Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rectify, Season 1


We live in a golden age for televised fiction. It has become the main way for people to get their escapism. Television has beaten literature because of its immediacy and its easy method of delivery. It only requires you to press play. Also, since the advent of DVD box sets and Netflix, it has also supplanted cinema since it requires less effort, doesn't cost forty bucks a pop if you want popcorn and offers you way more bang for your buck (ten or so hours, instead of two). It all started with THE SOPRANOS in 1999, but it brought series like THE WIRE, LOST, DEXTER, BREAKING BAD, JUSTIFIED and several other pop culture successes. All of these somehow lead to RECTIFY.

I have never seen something so literary on television. RECTIFY is southern gothic, in the vein of Truman Capote, Carson McCullers and Cormac McCarthy. Let that sink for a moment. Why would something inspired by the slow, contemplative and passively violent like southern gothic fiction would work on T.V? I don't know, but it does. Sundance Channel's RECTIFY,  is smooth, understated and thoroughly beautiful. Who would have know television could elevate the soul?

It's the story of Daniel Holden, sentenced to die twenty years ago for the rape and murder of his girlfriend Hannah Dean. After a long, exhausting legal battle, a puzzling DNA proof gives Daniel his ticket to a new life. He is released, pending a new trial. Daniel had been preparing himself to die for two decades and just like that, he leaves his purgatory and walks into the life he left so long ago. The adaptation is surreal both physically, intellectually and emotionally. Daniel is walking through his old neighborhood, unsure whether it is real or not, while anger broods amongst residents, about his release.

There is an underlying mystery to RECTIFY: who really killed Hannah Dean? Author Ray McKinnon is peppering small, subtle clues with rhythm and patience. There is a long, ambiguous segment that deals deliberately with the mystery at the end of episode one, but that's as obvious as it will get and it doesn't give any clear answer. It just alludes that people lied in their testimonies and that the conclusions the initial investigation has drawn are wrong. For all we know, Daniel could have still killed her, but it didn't happen like it's said on the record.

RECTIFY is subtle, surreal, graceful, mysterious and yet it focuses on Daniel's experiences and the duality of being a death row convict having to adapt to normal life again. He has about one flashback of his time on the row and they are showstoppers in themselves. They are microcosms of savagery, hopelessness and humanity. The way they clash with Daniel's tranquil present reality is brutal. Emphasizes that Daniel has to reacquaint himself with things like hope, love, kindness and beauty, that were taken  from him at the tender, formative age of eighteen.

It's been renewed for another season by Sundance Channel, this time for ten episodes. It's the best news I heard all month. Josie and I went through the six episodes of season one in three days. Abigail Spencer, Adelaide Clemens and Aden Young all offer powerful, accurate performances that make Ray McKinnon's * fiction come alive. If you're looking for something different from your run-of-the-mill mystery show, give RECTIFY a try. It his rock solid and understands perfectly what it's trying to be.

*Uncle Wes, from the FOOTLOSE remake, if you remember him

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