Season 2 | Episode 10 | “Unhinged” | Aired Aug. 21, 2014
It really is the beauty that hurts the most, and in this season 2 finale, I am so much more moved by the grace and delicacy of the episode than I am by the torrid, jagged revelations and confessions. As the series comes to its conclusion, there is so much to contend with that it’s hard to know where to begin.
I’ll start with the dreamlike scene of Daniel and Tawney’s morning after. Waking up with the sunlight pouring in, her arms around Daniel, Tawney remarks that it all felt like a dream, and the scene is staged to suggest just that. The sunlight creates a singular bubble around them that makes them seem insulated from the world yet connected to each other. As they lie there, Tawney asks Daniel to piece together the previous night and Daniel simply tells her, “You cried, I held you, we fell asleep.” Although I would’ve loved to see this night unfold between these two characters, I think the decision to keep their night private really honors the transcendental quality of their relationship. It is the stuff of dreams, and belongs somewhere other than the real world.
As Daniel and Tawney move from the celestial to the worldly, they use their bodies to navigate the space between them, holding hands in the sunlight. As they hold hands, then let go, their connection grows tighter, and they are bound together in their desperation. They sit up in unison, and their movements are synchronized as they scoot back onto the headboard, both admitting they have nowhere else to go from here. Visually this creates an interesting clue to their new dynamic. Tawney and Daniel are a new force to reckon with on this show, and now that it has been renewed for a third season, I predict we will see this play all the way out.
As they fully wake from the dream, eating corn chips and whipped cream and discussing Tawney’s irrational exit from her marriage, a silliness creeps in that causes a collective relaxation. I have never seen Daniel or Tawney this at ease, and to see them offer it to each other is beautiful. But it is short-lived, ending as soon as Tawney mentions Ted and how she had become so accustomed to his anger toward her. Daniel, keeping with the theme of the episode, confesses to Tawney what he did to Teddy, and it’s hard to immediately gauge Tawney’s reaction; she seems shocked and overwhelmed, but watching Daniel tell the story is gut-wrenching. As he relives it, he is vague in places, yet his tone and tortured body language tell most of the details.
Daniel acknowledges that what he did to Teddy, he learned in prison, and that it wasn’t rape, but it was “violent and unhinged.” Although Daniel doesn’t say it outright to Tawney, we know Daniel had the same violence done unto him, and he seems so sad and repentant in that moment that its impossible to hold it against him. He is so sorry that Teddy has to live with what he’s done, that we get a glimpse at what he must be living with himself. This unguarded moment allows for the rest of their story to flash before my eyes, and I find myself rooting for this couple so much.
That is, until the very next scene, when we find Teddy asleep in his clothes on the couch with empty beer and liquor bottles all around him. We understand what kind of night he’s had, and we are upset for him. When he sits up and remembers how he hurt his hand and then calls out for Tawney, my heart breaks a thousand ways. We are a lucky audience, however, in that we can take everyone’s side. Ray McKinnon has formed a world in which everyone is right and everyone is wrong and all we have to do is love them through it.
Disheveled and broken, Teddy makes his way to Janet’s house, looking for Daniel, although I am afraid to guess why. He runs into Janet, and she is so tender to him, recognizing immediately that something is wrong. He doesn’t admit what happened between him and Tawney, but as Janet wraps his bloody hand, he confides in her about the miscarriage. Janet is overwhelmed at Teddy’s loss and then says something so profound about Tawney’s situation: “Things must be so complicated for her right now.” Janet holds Teddy to her, and this scene really draws attention to the fact that Janet is Teddy’s mother too. The whole season we’ve seen Janet work through her relationship with Daniel, but this is the first real moment of maternal nurturing we’ve seen directed toward Teddy. In that moment, Teddy is so unguarded and vulnerable; it makes me feel guilty for feeling so delighted at Tawney and Daniel’s night together.
The episode takes a hard left turn from the scene with Teddy and Janet in the kitchen, to Foulkes and the District Attorney in her office. Foulkes is pushing Sandra hard toward the banishment plea, but his interests lie in having Daniel participate in a debrief in which he would have to admit to killing Hannah. Foulkes is adamant about hearing Daniel say the words and confess to the crime. Foulkes pushes so hard on this point that his vigor tips toward the personal in this scene, and the D.A. notices. She agrees to present it, but she is wary of his motives now too.
The plea deal is the pivot point for every challenge the characters are facing. Ted Sr. goes to confront Daniel about the attack on Teddy, but Daniel tells him everything is going to be OK, using his banishment as reassurance. Ted is so convinced this is true that he doesn’t tell Janet about the situation between Daniel and Teddy Jr., even though he’s tried several times. Jared views the plea as something foreign that he must grapple with in order to fully know Daniel. Jared confesses that he’s listened to the Walkman, and seems incredulous when Daniel says he probably will admit to killing her. It seems like Jared is trying to connect with the brother under his own roof now, but winds up having more in common with Hannah’s brother, Bobby. This seems especially true when Bobby discovers Jared in Hannah’s room, and gives Jared permission to take whatever he wants. To so many of the characters, the plea confirms Daniel’s guilt, eliminating any moral obligations that Daniel’s innocence would require of them.
