By Paula Hendrickson
SundanceTV’s critically lauded series, Rectify, returns this week for a third season. I loved the languid pace of the show’s first season – which was just six episodes long – but last year’s slightly longer, 10-episode run felt like it dragged on in spots, so I’m glad they opted for a shorter, and hopefully tighter, season this year.
Rectify is not a happy, joyous or action-filled show. It’s a thought-provoking, relationship-driven mystery of sorts. It delves into some deep philosophical and psychological territory.
If you haven’t followed the story from the start, here’s a quick primer: After nearly two decades on death row, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released from prison based on new DNA evidence despite having to confessed to the rape and murder of his girlfriend as a teenager. He hasn’t been cleared of the crime, and knows his freedom may be temporary.
The first season focused on Daniel adjusting to life outside of death row. He got through all of those years of isolation by reading and meditating. That alone makes his re-integration to society difficult. His odd and very dry sense of humor, shared only by his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) and their mother (J. Smith-Cameron) doesn’t always help. Worse yet, Pauly, Georgia is a small town filled with friends and family of the murdered girl – and his former prosecutor (Michael O’Neill) is now a senator bent on getting Daniel back in prison.
At the end of the first season, Daniel was severely beaten by a group of men led by the brother of the girl Daniel is thought to have killed. The second season opens with Daniel in a medically-induced coma. Once he recovers, his already badly dysfunctional relationship with his step-brother, Teddy (Clayne Crawford), devolves as Daniel grows even closer to Teddy’s open-hearted wife, Tawney (Adelaide Clemons).
One question never answered in the first two seasons is whether or not Daniel really committed the crimes. Just when you believe someone else must have raped and murdered the victim, Daniel says or does something that makes you doubt his innocence. Like in the season two finale when he confesses, again, to strangling but not raping his then-girlfriend during a debriefing with the district attorney – while also claiming the senator had coerced his confession two decades earlier.
Was Daniel actually admitting a crime? Or was his making a point that just because someone says something on the record doesn’t make it true?
Maybe we’ll find out what Daniel actually did or didn’t do when season three picks up this week, but probably not. One thing you can expect is that Rectify will have you pondering subjects like guilt, innocence, and integrity — and wondering how much any of those things matter when public opinion is involved.
The season three premiere of Rectify is Thursday at 9 p.m. CST on SundanceTV. (Rockford’s Comcast-Xfinity only broadcasts the standard-definition version of the channel, so if you want to view it in high-definition, look for Rectify On Demand or via a streaming service.)