April 18, 2013 at 6:04 am #273336
Watched the first 3 episodes (basically half the season), it isn’t that original but the acting’s pretty good.April 23, 2013 at 7:19 am #273338
LA Times’ rave review:
Review: “Rectify” is a revelation that sets a new standard
The mesmerizing new Sundance Channel drama by Ray McKinnon follows the struggles of a former death-row convict and those around him in adjusting to a new reality.
by Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
April 22, 2013
Sundance Channel’s “Rectify” is the first and possibly only television show one can imagine Flannery O’Connor blogging about.
It isn’t just good TV, it’s revelatory TV. The genre’s biggest potential game changer since AMC debuted the one-two punch of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” “Television can do that?” we asked in wonder as Don Draper squinted in cultural allegory over his Scotch on the rocks.
Yes it can, and now, thanks to creator Ray McKinnon and the cast of “Rectify,” television can also immerse the viewer in a gloriously rich and careful study of how endurance and faith, strength and surrender, fear and serenity balance to form the essential nature of humanity.
Television as prose poem.
The six episodes follow six days in the life of Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a small-town Georgian who spent 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. New DNA evidence forces the state to vacate his conviction, setting Daniel free but not exonerating him. We meet him as he is leaving prison, reuniting with a world, and a family, that stare back at him in similar shock and confusion.
Having spent most of his formative years in a cell, Daniel has become a mesmerizing and terrifying embodiment of the interior life. Even Harper Lee’s Boo Radley, surely Daniel’s closest literary cousin, was allowed a connection, however secretive and tenuous, to the outside world. But here we see, from the moment Daniel steps out of his cell, a life turned literally inside out.
His release almost immediately causes more pain than relief. It unleashes a flood of emotions in which McKinnon allows his characters to churn and choke with no judgment but no attempt at rescue either.
Daniel’s mother, Janet (J. Smith Cameron), greets her son with love but also the wariness of a woman approaching a buzz saw that already claimed her arm. His stepfather, Ted (Bruce McKinnon, no relation to Ray), resolutely ignores the situation’s complexities, acting as if justice has simply and finally been done.
Daniel’s stepbrother, Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford), is another story. His family position now in jeopardy (namely, the automotive store he “inherited” from Daniel’s father), Ted Jr. views Daniel as probably guilty of the original crime — and certainly guilty of disrupting the family, the town and eventually, the composure of Ted Jr.’s lovely, born-again wife, Tawney (Adelaide Clemens).
Only Daniel’s sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) is undivided in her feelings — her love at having her brother returned, in whatever condition, under whatever circumstances, is the warm tide that carries Daniel, their mother and the audience through the strange and perilous first hours of Daniel’s return.
Many people aren’t thrilled about Daniel’s release, especially those who put him in jail. Chief among them are the prosecuting attorney, Roland Foulkes (the always splendid Michael O’Neill), who vaulted to a Senate seat thanks to the conviction, and the sheriff’s department, which cut corners to build its case.
The mystery of who did rape and kill Daniel’s girlfriend Hannah and if, or how, it was covered up, forms the rather familiar B-plot of “Rectify.” Fortunately, Ray McKinnon, who won an Oscar for his live-action short “The Accountant” and starred as a high school football coach in “The Blind Side,” grants all of his characters some measure of depth.
Although “Rectify” is anchored by what has become an alarmingly predictable conceit—the murder of a young woman jump-starts far too many shows these days, and the rape aspect resembles a similar plot line in Sundance’s just-concluded “Top of the Lake”—it doesn’t matter, honestly. This is Daniel’s story.
Everything, the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the sound editing, works to bring this character to life. Shots linger on the green wonderland of an ordinary backyard or the crowded silence of an empty morning kitchen. The scrape of a fork on a plate, the opening and closing of a door, all force the viewer to look again, look anew, as if we too had been separated from reality for all those years.
In the middle of it all is the astonishing Young. Others have attempted to portray what happens when a person is stripped down by exile and then thrust back into the world—Damian Lewis, with his wild gift for stillness, is something of a master, having played an exonerated cop in “Life” and more recently, an American soldier broken down and rebuilt by terrorists in “Homeland”—but Young sets a new standard, delivering an exquisitely textured physical performance.
