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'Rectify' recap: I'm just too broken

Season 2 | Episode 1 | “Running with the Bulls” | Aired June 19, 2014

Rectify is a beautiful series that moved me in a spectacular way during its first season on SundanceTV. Creator/writer/director Ray McKinnon (Sons of Anarchy) is offering up Southern Gothic in a way that is about as earnest and rich as anything that is airing on television right now. The season 2 premiere is as riveting and voyeuristic as the six episodes of the first season, and makes me feel like I have my face pressed against the glass of this family’s living room.

DanielRectify is about Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who has been on death row for 19 years for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. The verdict is overturned when new DNA evidence surfaces, yet he is not fully exonerated. Yet even after all six episodes of the first season, I still can’t decide if Daniel is innocent or not. Season 1 doled out exposition in tidbits that offered fragmented and distorted versions of the actions of the past, mixing up the picture of anything that happened before the first episode. While this got frustrating at times, I suffered this teasing because I am so intrigued by these characters and the magic that happens in the stillness, when they exchange glances, sigh, gesture, touch.

TJanet_bedsidehe first episode picks up just hours after the finale ended, and we find Daniel beaten beyond recognition and his mother Janet (J. Smith Cameron) and his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) by his bedside. While Daniel lies unconscious, he dreams (or remembers?) moments from his days in solitary confinement from before his friend and neighbor Kerwin (Johnny Ray Gill) was put to death. Kerwin is the only instance of humanity Daniel encounters in prison, and Daniel’s dream reflects a longing to reconnect with that. This is abruptly interrupted when Daniel begins to wake up violently, fighting and pulling at his tubes.

It’s a disturbing scene, one that make you want to look way but forces you to stare at the screen. Young has mastered the ambiguous subtlety that makes me want to weep for Daniel’s loss. It plays out so incrementally on Daniel’s face that his sincerity goes straight through you. The melancholy in Rectify is so well crafted that it becomes part of the fundamental makeup of the show; when Amantha yells, “You don’t have to fight anymore, Daniel,” it breaks your heart, but in a beautiful way. Once they finally sedate him back into unconsciousness, his mother utters, “We’ll be here when you come back.” It’s almost too much.

Even though this is Daniel’s story, it is just as much about the people in his life who are affected by his imprisonment, and subsequently, his release. At the site of Daniel’s attack, Sheriff Carl Daggett and his deputy try to solve the crime against Daniel, but the deputy is not motivated to help figure it out and communicates the general sentiment of the town when he suggests they stop wasting their time trying to help someone “who should already be dead.”  This speaks to the growing tensions that are mounting among their neighbors in Paulie County, but also to the threads of doubt and disharmony that exist within the family.

Teddy_bedside picIn last season’s finale, Daniel attacked Teddy Jr. (Clayne Crawford) and humiliated him in a way that makes you doubt what you know about Daniel. The brutality of that act is hard to reconcile with the contemplative, fragile loner that Daniel seems to be. In tonight’s episode, Teddy tries to shake off the encounter, and hides his bruises from Tawnie, ashamed that he could become Daniel’s victim and probably scared about what the attack means for his family.

Tawnie (Adelaide Clemens) is Teddy Jr.’s sweet young wife, who befriended Daniel in the first season. She spends most of the episode worried and fretting over Daniel in his hospital bed, praying for his recovery. Tawnie, as we learn from Daniel’s coma-dreams, is what makes the world seem livable since his release, and their relationship is worrisome to Janet because of the inevitable problems it will cause between Teddy Jr. and Daniel.

Daniel’s flashbacks are vicious and rip us away from the quiet sadness of sitting bedside, waiting for him to wake up. In one terrible memory, Daniel is mourning the loss of Kerwin and refuses to cooperate with the guard’s directives. His room is smeared with his own feces as the guards force their way in, wearing riot gear, and violently force him prostrate on the ground. At that moment, Daniel looks like the animal that the system considers him, and his loss of humanity is a stark contrast to the broken-bodied victim we see lying in the hospital bed.

Amantha_hospitalAmantha is his fierce advocate, and has put herself at odds with Teddy Jr. and anyone else who may doubt Daniel’s goodness. At this point in the show, however, that is everyone, including me and the rest of the audience It speaks to Spencer’s talent that she can make Amantha both completely exasperating and devastatingly sympathetic. When Daniel’s childhood friend comes to visit, Amantha greets him stoically at first, but then her resolve deteriorates when she talks about the possibility of Daniel waking up. You want to shake her, then hug her.

kerwinThe episode ends with a long dream sequence, in which Daniel and Kerwin, still in their prison jumpsuits, have a lengthy talk about the horrors of this world and the brutality of this life. Kerwin reminds Daniel that “this is your world now,” but Daniel is too damaged to know what to do with it. He is afraid and confesses to Kerwin with tears in his eyes, “I may be too broken,” but Kerwin reminds him of the hope they shared while in prison, and that he has to fight to be a part of this world. Kerwin is the only friend that Daniel has, and this scene serves to remind us that Daniel is not just the sum of his decisions or actions; that he is, indeed, human.

I am hopelessly smitten with this show for only a million reasons. What do you think? Tweet me all the feelings.

Rectify, rated TV-14, airs Thursdays at 9/8 C on SundanceTV.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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