Rectify Season 3, Episode 4, “Girl Jesus”
Written by Scott Teems
Directed by Scott Teems
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on Sundance
“What will I be when they put me back together again?” Daniel asks his sister during “Girl Jesus”, a thinly-veiled reference to the infamous, egg-starring nursery rhyme. Yet it’s a question that permeates every corner of Rectify’s third season, which has lifted Paulie from any sense of temporal reality, observing the town and its people as if frozen in time inside a snow globe. Shaking said globe is Daggett, of course, trying to loosen the bits and pieces of truth surrounding George Milton’s death – and as the facts, rumors, emotions, and preconceptions fill the air of Rectify‘s purgatorial setting, “Girl Jesus” begins to show characters fighting against the stasis of their lives, all looking for the unfamiliar, “more crooked path” to inner peace Amantha speaks of when having lunch with Jon.
How “Girl Jesus” observes this prism of Paulie’s characters is endlessly fascinating: it opens with a challenge to the audience to empathize with the horrible state senator, who can no longer even verbally express when he needs a drink of water, much less use his arms and legs to take care of a such a simple need. Stricken helpless, the senator finds himself unable to do anything but watch the world around him pass by, unable to communicate with them: the parallels to Daniel’s time in prison here are obvious, and “Girl Jesus” challenges us not to revel in what feels like a moral victory for Daniel.
Unfortunately, it’s the only victory to be found around Paulie: “Girl Jesus” is essentially a series of scenes of characters reluctantly trying to gain control of their lives. Amantha’s embracing her new job, Daniel’s trying to follow his probation officer’s warning, and Trey’s trying to make sure that Daniel gets locked up for the murder of George – which Daggett is still not considering a suicide, weighing the motives of both Daniel and Trey in roundabout fashion as tries to unravel two crimes (or three) across two decades. Everyone is looking for that one thing in their lives to ‘save’ themselves and what they hold dear: a job, an attempt at couples therapy, or simply finding momentary solace in painting a large swimming pool. “Girl Jesus” may be a reference to the woman Daniel thought would be his salvation, but is was misguided; from poor Marcy visiting the senator I’m sure she had dreams about, to Jon wishing he still had Amantha by his side, every character finds themselves returning to the safest places they think they can find solace, and come up empty.
There’s a lot of external plot movement, too, be it Janet and Ted’s quickly dissolving marriage or Daggett’s investigation: but framed around Daniel trying to fit into the neat little box known as “probation”, and led by the haunting images of him having flashbacks to walking down prison hallways (which he has on his way to meet his probation officer), “Girl Jesus” is less about people looking for saviors and finding happiness, than it is about people finding scapegoats and coming up empty in the process, bringing Rectify back to the deeply personal stories and philosophic underpinnings of the show’s near-flawless first season.
– the final shot of Daniel, standing at the top of the pool steps leaking enamel down in jagged trickles, is about as powerful a closing shot Rectify‘s ever had.
– The Janet/Ted Sr. material is hardly nuanced, and Ted Sr.’s stoic approach isn’t bringing their story to life with the same level-handed approach to portraying both sides.
– “You have to bend to this life, Daniel; it doesn’t bend to you.”
– the story of Ted and Tawney meeting is adorable; watching them reflect on it is equally heartbreaking. Teddy has become television’s most lovable asshole, and Clayne Crawford’s nuanced performance is the reason why.
– “You’re still not a cynic Jon; that’s what I love about you.” Ugh, those Amantha/Jon scenes are so powerful, and hard to stomach.
– The ethereal nature of Trey showing up in the Holden’s living room is creepy, creepy stuff.