It’s another week of TV season and series finales here …
Part of Rectify’s appeal in its short first season was its intense focus, be it on a specific character, idea, or even just a singular image. It obviously wasn’t the show’s only strength, but it’s extreme focus on character over plot (a list of characters that included Paulie, Georgia) allowed it to dig deep – a level-headed exploration of faith, the legal system, and the nature of existence rarely found in any form of media.
Change. At the heart of Rectify is the idea of change: set in a town stuck in the past, featuring a family reeling from an event twenty years ago, and a main character whose entire reality is broken the instant he’s released from prison. And as the heart of Rectify, the Holden household kitchen serves as the perfect metaphor for change: starting over really only happens when you start over, when you finally get rid of the old and allow the new to consume you. But true, soul-enriching change is scary, difficult, and easily corrupted: and in “Donald the Normal” and “Act As If”, that struggle bleeds into every scene, every conversation, every shot composition – and as always, makes for some of the most compelling, philosophically curious TV around.
Whether it be feelings, traumatic life events, or relationships that forever haunt us, there’s always forces we can’t see constantly trying to deform and reshape who we are as human beings. In fact, our strength of character is often defined by how well we can stand up to these forces, like a tree branch unwilling to fall, even in the strongest of storms. And as every character in Rectify finds themselves fighting against events and ideas almost completely out of their control, “Charlie Darwin” is a story of resilience, of keeping hope in these dark, modern times, where the definitions of everything in the world (right down to “bad” and “good”) have become curved like the instruments in the Holden family vehicle, slippery, hard-to-define shapes missing the definitive angles they may once have had.
Paired with last week’s premiere, “Sleeping Giant” feels very much like a prologue to the real second season of Rectify, a season that finally kicks into high gear with the ‘resurrection’ of Daniel from his coma (which manifests itself in Daniel’s brain as a prison cell, speaking to his character on so many levels). What precedes it is a meandering stroll through Paulie, as a number of characters examine their preconceptions, each of them discovering whether they have the “motivation to change” or not. Unlike season one, this theme isn’t as subtly crafted into each character’s story as it had before – but as Rectify moves from contemplative examination of one man’s mind to a larger story about the town surrounding him, “Sleeping Giant” begins the new task of combining plot movement with thematic unity (mostly) with grace.