After 4 episodes of The Sundance Channel’s Rectify, we feel like we know enough about the show to know this much: after the finale of S1, which will air on May 20th, we will be pining for the new original drama’s 10 episode return in the Spring of 2014, and its subsequent renewals, we hope, into 2015 and beyond. As long as series creator Ray McKinnon (the creepy reverend from Deadwood & the very odd lawman from S4 of Sons of Anarchy, Lincoln Potter), and Breaking Bad EP’s, Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson are at it with this show, there will be no rectifying what ails Paulie, Georgia, where this show is set, and its pervasive, institutional ignorance. Paulie is a dry town, for that matter, where the attitude prevails, even in Daniel Holden’s “family”, that if a jury convicted him, he must be guilty.
And that a judge has set aside his conviction due to new DNA evidence does not quite seem to matter all that much. Not when prosecutors, politicians, and even kin are loaded with ulterior motives that range from the obvious Machiavellian ones like Senator/former DA Foulkes (Michael O’Neill), whose career has been riding on this case for years, and who now does not particularly care “where the jizz landed.” What he does care a whole hell of a lot about though is extra biscuits, as does the new prosecutor, who, when meeting with Daniel’s lawyer about a retrial, has her secretary interrupt the meeting to bring her biscuits with her dinner, which she claims, is the only interruption she permits. Now we know how an AMC style drama works, which Rectify most certainly is, as AMC is the parent network for Sundance, and we must say, we are very pleased at how AMC dramas play out, with the patience that most of their dramas have been allowed to exercise in developing plot. Only Rubicon has met an early end (which was probably a good decision), and much to our surprise and happiness, even The Killing and Hell on Wheels, which are not exactly run away hits, are coming back for 3rd seasons. We anxiously await The Killing’s premiere in early in June.
Now if you spoke to us early last June, you’d have caught us positively incensed at the slow pace of The Killing, and all of the plot misdirection, which had many in the audience miffed at how the murder of Rosie Larsen was being dragged out. And sure, in real time, the investigation probably did not take that long, but it is indeed frustrating when every single character, basically, except Linden, was a suspect at one time or another, as it is, in a sense, dishonest production, especially when we all know that the Danish version of the show and the Larsen murder wrapped up in one season. But given time, we have come to really love Linden and Holder, and we understand that more than the case, it is they who make the show. So forget the other characters here for a moment, and what you might consider trite or predictable dialogue (like Hal Holbrook’s soliloquy to Daniel’s new/competent lawyer Jon Stern, played by Luke Kirby). Daniel Holden’s character makes this series go and we see it going far because of him, and the strong ensemble cast around him and quality production team. Do we feel the show is a bit rough and clipped in its intros and breaks and whatnot? We do.
We also feel that they have already set up some really interesting plot points, as a story like this one requires constant setup, and that Johnson and Bernstein, if they have learned one thing from Vince Gilligan, and they have obviously learned more than that, it is the use of Deus Ex Machina, which we don’t necessarily consider to be such a contrived and ill fitting device that lazy writers use for the sake of convenience, unless they are indeed lazy writers who are using the device for the mere sake of convenience. While the Holbrook soliloquy was just so cliche that it had us shuddering, it is no doubt the way of the world in Paulie, Georgia, which, as Daniel’s mother suggests at Daniel’s homecoming barbecue, is caught in a most onerous time warp, sadly, like a lot of places in this country, where the progression of people is markedly less evolved than even those in Maycomb, Alabama in 1930’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Atticus Finch knew he had to fight for Tom Robinson. In Rectify, Rutherford Gaines (Hal Holbrook) was hoping to get Daniel Holden life in prison.
Life imitates art, and art imitates life, and in real life, let us not act as though there is no foreshadowing as to what is to come. Obviously there has been some overt foreshadowing here, like with Amantha (Abigail Spencer, Suits) and Jon seeing the creepy brother of the murder victim in that bar a town or two over, and abruptly hightailing it out of there. Of course we see where this is probably going, that the creep has a twisted crush on the way hot younger sister of Daniel, and could mean her harm in a revenge sort of way for what he perceives her older brother did to his younger sister. And then there’s Senator Foulkes and his careless affair with the trollop from the diner, which will probably get him at least emotionally extorted at some point by Daniel’s lawyer, who will most definitely need to pull out every last bit of artillery he has in order to keep Daniel on the outside.
What drew us to the show before we even knew of it was not McKinnon or the “other” producers of BrBa, but a quick preview flashed in a Sundance montage for their network, in which Daniel is pacing in his prison cell, some tiny concrete box, juxtaposed with him pacing a tiny rectangular avenue on the carpet of his bedroom, that he has returned to, and that still has the feel and decor of a kid’s room, one who went off to college and returned to it as an adult. Daniel has certainly gotten an education, you could say, as he reveals to callous moron step brother Ted Jr (Clayne Crawford), on the golf course, telling him of the regularity with which he was sexually abused when he first got to prison. While Daniel was somewhat at ease with the revelation, we wouldn’t call him casual. Daniel’s reacclimation–the subject of the snippet we saw–may never happen, which makes Ted’s petty concerns about Daniel wanting his shit job at the tire shop, or even his wife, so inconsequential that you want to reach into the television and slap the motherfucker and say “grow the fuck up!” Especially since, when Ted’s wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) hugs Daniel, he gets a hard on which scares the fuck out of her, considering that he was on death row for rape/murder going on 20 years and they were, at that moment, alone together in a field by some remote woods. And Tawney is this ultra naive, chaste, bible banging moron, who basically describes how the lord fills her up, causing us to recall Eric Cartman describing how he couldn’t get enough of Jesus’s juices all over his face.
Newsflash to Ted: Daniel is inheriting the tire shop one way or another, and will probably bag the Jesus freak as well, probably right before he gets sent back to death row, as fate will likely have it. In a certain way, this show reminds us very much of Enlightened (unfortunately cancelled by HBO), in that nothing is easy, few things work out, and the only real constant is hardship. At the end of the day, Daniel has some very caring and upstanding blood relatives, and a whole hell of a lot of problems, and may be safer on the inside, with his one friend, a fellow death row inmate convicted of killing and raping a young girl, than on the outside. As Daniel explained it, he made peace with death. We count on him, however, having more trouble making peace with life.