Season 2 | Episode 8 | “The Great Destroyer| Aired Aug 7, 2014
As we drive toward the end of the series, the thematic moments become more and more heavily laden with obligation and significance. As Daniel starts to move further and further away from the person he became in prison, he grapples with discovering his own identity. As he tries to put those years behind him, the promise of a new trial threatens to undermine the space he’s put between now and then.
The last few minutes of last week’s episode gathered so much momentum that this week’s episode felt like a screeching halt. As Daniel wakes up in George’s house, the red-tinted morning light casts a harsh glare on the overturned room around him. He staggers awake, trying to reconcile his current circumstances with the obvious hangover plaguing him, and you can see the events of the previous night start to come back to him. He sees the broken paneling, tries to make a call and finds his cell phone dead. Realizing that he is alone, he gets up to look for Trey throughout the house, tries the infamous “pink” cell phone and even picks up George’s wallet.
We know from last week that the phone and wallet are planted from the bag Trey brought with him, and I am terribly nervous now that Daniel has put his fingerprints all over it. In a twist of sadly comic dramatic irony, Daniel leaves a note for George apologizing for the damage (and possibly saving himself from implication in George’s disappearance), and starts pedaling for Georgia. Trey left Daniel in Florida, and Trey’s daughter finds him in a similarly sorry state as Daniel: in his truck, passed out, with vomit on his face. Trey gives the little girl a bit of good advice: “Never ask a man where he’s been.” Especially if your dad is Trey Willis, I guess.
Daniel, apparently immune to a hangover, rides his bike as far as the nearest Sac-o-Suds, and finds the last payphone in the Southeast to call Tawney, of all people. She ignores his call at first, as Teddy is buzzing around in a hurry, rushing to get to the office. Before he leaves, Tawney offers him encouragement, in the first of many scenes in the episode in which one character discusses the goodness of another. Tawney tells him she is proud him, that it “takes courage and faith” to take a risk. Teddy stops on his way out the door and comes back to look at her with an expression that is both abashed and grateful.
Daniel calls again, collect, and this time Tawney picks up and drives to get Daniel at the Sac-O-Suds. There are many significant moments about their scenes together, but what struck me the most is Tawney’s confession that leaving to get Daniel was the most impulsive thing she’s ever done. Admitting this reveals so much about Tawney—and consequently about her relationship with Daniel. Everything she says to him after that is colored by what it means for Tawney to have lived such a measured and narrow life. Daniel represents a freedom in Tawney that she has not yet experienced, and she is afraid of her desire for more, now that she’s admitted her feelings for Daniel.
In yet another scene in which the characters are discussing their goodness, Daniel tells Tawney that he is not a good person. McKinnon is throwing us a distraction here, trying to undercut what we know about Daniel and his innocence. However, Daniel is so burdened by how he is “supposed” to act and feel that I believe he feels like he isn’t measuring up to the expectations of the world around him, even though he doesn’t fully understand it yet. Tawney reassures him that there is indeed good in him, and when Daniel presses her on her beliefs, she defaults to the “I believe ’cause it’s true.”
But Daniel won’t be so easily assured. He wants her to let her guard down, shed the extrinsic expectations and speak honestly to her. When Daniel tells her, “The only time I ever felt OK was when I was with you,” we recognize an honesty and need in him that is new. To Daniel, Tawney saved him, and now that she is no longer in his life he is lost again. This is a convenient parallel to Daniel’s religious experience in season 1, in which he gets “saved” and then baptized. Those moments are inextricably linked to his feelings about Tawney; her conflicted feelings for Daniel mirror her curiosity for secular wisdom. They are a symbiotic pair that offer a balance of spirituality and worldliness, and if we don’t see more of them together, I will feel absolutely cheated.
Tawney doesn’t take him all the way home, and when Daniel arrives, his family and Jon are waiting to discuss the plea deal with him. Daniel can take one look at them and understand that they have been speaking for him, about him and on his behalf for a long time. This unnerves Daniel and seems to make him resentful, but his sense of obligation keeps him from revealing any true anger toward Amantha and Janet.
Another running theme surfaces during this conversation: whether it really matters if Daniel is innocent or not. This idea has come up over and over as the prospect of a new trial looms, and I think the writers are trying to tell us to stop fretting over it. I’m not sure we are supposed to care if Daniel is innocent or not—which is sort of the beauty of this show. We are supposed to connect to this character without knowledge of his innocence so that our judgments aren’t tainted with our predisposed feelings about the crime.
After a bath, a revealing flashback in which Wendell accuses Daniel of being afraid to live, plus a big, juicy steak, Daniel decides to reject the plea deal. Jon is apprehensive, but feels guilty for not serving Daniel in the best way he can. This guilt paves the way for Jon to allow Daniel access to his confession tape, which he listens to while reenacting the crime. While I am mildly disturbed by this, I mostly just feel sorry for Daniel because he can’t piece together that night, and it must be very disorienting to be completely disconnected from the person others say you are.
What is equally upsetting, however, is that Teddy Sr. is now poisoned against Daniel, thanks to the midnight visit from Senator Foulkes. Now that Teddy Jr.’s secret is out, there is no going back on the damage it is going to cause the Holden/Talbot clan. I, for one, don’t need this kind of stress in my life.
Speaking of guilt, there is a lot of it going around. Janet confides her guilt to Teddy Sr., and in a very raw, honest moment, she apologizes for not loving him like he deserved to be loved. She likens it to her fight for Daniel. She feels responsible for not fighting harder, not believing enough. Teddy Sr. saved the house, saved the store and saved their family, and he forgave her instantly, saying it wasn’t too late. It was a beautifully intimate moment between the two, and it makes my feelings for Teddy Sr. even more complicated—now that he must make a decision about what he knows about Daniel attacking Teddy.
When Teddy comes home to enjoy Tawney’s mac and cheese, he’s feeling sorry for how their last date night turned out, but Tawney is nothing but forgiving. They sit down to an awkward dinner together, with barely anything to say to each other, when Jared arrives and breaks the news about the plea deal. Teddy is transparently biased about how he feels, but Jared takes offense when Teddy tells him, “You’re nothing like him.” Maybe Jared wants to be more like him, or at least know more about him. Tawney’s emotions seem to be much more complex. She excuses herself early and lies in bed, tortured thinking about Daniel going back to jail. I have a feeling that she is going to be the predictor of how we should feel about Daniel. She seems to have an insight into him that no one else does.
The last sequence of the show toggles between all the characters doing things they feel like they have to; things that they don’t necessarily want to do, but are compelled to do. Its a moving juxtaposition of the differing emotional spaces in which these characters are living. It’s laden with foreshadowing and suggests a resolution having less to do with a trial and more to do with healing.
Let’s talk this week about these themes: destruction, the relevance of guilt or innocence, what does it mean to be good, and the idea of balance. I’m specifically referring to Wendell’s scene, when he says you can’t have love without hate, light without dark or heaven without hell.
I know I left out some pretty important things. Tweet me the biggies.
Rectify, rated TV-14, airs Thursdays at 9/8C on SundanceTV.