And never before has a television show so firmly focused on transformation and transition. God is here, in “Rectify,” unapologetically, as are sex and violence, decency and indecency.
The limitations and beauty of innocence are revealed, and the endlessly running crosscurrents of human emotion that make people rarely one thing or another lap up against every scene.
The sixth-episode ending certainly allows for a seventh, and a second season is something to wish for—albeit carefully. “Rectify” is quite perfect just as it is.April 23, 2013 at 7:26 am #273339
An Uneasy Life After Death Row on “Rectify”
Apr 22, 2013 09:53 AM ET
by Matt Roush
“It’s not UN-weird,” says the solemn and seriously disoriented Daniel Holden (a revelatory Aden Young), who’s adjusting to life outside of prison after 19 years on death row, to which he was sentenced as a teen for a murder that new evidence suggests he may not have committed. Impeccably written and acted, quietly suspenseful, almost unbearably sad in its aching poignancy, Sundance Channel’s six-hour drama series “Rectify” explores the impact of freedom on the overwhelmed Daniel, his grateful yet apprehensive family, and the hostile Georgia small town that still condemns him.
Created by actor-turned-screenwriter Ray McKinnon, “Rectify” is Sundance’s second consecutive home run. With its two-hour premiere (Monday, 9/8c) arriving in the wake of the exotic, hypnotic, New Zealand-set “Top of the Lake,” this deliberately paced and delicately grave character study is on the surface a much more mundane story. But as the damaged and emotionally tentative Daniel reflects, in his hushed and haunted manner, “Mundane is calming and soothing. Mundane isn’t out of the ordinary. When everything is out of the ordinary, it can be too much sometimes.” For Daniel, just being assaulted by the choice and surplus of a big-box store is too much.
Nothing about “Rectify” is ordinary, starting with the empathetic performances, including Abigail Spencer as Daniel’s spitfire sister Amantha, who fought for his freedom with the help of Northern lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) and is having her own uneasy homecoming from Atlanta, and J. Smith Cameron as his welcoming but wary mother Janet. She was widowed and remarried while Daniel was “away,” creating new family tensions, especially with a resentful stepbrother (Clayne Crawford) who passive-aggressively pokes and prods Daniel, stirring up vivid memories from prison that add to his “state of constant anticipation.” We feel it too, a pervasive sense of dread that the simmering tensions in this town will eventually explode. “Rectify” isn’t particularly story-driven, though there are intimations of a conspiracy of silence regarding the long-ago rape-murder that sealed Daniel’s fate. The mystery here isn’t a whodunit as much as a puzzle of what makes Daniel tick.
Everyone walks on eggshells around the outwardly gentle and politely withdrawn Daniel except his stepbrother’s beguiling wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens, another discovery), a deeply devout beauty who sees in Daniel a soul worth saving. “You’re above things. Like you’re pure,” she says, to which he mumbles, “Far from that.” Though “Rectify” is not a story of easy salvation, it takes Tawney’s faith unusually seriously, indicative of the compassion shown to each of these characters.
As Daniel, Young has a coiled intensity that is mesmerizing and heartbreaking. He’s a fragile enigma, a deep philosophical thinker (he spent much of his time behind bars with nose buried in Great Books) who knows everything about life but how to live it, having spent so much of his life awaiting death. He even admits at one point, “I’m not even sure I’m alive,” wondering if any of what’s happening now is real.
In his most heart-wrenching confession, Daniel reveals, “It does something to you not to be touched in any positive way for so long. You begin to vacillate between being repelled by touch and seeking it out in any form, even the most negative.” “Rectify” is touching in so many ways, and the only drawback is that six hours is not nearly enough to tell this story, with an open-ended conclusion that’s more disturbing than satisfying. Let’s hope Sundance wastes no time commissioning a sequel to the most absorbing, unsettling, and unexpectedly humane new drama I’ve seen on TV so far this year.April 23, 2013 at 7:34 am #273340
TV Review: “Rectify”
April 16, 2013 | 04:00AM PT
Once again demonstrating that compelling drama can come from unlikely sources, Sundance Channel expands on the inroads it’s made with miniseries in “Rectify,” a series with a strong indie-film sensibility and slow-as-molasses, hypnotic pace. If that doesn’t exactly scream boffo box office, it does represent the sort of quality that can put a network on the media’s radar, buoyed as it is by Aden Young’s wonderfully stoic performance as a man who spent 19 years on death row before being freed by DNA evidence. Someone understandably refers to the protagonist as “Starman,” but his distant stare and alienation better approximate the vibe in “Sling Blade.”
