Season finale review: ‘Rectify’ – ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

Some thoughts on the finale of “Rectify,” and this entire first season, coming up just as soon as it’s time we got into yarn…

Though the premise of “Rectify” would suggest a limited run, Ray McKinnon has said all along that he intended it as an ongoing project, with a length to be determined. Having seen all six episodes of this first season, I’m very glad Sundance elected to renew it, both because these six episodes demonstrated how the series could work over an at least slightly longer haul, and because I would rather Daniel’s story not end this way.

I mean, Daniel being savagely beaten by his girlfriend’s brother and his friends while visiting her grave works as an ending. Over these six hours, Daniel sought some level of peace, whether through wrapping himself back up in childish things, letting Tawney talk him into a baptism (and how great was Aden Young in the baptism sequence?), wrestling with the goat man(*), etc. He tried connecting with his mother and sister, with mixed success, and the only person he felt genuinely close to was Tawney, which is complicated given that she’s married to his d-bag stepbrother.(**) He just wants to go someplace else to find peace, but too many people in this town are invested in never letting him find peace, and he gets beaten down before he can go.

(*) Call it, friendos: was the goat man real, some kind of hallucination, a spiritual visitor from way up above (their wrestling match evoking Jacob and the angel) or below (his fascination with the statue), or some combination of them all? That Daniel still has the cash after says the encounter wasn’t purely imagined, but Daniel is in such a strange place mentally and emotionally that anything could have happened in that field and he may not have fully processed it.

(**) Speaking of things left open for interpretation, I’d like to think that Daniel didn’t do anything more to Ted Jr. than leave him lying in the position where Ted woke up later with his pants pulled down and the coffee grounds on his rear. It’s such a strange, unsettling power move that I don’t imagine he needed to do anything more to the guy.

That could work as an ending to the story if Sundance hadn’t ordered more, but I feel like there’s so much more to tell – and not just because McKinnon spent precious little time this season dealing with Trey, George’s body in the woods, and what really happened 19 years ago. What McKinnon and company showed is that there’s so much more to this story than whodunnit and what will happen next – some of the series’ best moments involved Daniel alone, trying to readjust to this world he no longer felt a part of – and I’ll be curious to see how much, if at all, the second season pivots towards the actual details of the case and away from Daniel’s inner struggle.

This was a gorgeous six hours of television, one of the best shows I’ve seen so far in 2013, and one I’m eager to see continue next year. But I’m curious what everyone who watched the whole thing thought. Did the pacing ever get to you, or did you simply adjust to the show’s rhythms? Did you get frustrated that no one was stumbling across George’s body? Were you as impressed by Young, Adelaide Clemens and Abigail Spencer as I was? And how would you have felt if no renewal had come and we ended with Daniel being loaded into the ambulance?

Have at it.