TV Review of new show called Rectify (from the executive producers of Breaking Bad)
PLOT: After nearly twenty-years a Death Row inmate is released upon the discovery of newly found DNA evidence. Upon his release, he must try and reconnect with his family that grew without him. The greater challenge however may be a battle with the politicians and law enforcement who firmly believe in his guilt.
Over the past few years there have been numerous television shows that have proven audiences do respond to original and challenging material. And thankfully, the very first scripted series wholly owned by the Sundance Channel is no exception. “Rectify” is a thoughtful and provocative drama about a man freed from prison due to some newly discovered DNA evidence. The new series follows the release of Daniel Holden (Aden Young) after nineteen years of complete isolation on Death Row.
When we first meet Daniel he is about to face an onslaught of reporters as well as a family that he barely knows. He shares an awkward hug with his sister Anessa (Abigail Spencer) as well as a stilted introduction to his stepbrother Ted Talbot, Jr (Clayne Crawford) and his wife Tawney Talbot (Adelaide Clemens). Then there is his mother Janet who seems to have emotionally separated herself from the pain and agony of Daniel’s situation. During a press conference only moments later, Daniel reveals to the press a very strange and uncomfortable speech which only fuels the fire for those who believe in his guilt.
“Rectify” is a haunting examination of Daniel’s family and the townsfolk who have their doubts upon his innocence. Throughout the series, the main focus is on how Daniel sees his newly found freedom. As his sister Anessa is driving him home after leaving prison for the first time, he questions why he is so tired. Soon, he falls asleep in the passenger seat as if his body is shutting down from the extremely intense change crushing down on him. There is a real sweetness to this scene as well as the rest of the series, thanks to some impressively realistic dialogue.
Aden Young is a revelation as Daniel Holden. The small moments of joy he shares are so subtle with shades of darkness as well as his childlike innocence. When he rediscovers his old cassette player in the attic and proceeds to dance around, it is at once bizarre yet fitting for someone who was removed from society at such a young age only to return twenty years later without any social growth. Young is able to garner a sense of empathy for his character with this captivating performance. His work is far more intriguing seeing that in the four episodes I watched you are not necessarily one hundred percent sure that he is innocent.
As much as this is Daniel’s story, one of the most surprising relationships is his developing friendship with Tawney, beautifully played by Adelaide Clemens. She opens up her life to him inviting the controversial figure to her church even if her husband Ted fears that Daniel actually committed the crime he served all those years for. There is also an affecting relationship between Holden’s teenage half-brother Jared (Jake Austin Walker) who helps Daniel discover some of the joys in life, like riding a street bike and watching DAZED AND CONFUSED on DVD while eating popcorn. Both Clemens and Walker are fantastic as two people reaching out to their newly introduced family member.
Where “Recitfy” really works is the exploration of family. Abigail Spencer is perfect as Daniel’s younger sister Anessa who has fought to get him out of his literal death sentence, along with their lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby). While there is a sub-plot regarding a secret affair between Anessa and Jon, it is subtle enough to not distract from the main story at hand. However when it comes to Senator Roland Foulkes (Michael O’Neill) and his politically inclined determination to put Daniel back in prison, the story loses some of its power. “Rectify” is more than just a crime drama, it is a poetic and thought provoking look at how we adjust to tragedy.
Created by Ray McKinnon and executive produced by Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein – the team behind the fantastic series “Breaking Bad” – their latest outing is an impressively moody piece. It is another outstanding series that manages to make the quiet moments just as affecting as the more dramatic ones. “Rectify” is a layered and thoughtful six part series which boasts remarkable performances and is beautifully written and directed. Make sure you look for the legendary Hal Holbrook in a small role as Daniel’s former attorney.
|Extra Tidbit:||The first two episodes "Always There" and "Sexual Peeling" premiere Monday night starting at 9pm EST.|