Young’s Daniel Holden isn’t completely out of the woods when he’s released, since the former prosecutor—now a state senator (Michael O’Neill)—is convinced he got the right man, and the evidence doesn’t completely exonerate him. Whether he’ll be retried—and if he is indeed innocent, who really murdered that teenage girl?—add an element of more traditional mystery to the ongoing storyline.
For the most part, though, “Rectify” derives its strength from Daniel’s lurching efforts to re-integrate himself into society, and the effects that having him on the outside create among his extended family, from his sister (Abigail Spencer) to his remarried mom (J. Smith Cameron) to his step-brother Ted (Clayne Crawford), who frets about the negative impact if Daniel opts to return to the family business.
Then there’s Ted’s wife (Adelaide Clemens of the recent HBO mini “Parade’s End” and upcoming “The Great Gatsby”), a devout Christian who takes an almost inexplicable interest in Daniel, and whose goodness seems to be the one light with a chance of penetrating his deadened eyes.
Series creator Ray McKinnon turns Daniel’s situation into a means of ruminating about the impact of isolation—his prison existence is illustrated through judicious flashbacks—and the consequences of living under a death sentence.
Yet “Rectify” is full of unexpected little qualities, including moments of surprising tenderness, humor (someone tries to catch Daniel up on what he’s missed by showing him, appropriately, “Dazed and Confused”), discussions of faith, the media, and the wider community’s prying eyes. Moreover, the show possesses a nagging uncertainty that keeps viewers off balance, even if the hours contain lengthy stretches where in hindsight nothing much happens.
Admittedly, such descriptions as “slow” and “unorthodox” are more likely to yield critical plaudits than commercial success; still, programs that attract such raves also tend to work for a small but discerning audience, including a few who would doubtless be hard-pressed currently to identify Sundance’s dial position.
By that measure, “Rectify” is a more-than-credible addition to the DVR menu—one more worthy option as we escape into our own little electronic cells of solitary amusement.
(Series; Sundance Channel, Mon. April 22, 9 p.m.)
Cast: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith Cameron, Luke Kirby, Clayne Crawford, Adelaide Clemens, Bruce McKinnon, Jake Austin Walker, Michael O’Neill.
Filmed in Georgia by Zip Works and Gran Via Prods. Executive producers, Ray McKinnon, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein; co-executive producers, Evan Dunsky, Keith Gordon; producer, Don Kurt; director, Gordon; writer, McKinnon; camera, Paul Sommers; production designer, David Blass; editor, Henk Van Eeghen; music, Gabriel Mann; casting, Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein. 120 MIN.April 23, 2013 at 7:45 am #273341
NY Times’ review:
After Freedom, Peace Is at Stake
by MIKE HALE
Published: April 21, 2013
“Rectify,” a new series about a Georgia man who is freed after 19 years on death row, traces the history of the Sundance Channel in reverse. For about an episode and a quarter, it’s very good television. But over the rest of its six-episode first season it resembles nothing so much as a bad indie film, the kind of slow and tepid bummer that used to fill Sundance’s late nights and afternoons when it was a full-time movie channel.
Watching the premiere on Monday night you will think Sundance has found a winner in its first wholly owned drama series. Directed by Keith Gordon, the first episode is taut and engrossing, and introduces interesting characters with unexpected wrinkles.
The show opens as Daniel Holden (Aden Young), convicted while in high school of raping and murdering a classmate, is released because of new DNA evidence. Wounded by his time in prison (in ways that will be detailed over the course of the show) and feeling lost in the world of cell phones and the Internet, he returns to his hometown and his mother’s house, where his presence threatens the peace of mind of everyone around him.
