In the info line of S1, E5 of the new Sundance original series Rectify, there is a short description that reads “Daniel loses his grip on reality.” Fitting that the show opens in a sort of dream like sequence, in which Daniel arises at 3:14 AM, leaves his house, and ends up at the home of the victim’s family–that victim–peeping into their window, as the victim’s mom, who has railed about the injustice of Daniel’s release on the local news, appears to be sleepwalking. Okay, so we are terrified right here, about 2 minutes in, because obviously if Daniel is caught there, it is going to be almost impossible to convince anyone that he is not some criminally bent perv.
Then Daniel gets into this car with our old friend W. Earl Brown (Swearingen’s right hand man Dan Dority from Deadwood), as Daniel is apparently hitchhiking and, W. Earl Brown is apparently looking for a rider. The first thing Brown says to Daniel of consequence is, after Daniel says to the driver he’s lost, is “Not all wanderers are lost.” Okay, weird enough, but then Daniel falls asleep in the front seat and dreams of prison, of some fight in which 2 or 3 death row inmates are restrained or taken away, their blood flowing. Perhaps we should also mention the image which initially woke Daniel, which initiated this odd excursion. Daniel is in his cell and looks across to another where this other inmate is beating his head repeatedly against the glass, each time with the thud of a smashed pumpkin. Daniel had alluded to the way his senses had more or less shut down in jail, how he’d forgotten about rain and such, with no windows, because he was totally shut off to it. So that other inmate, we get that he is inducing pain so that he might feel something, the way a cutter would. We also understood it as the first important imagery for that episode. Now if there are those who are out there thinking the pace of this show has been unreasonably slow, we don’t see how they could have held that same opinion during this episode’s first 5 minutes.
Now back to Brown, who Daniel referred to as “The Goat Man.” There is heavy symbolism with goats and the devil obviously. For us, an interested student of belief systems, we have always been rankled by the connection that Christianity and Judaism have made between Satan’s appearance and that of a goat, the horns and hoofs and all, as the goat was formerly tied up in the imagery connected to polytheism and a supreme god, god of gods, whatever, who was a female who embodied the earth and nature, and was thus represented by an animal. But of course the Judeo-Christians were eager to bust that up and switch the focus of religion and society from a matriarchal structure to a patriarchal one, and so the feminine, goat-like supreme god was replaced by a vengeful, do not take my name in vain, masculine monotheistic god, and what better way to destroy the positive connotations to the goat imagery then by attaching to it devil imagery? In fact, legendary novelist Tom Robbins embarks on quite a tangent on this very subject in “Skinny Legs and All.” (Shout out to “Turn Around Norman”!) Then there’s that bit in the bible about the devil being accompanied by a herald, who appeared in the form of a goat.
The Goat Man takes Daniel to a desolate barn and begins to herd the goats into his red trailer, and when Daniel asks if he wants him to ride in the back with the goats, The Goat Man tells him no, that he’s the one who needs company. Hold that thought. Daniel, again asleep in the car, is awakened by The Goat Man, at what seems like dawn, and asks him if he wants to see something. At that point, they go out into a field where the statue of the woman, with the goat girl on her left and the little goat on her right is. As they look upon the statue, Brown tells Daniel, “it’s the beauty that hurts you most son, not the ugly.” It strikes us that Daniel is disturbed by the statue, and that The Goat Man seemed to us to read his mind, that he was hurt by it, moreso even than the ugly dreams he was having, which we felt The Goat Man knew about. (When Daniel gets in the car, The Goat Man tells him he knows him, which we think there is great subcontext in, and later, as Daniel sleeps, The Goat Man says, “where’d you go off to, boy?”, as we got the feeling that they were both privy to the dream.)