Daniel sees the plea as a way to end it—to just make it be over. Jon disagrees and tries to sway his decision. He assures Daniel of his confidence in a new trial, that he doesn’t want it like this. Daniel reminds him that “you can’t always get what you want,” then complicates matters further by asking him if it is OK to just make something up. I am fuzzy on the terms of a debrief, but it seems that he could make something up if he wanted—that he will be released anyway.
This casts doubt on the scene in which Daniel is at the table with Foulkes and the prosecutor for the debrief. Daniel begins to tell his story, and although he’s claimed to not remember, we hear much of Trey’s account of that night creep into Daniel’s memories. I can’t tell if Daniel has recovered these memories, since memory—like time and promises, according to him—are malleable. What he shares with the D.A. is close to what Trey told him the night they spent at George’s, but it’s hard to hear Daniel remember being humiliated by Hannah, then feel such sympathy for her when she’s being taken advantage of by the other boys.
Daniel names another boy in this version of the story, however, and surprises everyone when he says it was George, Trey and someone named Christopher with Hannah that night, “grabbing, touching, sucking.” He remembers that they watched him watch them, and it was during that moment that he thought Hannah was taunting him. I felt so sad watching Daniel reconcile his adolescent memories of that night with his adult consciousness and sense. You could see the regret seep into his eyes and his voice crack under the weight of his hindsight revelations.
At first, Daniel says that when he came down from the bluff, Hannah was already dead, but the D.A. won’t allow Daniel to leave it there. At this point in the scene, Foulkes becomes aggressive in the questioning and a power struggle forms between the two men. Caught in the middle between the Senator and Daniel, the D.A. seems doubtful of the Senator’s tactics, and looks uncomfortable as he presses Daniel harder and harder.
To jog Daniel’s memory, Foulkes produces photos of Hannah’s body, and Daniel starts to get upset. Through tears, he tells the group, “It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly,” a line from season 1 that marks the pain Daniel feels trying to process the world around him. It’s Hannah’s youth and beauty that Daniel is weeping for, and seeing her lying there with the wildflowers over her private places and the Jacob’s ladder in her hair emboldens him to engage in the struggle with Foulkes.
Daniel is not passively sitting across from Foulkes now, but challenging him about his role in the events of the night. Daniel reminds the Senator about the lies he told about seeing his father and going home. Daniel looks him straight in they eye and asks him, “I didn’t go home? And I didn’t rape her either, did I?” So when Foulkes and the prosecutor press him to say he killed her, Daniel doesn’t back down. He asks Foulkes, “If I say I did, will you let me go this time?”
Daniel confesses to strangling Hannah, but I don’t believe him. There are too many seeds of doubt planted throughout the debrief, and even in his conversation with Amantha before he went. Amantha calls him a coward for admitting to murdering Hannah when he didn’t, and when he tells the prosecutor, “I was a coward just like my sister said,” I know right then he is admitting to something he didn’t do. No one in that room seems satisfied at the way it ends, and it doesn’t seem that it offers the closure I hoped it would.
Amantha is searching for some sort of conclusion to the matter too; that is why she admits to Daniel that she “won’t be the same person anymore, so I wanted to be this person one more time.” So far, Amantha’s life only had meaning because of the fight to free her innocent brother, and if Daniel admits guilt, then Amantha’s entire identity is a lie. She stops being the sister that fought for her innocent brother and martyred her own life in order to save his. Now she must figure out how to exist in a world where Daniel is not the center. And even though I admire Amantha for admitting she doesn’t know who she wants to be now, I don’t want her to send Jon to Boston alone, and neither does he. Amantha is finally realizing what it means for a person to have sovereignty over their own life—hers included.
Amantha and Jon’s relationship is so mixed up with Daniel’s case that it’s hard for us to extricate what’s real to them outside of it. Amantha has enough self-awareness to recognize this in herself, but they are such a beautiful pairing that it seems like a waste for her to give it up at the exact moment when she could free herself from it. I hope Daniel recognizes the value of Amantha’s place in his life now that the case is finished. Amantha is a brave soul for allowing it to be his choice.
While Amantha lets go of Daniel, Teddy is letting go of Tawney. When they finally see each other, Tawney has a bag packed and is on the way out. Teddy has written her a letter, but when he realizes that Daniel and Tawney were together in the motel, he crumples it up. He stops feeling like the victimizer and starts to feel like the victim, and it doesn’t help matters that Tawney feels sorry for him for what Daniel did. Teddy finally says it out loud: “He had no right. He’s taken everything.” Teddy has been feeling like this all season, but he only said it out loud now, as Tawney leaves him—as he sees it, for Daniel.
The episode ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving us guessing as to what impact Teddy’s appearance at the sheriff’s office will have. Teddy is out for revenge, but not for what happened at the tire store. He feels like Daniel stole Tawney, and this might be a way for him to work out his feelings toward Daniel.
Even though Sheriff Daggett has been to George’s house, taken evidence from the ashtray and seen the surveillance footage, it doesn’t seem to matter much since Daniel has already signed the plea deal. The appearance of George’s body will complicate matters further, and there is a good chance we will get a second trial after all. I know a lot of folks need to know who killed Hannah Dean, but I am happy knowing it wasn’t Daniel. Because I believe it wasn’t.
What about y’all? Do you believe Daniel’s confession? Where do we go from here? What are your predictions (and hopes) for season 3?
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