His fiercely loyal, highly strung sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer), is having a secret affair with his lawyer (Luke Kirby), a relationship that could hurt his chances in a new trial. His stepbrother, Teddy (Clayne Crawford), runs the family tire store and is legitimately worried about the effect that the town’s suspicion of Daniel will have on the business. The man who prosecuted Daniel, now a state senator (Michael O’Neill), is determined to get him back in jail before the publicity hurts his re-election campaign.
None of these characters are two-dimensional—no one seems as noble or as evil as you might expect in this type of story—and the supporting players are excellent, especially Mr. Crawford as Teddy, a mix of good old boy and stalwart family man who’s both repelled and fascinated by Daniel. Scenes take unpredictable turns: a group of boys who approach Daniel menacingly in a store suddenly gather around him for a gag photo; Daniel’s sister and lawyer, tailing him for his own safety, suddenly realize they’re invading his privacy and sneak away.
But almost as soon as the second episode starts (also on Sunday night) the qualities of surprise and humanity seem to fade and the series takes a turn into gassiness and obscurity. The show’s creator and chief writer, the veteran character actor Ray McKinnon (he was the Rev. Smith in “Deadwood”), seems to have had just enough good ideas for a compelling pilot. After that the best he can do is combine some of the sentimental moral clichés of the big-budget prison picture with the feel-bad lassitude common to low-budget depictions of the American South.
The mysteries and tensions that Mr. McKinnon and Mr. Gordon adroitly set up in the first episode—whether Daniel is guilty, who else could be guilty, what the local justice system will decide to do—just kind of hover while the story is stretched out with increasingly improbable, arbitrary filler: sudden sexual encounters, religious awakenings, melodramatic flashbacks to Daniel’s prison days.
Daniel himself has a story—he took up reading in prison, turning himself into a bit of a mystic intellectual—but not much of a personality. Mr. Young mostly plays him with a bewildered, semi-catatonic affect that’s either an unfortunate piece of direction or a poor acting choice.
One thing you can say about “Rectify” is that it’s not quite like anything else on television. Sundance’s initial moves into scripted drama have been seen as an attempt to match AMC’s programming, but “Rectify” doesn’t have the baroque quality of AMC’s hits; the only AMC series with a similar feel was probably “Rubicon,” which was quickly canceled.
“Rectify” is potentially a continuing series, which probably explains why the mystery plot drags on the way it does. You can see where Mr. McKinnon can take it—exploring Daniel’s constant adjustment to his new life—but by the time you get to the end of the season, you may think that you and Daniel have both been through enough.
Sundance Channel, Monday night at 9 and 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 8 and 9, Central time.
Produced by Zip Works and Gran Via Productions in association with Sundance Film Holdings. Created and written by Ray McKinnon; Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein, executive producers.
WITH: Aden Young (Daniel Holden), Abigail Spencer (Amantha Holden), Adelaide Clemens (Tawney Talbot), Clayne Crawford (Ted Talbot Jr.), Bruce McKinnon (Ted Talbot Sr.), J. Smith Cameron (Janet Talbot), Jake Austin Walker (Jared Talbot), Luke Kirby (Jon Stern), Michael O’Neill, (State Senator Roland Foulk), and Hal Holbrook (Rutherford Gaines).April 23, 2013 at 8:05 am #273342
Entertainment Weekly’s review:
Reviewed by Jessica Shaw | Apr 10, 2013
Start Date: Apr 22, 2013; Genre: Drama; With: Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby, and Aden Young; Network: Sundance Channel
Watching death-row inmate Daniel Holden (Aden Young) be prepped for release after serving 18 years for raping and murdering a girl is like watching a corpse be readied for a funeral. Pale and devoid of emotion, he’s fancied up in a suit and tie, a freshly-wiped-clean blank slate presented to the public. ”I’m not sure what to make of this drastic change of course in my life,” he tells the press assembled outside the prison, with the cadence of someone who suddenly has all the time in the world. ”I will seriously need to reconsider my worldview.”
