Review: ‘Rectify’ – ‘The Great Destroyer’

Some thoughts on tonight's “Rectify” – and on the outstanding second season to date – coming up just as soon as we can talk about vacations or chihuahuas…

I last wrote about “Rectify” at the start of this season, after I had seen three episodes, which largely kept Daniel sidelined in response to the beating he suffered at the end of season 1. It seemed clear then that Ray McKinnon had a plan both for how to keep the show functioning even when Daniel wasn't at the center of it and for how to simply keep the narrative moving in a second and longer season. But even given that, I've been really impressed with what he and the rest of team “Rectify” have accomplished since then.

Not only have they made someone like Ted Jr. into a more complex (if only sometimes sympathetic) figure, but they've deepened our understanding of all the characters and their relationships with one another. The marriage between Janet and Ted Sr. – and all the compromises that this very good man has gladly made in return for whatever love Janet could give him – has turned into one of my favorite on television, Amantha's job at the discount store has expanded her beyond just being Daniel's fierce advocate (and has shown just how much of her life has been put on hold in service to her brother), and Carl the sheriff has turned into a fascinating guy torn between pressure from Senator Foulkes and his growing suspicion that Daniel is innocent. Even someone like Jared, who hasn't gotten a lot of time in the spotlight, really came to life in an episode like this, as you can imagine how a kid that age would react to the news that Daniel was considering the plea deal.

It's also been terrific seeing how many different kinds of episodes the show can offer us. Season 1 was fairly claustrophobic, but did have time for digressions like Daniel's adventures with the goat man. With more episodes to play with, and a more elongated time frame (episodes only sometimes take place on consecutive days now), there's opportunity for more kinds of stories and incidents. Daniel's trip to Atlanta a few weeks ago – first to feel normal posing as “Donald” at the museum, then having an emotionally turbulent meeting with Kerwin's family – was a wonder, and I'd have gladly watched an entire episode that just took place at one of Lezlie-with-a-Z's house parties. And everything feels tied together not only because the characters are the same, but because the show is able to place enormous emotional weight onto everyday activities and objects, like Daniel's quest for the old gas stove, or Tawney repeatedly cooking her special mac 'n cheese for Ted Jr.

Season 1 also had a casual interest at best in the main plot of the show – or what the main plot would be if anyone else was making it, on any other channel – but season 2 has done a nice job nudging issues related to the murder and Daniel's trial forward without transforming the series into something it's not. We still had to wait half the season for Daniel and Trey to cross paths at all, and though last week's road trip was tense and unsettling – and the sort of thing that I fear will only worsen Daniel's legal situation whenever authorities finally visit George's house – it was also clearly just a prologue to whatever is coming next for these two men, the prosecutors, Jon, etc.

“The Great Destroyer” revisited what remains the show's most powerful relationship, as Daniel had to call Tawney for a ride back from Florida when his pedaling legs gave out. Aden Young and Adelaide Clemens are so fantastic separately and together, and there is such fraught chemistry between the two characters, with their feelings for each other running far deeper and more complicated than simple questions of romantic or sexual attraction. Daniel represents something to Tawney, and vice versa, and she obviously connects with him on a far deeper level than she does with Ted Jr., but she also knows that being so emotionally intimate with a man who isn't her husband is wrong, just as he's aware of the damage he can inflict on those who care about him.

I like that the series remains ambiguous about what role, if any, Daniel played in Hannah's murder. I'd like to believe he's wholly innocent – just an easy patsy for a crime committed by George and/or Trey – but it also wouldn't feel the least bit wrong if at some point he remembers everything about that night and realizes that he belonged inside that prison cell in between Kerwin and Wendall. (With occasional visits from the wonderful Charlie chaplain.)

“Rectify” is such an unusual show that I find myself preferring to watch it at a strange pace (above and beyond whatever complications came from my July travels), so I only caught up to the season this week. But now that we're so close to the end of the season – and on the verge of a major family blow-up now that Ted Sr. knows about the coffee grounds incident – my hope is to watch episodes 9 & 10 close to when they air. If I don't have a review of next week's episode, I will absolutely have some thoughts on the finale and season 2 as a whole in a couple of weeks.

But in the meantime, how's everybody feeling about the season so far? And what did everybody think of tonight's episode?