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'Rectify' recap: Kindness for a dead man

Season 2 | Episode 3 | “Charlie Darwin” | Aired July 3, 2014

There is a stillness about Rectify that makes you listen harder and look more closely, and its whisper is far louder than the shouts of any other show I’ve seen. This week, Daniel returns, causing the perspective of the show to shift back to his point of view. Once we are back looking through Daniel’s eyes, the momentum changes and the pacing of the show slows to match Daniel’s rhythms. This is jolting at first, like stopping a moving swing, but it starts to feel natural as we are reunited with Daniel.

We find him washing the windows at the Holden house, still badly bruised and cut from his attack. He is methodical about the task and only stops long enough to watch a tree branch fall in his neighbor’s driveway. Mesmerized, Daniel stares at the branch lying there, and he looks so transfixed that it is hard not to wonder how he manages all the suffering in his life.

rectify_203_unit-03When Amantha interrupts, it feels intrusive, and Daniel doesn’t allow her to hug him, blaming his broken ribs. When she wants to the take over the task, Daniel refuses. Daniel senses that, like himself,  she is searching for a momentary purpose herself, so he sends her on an errand to buy apple fritters. The clerk at the bakery shares fond memories of Amantha’s father, and shows sympathy for Daniel, “no matter what he did.” The clerk breaks the news to Amantha about Bobby Dean, and she takes it as good news, rushing home to share it with her family, but reluctant to be happy about it.

As Amantha is sharing the news with her mother, Sheriff Daggett calls and asks to come see Daniel. Stricken, Janet and Amantha mull this over and consider that the sheriff has never asked to visit the Holden house before, only demanded. Sheriff Daggett’s arrest of Bobby Dean last week marked a turning point for Daniel’s acceptance, and the bakery store employee illustrates the changing perceptions about the Holden family.

While his sister and mother sit in the kitchen contemplating how to tell Daniel the news about Bobby Dean, Daniel sits in the car, keys in the ignition, revving the engine. This is one of the more forthright metaphors of the show so far, suggesting Daniel’s wishes to shift out of neutral and move forward. The sound of the engine matches his stops and starts since the beginning of season 1, and his desire to drive again hints at a new confidence in him.

As Daniel and his mother sit in the running car, there is a murmur of self-possession in Daniel that is so often present in people with an unwithering resignation. Daniel has an pragmatic view of his circumstances, and this seems to embolden him now that he has to figure out his own life.

He doesn’t seem so afraid, and when he tells Daggett it wasn’t Bobby Dean who attacked him, you get a sense that he has some greater knowledge than we do.  When Amantha gets angry, shouting, “You can’t let him get away with this,” Daniel offers a cryptic, but foreboding, answer: “Who says he will?”

As the audience gets more and more distance from Daniel the prisoner, we are seeing fewer and fewer flashbacks. This week we only got two very short memories, both of which have to do with an injury he sustained in prison, from literally banging his head against the wall. In the first, we see Daniel being stitched up by the prison doctor, and the talk turns philosophical. The doctor advises him to ask for meds because it would makes things easier, to which Daniel replies, “I will take that under advisement.”

The second flashback shows Daniel taking the meds under the supervision of both a guard and the doctor. When the guard asks him to open his mouth to prove he swallowed it, Daniel flashes the most eerie, chilling grin that strikes me as both out of place and completely expected. As unsettling as it was, it further proves how much Daniel has changed since his release, and how much distance there is between the man we see in the flashbacks and the Daniel we see at home.

The latter is the Daniel who goes across the street to help his neighbor move the tree branch that has fallen, but can’trectify_203_unit-02 manage the task because of his injuries. The neighbor, relatively new, doesn’t know about Daniel’s past and treats him as a normal neighbor would. When Teddy Jr. arrives, the neighbor calls him over to help Daniel get back across the street, and Teddy manhandles him back to the house. Daniel tries to bring up the incident between them, but Teddy avoids it and makes it clear to Daniel that he doesn’t want to revisit it.

Teddy, while unsympathetic at times, is a hostage to the circumstances caused by Daniel, and feels sabotaged by Daniel’s return and the attention it is drawing. He is pushing for the new expansion at the tire shop and is initially turned down for a loan unless he can get either his mother’s or his wife’s approval. Feeling emasculated and powerless, Teddy doesn’t know how to deal with these feelings and blames Daniel for all the trouble in his life, which is not entirely unfair.

rectify_203_unit-01-620x340When Tawney approaches him about a romantic evening, he is cold and aloof, but relents eventually. He barks at her when she says thank you, but only because he doesn’t understand how to accept her love and compassion. He feels disconnected from his family and doesn’t know how to repair those connections.

In a show filled with comparisons (Teddy Jr. versus Daniel, prison versus freedom, normal versus abnormal), we are meant to notice the most significant differences between Jon’s death-row client, Hollis, and Daniel. In Hollis, we see everything Daniel isn’t, and Hollis admits to being a monster. As he eats his last meal, his inhumanity is meant to make us better appreciate Daniel’s humanity. Hollis is a character over which we RTFY_202_0222_0443don’t have to explore the moral ambiguity of the prison system; he is getting what he deserves.

The episode ends with Bobby Dean’s release. Without Daniel’s word that he saw him, Daggett can’t hold him. The dread with which the sheriff allows him to go makes me feel hopeful about Daniel’s place in the town, even though Bobby makes it clear he doesn’t owe Daniel anything.

What do you think is going to happen to Daniel now that Bobby is out? Do you think Daniel seems different, or am I seeing something that is not there? Tweet me your thoughts about what’s next.

For more of my thoughts and opinions about the shows I watch, visit my blogs, Honest Reviews Corner and TV Megasite.

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