Over the six hours of this uneven miniseries, Daniel—freed but not exonerated due to a DNA mismatch—tentatively focuses on his new worldview, albeit from the teeny Georgia burg where the trouble started. What does it mean to reenter the world of prismatic megastores after spending half his life in a blindingly white cell? How does he reengage with people after two decades of solitary confinement and prison-shower gang rape? Complicating matters, his mother (J. Smith-Cameron) is a nervous wreck, his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) tells awkward jokes about the electric chair, and his stepbrother Teddy (Clayne Crawford) thinks porn is an appropriate welcome-home gift.
We’re told that Daniel was a weird kid—and he no doubt emerged a damaged man—but Young plays him like a troubled Forrest Gump, pure of heart (he’s profoundly moved by pillow feathers) but slow of mind (”Does this work?” he asks about a bottle of Smartwater). At the end, Daniel is still a mystery, which makes it difficult to invest in his story. Of course, that may be part of “Rectify” creator Ray McKinnon’s plan for this resolution-free miniseries. Despite a strong start, there are too many dropped plots and clipped characters—“Into the Wild”’s Hal Holbrook is exceptional as the case’s original prosecutor . . . then he never shows up again—to make “Rectify” work in its entirety. The scattered parts equal much more than the sum.
Still, there’s no shortage of cinematically shot and finely acted moments, notably Daniel’s baptism and subsequent, rambling testimony to his Christian crush/sister-in-law Tawney (the divine Adelaide Clemens). “Rectify”’s many stories are strung together with a wonderful, airy pacing—all hail the slow-TV movement!—that lends a haunting backdrop to the story of a man who may not be able to find a life, even after avoiding death.
Grade: BApril 23, 2013 at 8:11 am #273343
Review: Sundance’s “Rectify” a slow but gripping story
A Death Row prisoner readjusts to life after an unexpected release.
by Alan Sepinwall Monday, Apr 22, 2013
“I hate to say it,” Daniel Holden’s stepbrother admits, by way of explaining why they’ve never gotten to know each other, “but we all thought he’d be dead by now, anyway.”
This is the story of Daniel’s life, and non-death, as depicted in the beautiful new Sundance Channel series “Rectify” (it debuts tonight at 9 with back-to-back episodes; the first three hours are already available On Demand). Convicted as a teenager for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend, Daniel (played by Aden Young) has spent the last 19 years on Death Row, retreating further and further inward, preparing for the moment when he departs the earth once and for all.
But fate has more complicated plans for Daniel, who’s set free when modern DNA testing blows a gaping hole in the prosecution’s case. Suddenly, the boy who went to prison expecting to leave in a pine box is now a man struggling to adjust to a world, and a family, vastly different from the one he knew, all while living in a small Georgia town where everyone still thinks he’s a monster.
There are many ways that the series’ creator, character actor and sometime-writer/director Ray McKinnon (he won an Oscar for his short film “The Accountant” back in 2002), could have approached this basic set-up. The most commercial angle would probably involve Daniel seeking revenge on the true perpetrators for killing his girl and destroying his life, even as they try to stop him from exposing them.
“Rectify” is not that. There’s definite tension from the townspeople who hate Daniel, from the state senator whose political career was built on Daniel’s conviction, and from a pair of local men who may have actually committed the crime, but “Rectify” has no interest in being a conventional thriller. It’s a quiet, contemplative—or, if you prefer, unapologetically slow—series exploring the mind and soul of a man who feels like a visitor from another planet (or, at least, another time) as he returns to his old life.
McKinnon (whom you might know from “Deadwood,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Blind Side,” or many other roles) told me recently, “There was nobody to do this show until Sundance decided to start doing shows.” And it feels very much like the kind of quiet, haunting indie film you might see at the Sundance Film Festival, only presented at much greater length. (Between this show and the recent brilliant mini “Top of the Lake,” Sundance Channel is committing to the idea that its original series should fit comfortably next to its movies.)
The first episode was directed by Keith Gordon, and he and McKinnon set up a clear, unwavering template for the series (*) to follow: one focused on small moments and still images rather than heated confrontations or plot movement. There is violence at times, but the series is more interested in something like simply watching Daniel sit in a grassy field and get used to the idea that he can enjoy nature whenever he wants. The key relationships in the series involve Daniel with his fierce watchdog of sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer, who was Don’s teacher girlfriend in “Mad Men” season 3), and the unexpectedly tender friendship he develops with his born-again sister-in-law Tawney (Adelaide Clemens).
