A review of tonight's Rectify coming up just as soon as I go to the big flashlight store…
One of the more striking moments in last week's season premiere was Daniel telling Chloe the artist that he didn't believe his new life in Nashville was real. In “Yolk” – an episode that takes place at roughly the same time as the premiere, only catching us up with the rest of the family back in Paulie – an anxious Janet tells Ted Sr. why she has to go visit Daniel: “I have to see him – make sure he's real.”
Like mother, like son.
Rectify has always been smart about showing the ways that Daniel's return was as difficult for the family as it was for him. In theory, his exile from Georgia should reset them all to the pre-release status quo, but life's a lot more complicated than that, and “Yolk” derives much of its power from showing how everyone's life has been irrevocably altered by the brief time he was living at home. Like the oven in the otherwise modern kitchen, his presence lingers.
In some cases, Daniel is at the front of mind for people. Janet is having difficulty getting out of bed, leaves her son forlorn voicemail messages, and only seems inspired when she realizes she can bake him a cake in the oven he gave her. Jon tries to convince his bosses to let him keep working Daniel's case, even though he's no longer incarcerated and his co-workers are drowning in cases involving people still behind bars. Hannah's mother, who has spent the last two decades blaming Daniel for her daughter's rape and murder, is angry at the thought that Carl might now have to tell her that someone else did it.
But many of the most powerful scenes in “Yolk” are only about Daniel by implication.
Amantha, having put her entire adult life on hold for the sake of her brother, is struggling to adjust to the realization that she's now manager at Thrifty Town, getting high – and getting into a single-vehicle accident – to try to take her mind off it. Partway through the show's run, somebody realized that Amantha could be funny, and Abigail Spencer has been mining that rueful humor for all that it's been worth.
Meanwhile, it's remarkable to compare the Ted Jr. of “Yolk” to the strutting jerk from the start of the series. Daniel's return blew up his marriage – in part by making Tawney realize she wasn't entirely happy in it – but Teddy's still in there, trying so damn hard to do right by his wife, even if, as I suspect, all his attempts to let her find herself convince her to move on without him. It's painful to watch those scenes, because he's so sincere but also likely doomed, and it would be hard to reconcile this Teddy from the one I wanted to punch in the face if Clayne Crawford and the show hadn't so expertly walked us up to this point. Hell, he even seems genuine when asking Janet how Daniel – a man who once assaulted and humiliated him, on top of what he did with his wife – is doing, even if his interest is primarily in helping his stepmother deal with the absence.
The car accident forces Amantha to stay at Janet and Ted's house, and as Ted makes his famous flapjacks, they seem like a functional family unit. We get some sense of what life must have been like, say, 10 years into Daniel's sentence, in that time after they had gotten used to his conviction but before his release seemed even a remote possibility. Janet smiles and tells Ted it reminds her of the old days – adding, “I mean, our old days,” because of course there have been multiple old days for her family, including the ones with Daniel and Amantha's father.
Though Amantha reluctantly agrees to Ted's plan to swap living situations, so that she can save money and be a comfort to Janet while he can get out from under his father's watchful eye, there's no going back to any real version of the old days, not for long. Daniel will always be there, even when he's absent.
Some other thoughts:
* Janet gets to take some tiny measure of vigilante justice against Trey (now out on bail) by smashing all the eggs in his grocery cart. If her goal was to just mess with the guy, she'd have been better off making her handiwork less overt, so that he arrived home to discover a useless carton of eggs, or even didn't see it until he was ready to make breakfast the next day. But Janet's goals were less mischief than sending a message about how unwanted she wants him to feel in Paulie now, and if ruining a dozen eggs (and perhaps some of the groceries they dripped onto) is small compared to the years her son spent in jail for a crime she thinks Trey committed, well… Janet is not the Punisher. And we know on this show that kitchen-related destruction can linger.
* What a beautiful shot of Paulie at sunset, and Amantha lying in the satellite dish while smoking up. And while Jared's backdoor camping night seemed mainly like a way for the show to remind us that Jared still exists, the moment where he looks at the same sunset as Amantha nicely linked the siblings.
* Unlike Amazon's Red Oaks, I would never expect Rectify to actually do a body swap episode, but when Teddy asked Amantha if she wanted to trade places, a weird part of me hoped that this was where it was heading. (That, or maybe some cross-dressing hijinx. Preferably kitchen-adjacent.)
* Unless both the internet and my own memory are tricking me, I don't believe we've seen Amantha's old friend Billy Harris before. But I suspect this will not be the last time we see him, either.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com