Season 2 | Episode 2 | “Sleeping Giants” | Aired June 26, 2014
The more I watch Rectify, the more I fall in love with it. This week’s episode, “Sleeping Giants,” is packed with subtleties about the nature of family relationships, the limits to human compassion, and the lengths a person will go to protect the things they find most important. It’s fraught with so much humanity that at times it’s hard to know where I stand about any character at any given time.
This episode opens on a flashback of Daniel returning to his cell to find a letter outlining his “problematic” and “destructive” behaviors during prior events. The letter offers “motivations to change,” and this seems to upset Daniel the most. His reactions turn to protests as he rips up his books, throws his belongings and chants the letter’s admonishments over and over. Daniel’s personality (or at least an aspect of it) is revealed through these flashbacks, and we get to witness a human at his most defensive and fragile. He is reduced to his reactions to the situation, and is stripped of his individualism altogether.
As Daniel dreams, Amantha and Janet continue their vigil; Amantha carefully applies organic lotion to his hands like a disciple would, and Janet absently flips through a catalog. Both of these acts are significant to each character and symbolize their relationship to Daniel. Amantha’s entire life has been in service of her brother, and she dedicated her youth to proving his innocence, at the expense of a life of her own. Freeing Daniel has been her only purpose, and now that he is out and about to recover, she feels adrift. She identifies as her brother’s keeper and is struggling with the possibility of a life that doesn’t include that service.
She is so tightly ensconced in the bubble surrounding Daniel that she didn’t even look outside of it to find love; instead, she gets involved with his lawyer, Jonn Stern (Luke Kirby). Jon is an exhausted death-row attorney who bears the weight of every client and takes each case very personally. This week we see him visiting a client whom he couldn’t save and will be put to death soon. Jon, like Amantha, has the weary manner of a man who has to fight for every single thing in his life.
Janet, on the other hand, has done her very best to compartmentalize Daniel’s struggles, moving on to marry Teddy Sr. and have Jared (Jake Austin Walker). Her relationship to Daniel is paralleled in the comment she makes about the clogs in the catalog. She didn’t want to get them because she “didn’t want to stand out.” Amantha is the fighter of the two women, and Janet struggles to control the chaos Daniel’s return has brought.
Teddy Jr. feels the chaos almost as keenly as Amantha and Janet, but he is trying to make sense of it in a way that limits Daniel’s effect on the rest of his life. He senses that Daniel’s return is going to irrevocably undermine his place in the family, so he takes on the family business, trying to remain relevant to his mother and father. When Teddy Sr. says no to his ideas, Teddy feels rejected. This, coupled with his feelings of humiliation over Daniel’s attack, wounds him in ways that we have yet to see. Some folks don’t find Teddy sympathetic, but I am endeared to him because his bravado is so transparent and immature, like that of an adolescent boy.
When Teddy Jr. bursts into Jared’s room, Jared is startled, illustrating the distance between them. Teddy Jr. is threatened by Jared’s curiosity about Daniel and his past, and insults Daniel’s father as a way to reinforce their family connection. He makes sure to call Jared “little brother” before he leaves, reminding him of the family dynamic.
“Sleeping Giants” spends a lot of time exploring Teddy Jr. and Tawney’s relationship. The air is tight around them in every scene, and when Tawney stops by the tire shop to bring Teddy dinner, the emotional distance between them is palpable. Tawney is hungry to be close to her husband, and her interaction with him is so openly sad that you wonder how Teddy can be so closed off from her. It’s not until you see Teddy Jr. reach up and wipe a tear that you sense the weight of his feelings as well. Both of them are shouldering secrets that have to do with Daniel: Teddy’s is his humiliation at being brutalized by Daniel, and Tawney’s is her feelings for him.
Later in the episode, Tawney confesses her secret to Teddy Jr., telling him that he wasn’t crazy for suspecting she had feelings, but Teddy doesn’t unburden himself in the same way. He reassures her that everything will be OK with a terse kiss on the cheek and leaves the house abruptly. Tawney is left standing there, feeling exposed and rejected.
Because of Rectify‘s pacing, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a week since Daniel’s release. The town of Paulie is still reeling from this news, and not everyone thinks Daniel deserves this second shot. Sheriff Daggett has to fight public opinion to locate Daniel’s attackers from the season 1 finale. The mother of one of the young witnesses won’t allow her son to testify at first. Daggett has to remind her (and us too), “You can’t just murder people, Debbie, no matter how much you think they deserve it.” She finally comes around, and the boy identifies Bobby Dean as one of the men who beat Daniel and the one who “peed on him.”
Daggett arrests Bobby and puts him in the back of the police car. The scenes toggle between Bobby riding in the back of the car and Daniel waking up from his coma. Both scenes feature broken characters and the people who love them, and we are meant to see them as the humans they are. In that moment, you almost feel sorry for Bobby. And that is the genius of Ray McKinnon: He forces us to see past the deeds and into the humanity of each character.
In the final moments of the episode, the sleeping giants begin to awaken, and Daniel is brought out of his coma. He teases and jokes with Janet and completely gives in to Amantha’s emotional fussing. The moment is filled with so much relief that you forget for just a second what circumstances brought him here. Even though he was dreaming of his bare prison cell just a few seconds before he awoke, those moments between Daniel, Amantha and Janet are full of joy. And this is the beauty of this show.
What do you think this show is saying about humanity? Is Daniel a good example or a poor example? For that matter, do you think Daniel murdered that girl? What about Teddy Jr.? Can you sympathize with him?
Rectify, rated TV-14, airs Thursdays at 9/8 C on SundanceTV.