(*) “Rectify” was designed as an ongoing series; the finale leaves a lot of plot points hanging for a potential second season, but also concludes in a way that feels emotionally true to Daniel’s story. (Put another way, it’s exactly how I’d expect a film-length version of it to end.)
Because of the measured pace and mournful tone, “Rectify” will be an acquired taste. One TV critic, even as she admired parts of the series, complained to me, “I want to say to the director/editor—pick your moments to have the guy stare at things! Maybe not every 10 seconds!” There are times when the series veers perilously close to self-parody, though it’s almost always clever enough to pull itself out of that. (A visit to Walmart involves a lot of staring, but then turns into a bonding moment between Daniel and his nervous mother.)
The whole thing would fall apart without a strong performance at the center of it. McKinnon originally wanted to cast his friend and frequent collaborator Walton Goggins in the role, when the series was in development at AMC (right after “The Shield” ended), and it’s easy to picture Goggins nailing the eerie remoteness of Daniel. (Just think of that period early in “Justified” season 2 when Boyd was trying to shut himself off from the world.) But Aden Young is exceptional in his own right, holding the frame even when doing little, and evincing sympathy even as Daniel reveals so little of himself to those around him. And the supporting performances by Spencer, Clemens, and others (McKinnon uses “Deadwood” alums Sean Bridgers and W. Earl Brown in small but memorable roles) are terrific as well.
To help us better understand the Bowie-esque man who fell to earth that Daniel has become, he series occasionally flashes back to his time on Death Row, where he and a neighboring convict tried to keep each other sane through the lack of human connection and stimulation. The other convict admires Daniel’s ability to be so at peace with doing time, to which Daniel replies, “I don’t do time.”
For some, the six hours of “Rectify” will feel like a very slow sentence indeed. For others, the performances, the very clear sense of time and place, the beautiful images and the thoughtful things the series has to say about life, death, and spirituality will feel like no time at all.April 23, 2013 at 8:23 am #273344
Hollywood Reporter’s review:
“Rectify”: TV Review
4/19/2013 by Tim Goodman
The Bottom Line: With the aid of a well-cast lead in Aden Young, “Rectify” avoids predictability—not just in its bold choice of immersive pacing, but its complicated characters—and makes a familiar story seem new.
9 p.m. Monday, April 22
Jake Austin Walker
Sundance Channel’s latest original focuses on a man (Aden Young) who finds himself free after a two-decade stint on death row.
One of the most mesmerizing and memorable aspects of “Rectify,” the new drama series from the Sundance Channel, is how the camera lingers on the face of its star, Aden Young, as he plays a man who was just freed from 19 years on death row and now tries to understand the world outside.
It’s a magnificent turn for Young, who is handed an incredibly difficult task in “Rectify,” the story of a Daniel Holden, who at 18 is convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend in a small Southern town, only to have that charge overturned by DNA evidence almost two decades later.
Almost every movie or television series about a convict getting freed begins with the man celebrating his release and either taking the happy route of starting his life again with family and friends or coming out with a vengeance, hell bent at retribution or a return to his wild ways. In almost every portrayal, there is a minimal amount of adjustment, like however many years in between incarceration and freedom were forgotten by knocking back a whiskey and beer in the local bar, plus a few back slaps from old friends.
In “Rectify,” which begins Monday at 9 p.m., series creator and writer Ray McKinnon, along with “Breaking Bad” executive producers Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson, have focused on the life-altering strangeness of that situation, how the passage of time—especially for a dead man walking—is almost too much to bear, an overwhelming sensory overload of unexpected new discoveries and old, familiar memories and sensations that were taken for granted.
That’s where the real beauty rests in “Rectify,” which purposefully slows down the movement in this superb character study (running an initial six episodes) and lets viewers bathe in what it must be like for a man to experience the shock of lost time and the wonder of a second chance. It’s a brave choice, since “Rectify” moves slowly and deliberately as both a murder mystery and a legal drama, but it’s a wonderful choice that comes to fruition the moment the camera first gazes at Young’s placid face.