Then the two men wrestle which was very odd, and what may have represented to some something homoerotic. The Goat Man has Daniel pinned and then let’s him up and they walk off together, and soon, they are by Daniel’s deceased father’s tire shop, now run by his stepfather and evil stepbrother, Ted Jr. So The Goat Man’s trailer is red and then there’s the giant red man, “the dancing man”, whatever, which is a Sky Dancer, which Daniel explains, sort of, to Tawny later at the re-baptism, as having led him back to the “father and the son.” Before Daniel goes to sit with Ted Sr., The Goat Man hands Daniel a wad of money, rubber banded, and more or less insists he takes it. At the store, Daniel tells Ted Sr. he does not intend to work there, clothes shabby and clay stained and with a fresh welt on his head, over coffee, and that prompts Ted Sr. to ask Daniel if “has somebody been talking to you?” At that point, Daniel could obviously sell out Ted Jr., who so crassly took Daniel to golf and explained to him the economic politics of the tire and rim business and why Daniel would be bad for it and how it would affect the family. Instead, Daniel moves on, taking with him the figurine (seen below) on the counter, which was his father’s, something that would incense Ted Jr. unnaturally when we he learns of it later, when Ted Jr. comes in to the shop after a particularly unsettling conversation about Daniel that he has with his wife. At the same time, Ted Jr. gets home from a trip on which he and some other low life were carousing, hears from his wife that a miracle has happened in Paulie, and then throws a conniption when he finds out the miracle of which Tawny speaks is that Daniel is ready to accept the lord. When Ted Jr. asks her why she cares about him so much, she tells him, “because he’s one of god’s children. Why do you hate him so much?” Then Ted claims he doesn’t hate him, that he doesn’t know him, and it is a lie. Ted then heads over to Daniel’s mom’s and tells her and Amantha that Daniel will be baptized that evening, which they are not aware of, and which is obviously strange news, and bravo to Amantha for calling him out on being the punk he is. But then Daniel comes home, breezes straight past them and into his room, where he begins the pacing we liked so much in the Sundance montage. Ted leaves, because he is a total punk and has come to start trouble only, which, if he was truly concerned about Daniel, he might have tried to talk to him there with Amantha and their mom, in a safe setting. You know, if it’s me, I might have wanted to talk rationally to Daniel about how my wife is a tad naive and maybe he should rethink the whole ceremony thing, as it seems rash, the way the women were about to do. Thing is though, Ted Jr. is not exactly wrong, in his position, which would be born out after the ceremony, when Daniel asks Tawney if he can kiss her.
Amantha and mom then go to Daniel’s room to speak to him, ask to speak to him, and say, “We’re worried about you.”
Daniel replies, “Why?”
“Well, because we love you.”
Daniel: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” Here is where Daniel begins to seem to really unravel, mumbling, “could happen at any time.” When they ask him what could happen at any time, Daniel says “Anything. Anything could happen at any time.” He’s not wrong. When they see the money, they comment that it seemed like a large sum. Daniel says, “you think it was ill gotten?” His mom says, “I don’t know.” Then they have a confrontation about the re-baptism and Daniel, in a striking moment for the show, says angrily to Amantha, “I never asked you to live your life for me.” That had to be a very difficult moment for Amantha, who has essentially made her life around Daniel’s incarceration and the fight for justice, which is obvious, and moreso in light of the story she tells to the lawyer about the best friend she stopped speaking to after she had told her about a frightening prank all the kids were playing that involved Daniel down by the lake.
Later, at Daniel’s ceremony, Amantha shows up to support him, as her love is indeed patient and kind, but there she is confronted with Daniel’s seeming infatuation with Tawney, as well as the fact that Ted Jr. isn’t wrong about Daniel’s possible reasons for finding Christ.
Though Daniel did not tell his mother and sister about the ceremony, he isn’t secretive. We feel like that particular confrontation was inevitable and was the only reason he didn’t tell them. But Daniel is a very honest person. He could’ve hidden the money from his family but he doesn’t. And in the end, he could’ve pretended to Ted Jr., when he returns to the tire shop, that Christianity had really taken him, but instead, he tells the truth.
Things are too complicated for Daniel to just accept some savior and feel saved. Ted Jr., showing some of the same naivete as Tawney, spouts at him that ‘it is that simple. You’re sins are either forgiven or they’re not.’ What was really malicious on his part and lacking better judgment was when he goaded Daniel about being raped. As the episode fades out, Daniel has pounced on Ted Jr. from behind and has him in air tight sleeper hold. Here, we see that all of the violence of the first few moments, the bloody flashbacks and dreams, and the wrestling, has foreshadowed a violent end.
As for The Goat Man? He’s not real for us, but we’re pretty sure he is very real to Daniel and will be back. But Daniel had been somewhere, he had that welt on his head and the muddy clothes, and he had ended up at the tire shop where he sat with Ted Sr. Perhaps the most interesting question the show raised for us, when considering that The Goat Man is not real, is where Daniel got the money from. We immediately thought back on that particular conversation with Ted Jr. about rape, and could not help but wonder whether Daniel was perhaps earning the money at a rest stop as a prostitute (“it’s me who needs company” — The Goat Man), and if the in and out of dreams, was some subconscious way of not being in the moment.
An interesting question to ponder, just one of many, as the show debuts its season finale tomorrow at 10 PM EST on Sundance.