As if there weren’t already enough beautifully shot TV series about difficult subject matter featuring capable actors, along comes Rectify, the Sundance Channel’s first wholly owned scripted series. The crime drama centers on the twenty-year aftermath of a brutal rape and murder that rocked and shocked a small Georgia town, the main suspect's release from Death Row, and how his newfound innocence affects everyone around him.
But the main question is whether or not you should watch this, right? Well, I’ve seen the two-episode premiere, and here's my two cents:
Rectify? What is this even about?
It's about this dude named Daniel Holden who spent 19 years on Death Row for raping and killing his then-teenage girlfriend. Some new DNA evidence comes to light and he's released back into his small Georgia hometown. Some people think he's innocent and some people think he got off on a technicality. Everybody's pretty weirded out about his return, though some folks mean well and others want to slap his ass right back into prison. Most of the drama comes from how the family comes to terms with being the center of local controversy, and the existential side of Holden's return to granted, everyday freedoms.
Now hold on who's behind all this Rectify business?
Ray McKinnon, who's normally an actor, created the show and wrote the two-hour season premiere. His writing credits are few and far between, but McKinnon has a long and storied acting career with stints on Deadwood as Reverened H.W. Smith and Sons of Anarchy as Lincoln "Linc" Potter, so he probably absorbed tons of pointers. Add Breaking Bad producers Melissa Bernstein and Mark Johnson with the always prestigious Sundance name and this show certainly isn't hurting for esteemed credentials. Daniel Holden is played by Aden Young, an Australian actor who, in addition to appearing in a slew of well-regarded Aussie movies and TV shows, also garnered the award for Best Actor from the Australian Film Critics Circle for the film Metal Skin. He's joined by Abigail Spencer (Mad Men, HawthoRNe, Suits) as Daniel’s plucky, supportive sister Amantha, as well as tons of other familiar faces.
When does this Rectify fellow get released from incarceration?
Rectify premieres Monday, April 22 at 9pm on the Sundance Channel.
Who is the audience for Rectify?
Ex-cons, the wrongfully accused, good ol’ boys, people with weird families. But mostly, Rectify is aiming for a crowd that appreciates pensive, edgy material presented in an artful way. Given the violent backdrop, male lead character, and its premiere spot nestled between The Shawshank Redemption and a Breaking Bad rerun, thoughtful adult males will probably make up the bulk of viewers. It’s like that show Oz, but about what happens once you get out and have to deal with a nice family and a gawking public. So if you like that show, maybe you’ll like this one too? Also folks who enjoy the serious parts of Justified and Breaking Bad might give this a spin, because there’s a focus on familial relationships subjected to extreme circumstances. But it’s not trying to be fun really, so keep the dourness of The Killing in mind and remember how that was somewhat enjoyable.
What's good about it?
Daniel Holden has the perfect voice. End of story. I could listen to this guy read the side of a water heater. By the end of the second episode, the characters are all fully formed and ready for some interesting journeys. Humanizing the return of a family member from prison whose guilt is debatable is certainly a worthwhile focus. And who doesn't like spending time in a cozy small town? The series shot exceptionally well (for the most part), and has a strong handle on Southern music. My favorite parts are the philosophical diatribes about basic existence that the bewildered Daniel occasionally goes off on, almost in an Enlightened sort of way. Aside from that, the fun of this show is going to be the eccentricities of family and the dark side of small-town politics
Hey man quit jerking me around and give it to me straight, what's not good about it?
The first hour is super slow—like, to the point where I was ready to write off the show altogether. Also there were three instances of news reports/press conferences expositing information, a tell-tale sign of lazy writing. Hang on for the second hour! Aden Young is a fine actor, and I'm sure getting out of Death Row is very disorienting, but the character Daniel Holden sometimes comes off like a straight-up alien on his first visit to Earth (though to be fair, one character at least alludes to this in the show by calling him "Star Man"). Also, it can be emotionally exhausting to think about rape and murder so much with little relief. Sometimes, Rectify feels like it chose a heavy subject for the sake of dramatic edginess, and doesn't necessarily earn it.
Dude, should I watch it?
Yeah why not? I mean, there were only about two scenes in the whole first two hours that felt especially captivating, but they also felt unique to this show. I think Rectify is worth checking out to see where it goes.
Is there a trailer I can check out first?
Stay right there I got one somewhere around here... oh okay yeah:
What liquids and solids are good for the face-hole while my brain and eyes do stuff with the talking picture box?
Toilet wine, fried chicken, and mama's lemon squares.
Rectify premieres Monday April 22 at 9pm on Sundance, right after The Shawshank Redemption.