There is so much to love in the originality of “Rectify,” but Young’s performance is so central to it all that it would be inconceivable if he doesn’t get Emmy recognition for his effort. When we first meet Daniel, he’s leaving prison for the first time, and it’s a concept that is almost too much for him to grasp. He moves so slow and deliberate that the audience is left to wonder if something has happened to him inside, like a head injury. Or maybe the teenager turned into a mentally slow adult, having rotted away waiting to die.
But “Rectify” soon reveals that Daniel’s laconic nature is far closer to Zen than anything else, and the prison flashback scenes that populate the series reiterate that assumption. To survive, Daniel had to live an introspective, solitary, meditative lifestyle that blocked out hope, that acknowledged nothing of the outside world, that accepted death as impending and freedom as an impossibility better left unimagined.
Only a series that would slowly and with poetic purpose allow that character to experience the unthinkable could actually work and have meaning. If McKinnon wrote “Rectify” as some kind of rowdy tale of retribution or had Daniel making up for lost time within a day of his release, it would be just another cliché. That he and his fellow writers and producers (and Sundance) have decided to let the audience experience, along with Daniel, what it’s like to see a sunrise, or take your shoes off and walk in the outfield grass of your hometown baseball diamond, is a wise decision. Because everything Daniel does becomes visceral—marveling at technological changes and tactile sensations (Daniel tossing a bean bag chair in the air and letting it land on him repeatedly, or pulling out the feathers of a down pillow and sleeping, naked, upon them).
There is, of course, a lot more going on in the series. His release is controversial and slowly riles up the small town. (The conceit of having Daniel stay is that he’s not capable of leaving—he can’t function normally, barely talks, and seems to almost be coming out of a coma at times.) His father died in prison and his mother, Janet (J. Smith-Cameron) has married Ted Talbot Sr. (Bruce McKinnon), a kind and patient man. Together they had a son, Jared (Jake Austin Walker), who hasn’t met half-brother Daniel until the day he’s let out.
An undercurrent to the story is that the family seems to have given up, stopped visiting as much, etc. All except sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who has devoted herself to getting him freed and, in the process, fallen for the lawyer, Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) from the nonprofit group Justice Row, which tries to free what it believes are innocent people facing death. Spencer is also magnetic as Amantha, a firebrand sister who hates their hometown but is compassionate and sensitive to Daniel’s reawakening of sorts. Spencer deftly handles the duality of the role.
Also in the mix are Ted Talbot Jr. (Clayne Crawford), a self-centered and shallow man more worried about losing the family business that is rightfully Daniel’s than he is about Daniel. Ted Jr. is married to Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) a young, devout Christian who feels compassion for Daniel.
Oh, all of that and the rumbling of a major cover-up involving the local police, old friends of Daniel, and a senator (Michael O’Neill) who used the case to help ride into office. Combined with a small town that doesn’t forget—and the view that Daniel got off on a technicality years after admitting that he did it—brings things to a boil.
But what makes “Rectify” so rich and compelling are the choices it makes to avoid predictability—not just in its bold choice of immersive pacing, but because it puts characters (and complicated ones) into what feels like a familiar story and makes it seem new. Sundance found a strong storyteller in McKinnon, who finds real depth with Daniel. But “Rectify” could have easily floundered if it hadn’t found Young, whose face and mannerisms bring Daniel’s life back from the dead.April 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm #273345
I really enjoyed, it felt extremely cinematic
The acting is really good!
Spencer and Smith-Cameron are great, but the true breakout is Aden Young
He’s wonderful, I truly hope they make it a serie instead of a mini-serieApril 25, 2013 at 3:41 am #273346
is it limited series? like Political Animals? or is it drama?
it seems to be in drama on prediction centre, but if it gets canceled it can be qualified as miniseries, right?April 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm #273347
Yes, but Sundance is not going to cancel their first original series after six episodes and with such great reviews.April 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm #273348
running to dig on to this!April 27, 2013 at 4:15 am #273349
somehow this show reminds me of The Killing…April 29, 2013 at 7:11 am #273350