing Daniel out of his comfort zone in order to prompt him to rejoin the world. There’s a suggestion that Daniel requires this as we see evidence of his book-learned approach to living earlier in the episode when he argues about peasant revolutions with another party-goer, as well as the game of definitions he and his mother, Janet (J. Smith-Cameron) play earlier in the episode. It’s not hard to remember that Daniel is a book-learned scholar, but as a child of lived experience he has some making up to do (though I would prefer he not do it with blonde floozies and coke at strange parties).
Daniel’s journey is not the most interesting aspect of the episode, however. I was quite taken by the insight into Janet and, by extension, Ted Sr (Bruce McKinnon). Despite the fact that we’re now well into the second season of the show, I’ve never truly understood what Janet feels about her son’s exoneration (it’s primarily been inferred). It is clear that she’s happy to have Daniel back, although she hasn’t always known how to respond to his presence around the house. ‘Act As If’ offers the deepest insight into her mindset yet as we gain better understanding of her protectiveness and love for her son. There’s a great deal of affection in the scene when she and Daniel playfully repair the kitchen floor – or at least there is until both Ted Sr. and Amantha (Abigail Spencer) spoil the fun. Later, Janet absolutely rips into Ted Sr, pointedly telling him that he will never speak to Daniel that way again and reminding Ted Sr. that it was Daniel’s home first. This is a surprising show of strength on Janet’s behalf, especially since this is the first time Ted Sr. has displayed any difficulty adjusting to the transition.
All in all, it’s a remarkably dramatic series of scenes for Smith-Cameron, who wins my MVP award for the week on the strength of her confession to Daniel about the yellow dress and her bicycle ride during his stay of execution alone. It’s a tour-de-force scene that plays out in a completely unassuming way amidst the clutter of the garage after the pair learns from Amantha that Daniel’s lawyer had died. As always on Rectify, the least assuming situations end up delivering the greatest emotional wallop: Janet’s admission that she couldn’t face another potential execution and chose instead to purchase a revealing dress and bicycle throughout the night as a coping mechanism is such a personal, understated response that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Having only experienced Smith-Cameron on a misguided season of True Blood a few years ago, this scene won me over in a few minutes in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible. Kudos to her.
- As we might have expected, Amantha has difficulty adjusting to the mundane daily life as a customer service check-out girl at Thrifty Mart. Her mother is aghast that she’s accepted the position, but it seems that only Jon (Luke Kirby) truly understands her rationale when he suggests that she did it to think of someone other than herself. In the meantime, he has his own proposal: move to Boston to be with him. I think we all know that that’s not an option…
- Ted Sr. is similarly aghast about Teddy’s (Clayne Crawford) decision to mortgage his house against his “rim” venture. It might have seemed a wise decision before Tawney’s (Adelaide Clemens) supposition that she may be pregnant. I can’t say that this is a surprising development since it is the most dramatic event that could happen between the recently reconciled couple, but I do fear for the future of the child (if there is one) considering how damaged their marriage is now.
- Finally, it’s good to see Jared (Jake Austin Walker) again. Any chance he’ll get a legitimate storyline anytime soon?
- Tawney (in yet another awkward reply to her husband): “I like you, too, Teddy…sometimes”
- Amantha (when Daniel asks how his laywer Gaines died): “Regret or cancer. I forget.”
Your turn: Were you as impressed with Smith-Cameron’s tour de force performance as I was? Are you wary of where Lezlie will lead Daniel? Is a baby a good thing for Tawney and Teddy? And what is Trey (Sean Bridgers) doing trolling the river where he pitched his dead friend’s body? Sound off below.
Rectify airs Thursdays at 9pm EST on SundanceTV. *Please note that our coverage for the following two weeks may be affected as cinephilactic is moving*