Delving back into the world Ray McKinnon has created with his exceptional drama Rectify is like visiting family. The desire to reunite is a joyous one, but it’s also not necessarily without its conflicts and even pain. Season 3 doesn’t hold back on any of those latter emotions, even just as of its first episode, which picks up immediately where Season 2 left off.
Daniel (Aden Young) is still a divisive factor in his family, especially in the wake of his decision to take a plea deal from DA in which he had to admit the crime and be banished from the state. Amantha (Abigail Spencer) is rightfully heartbroken that after devoting her life to proving her brother’s innocence, he throws everything away by embracing guilt (whether true or not) and leaving.
No one has been more affected by Daniel’s return from prison though than Ted, Jr. (Clayne Crawford), who feels completely forgotten and disconnected from his family. Season 2 dealt with the raw emotions of his marriage to Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) falling apart, after she realized her attraction to Daniel (his was always overt). Further, Ted, Jr. struggles with the knowledge of Daniel’s assault on him near the close of Season 1 becoming known to more and more people (Tawney included). That fallout continues to spread in Season 3, as more people are made aware of Daniel’s actions, which begins to — more than ever — cloud their perception.
And while the emotions between Ted, Jr. and Tawney (who has left home for now and is staying with friends; neither one of them is able to articulate their feelings clearly) continue to run high, one of the most emotional moments of the new season occurs between Ted, Jr. and Janet (J. Smith Cameron), who finally has a moment where she realizes how much she has been neglecting her step-son since Daniel’s return. In a heart-wrenching moment, she tells him how much she loves him. “Thank you, Janet,” he says politely but without the warmth she is hoping for. “I wish I had never told you to call me that,” she replies thoughtfully.
Everything about Rectify is thoughtful, emotional, and occasionally provocative. But Season 3, more than ever, has opened up Rectify to beyond just Daniel’s point of view and experiences, and the show is better for it. While the rest of the story continues to be meditative (and often sad), there’s one plot that seems poised to pick up a little steam regarding George. At the end of the last season, his body was discovered, and though DA Person (Sharon Conley) and Carl (J.D. Evermore) presume a suicide, the lack of a gun leads to more questions they are surely hoping Daniel might be able to help them answer (even though it’s really Sean Bridgers’ Trey they’re after).
That discovery and those questions mean that Daniel’s story with local law enforcement is far from over, but it also suggests that, perhaps, there will be some justice served. Truth and memory are slippery on Rectify, and there’s little guarantee that viewers will ever know, fully, what happened on that night decades ago with Hannah. But Rectify dances around those facts by exploring everything else, and the resulting ambiguity all plays into Daniel’s memories and changing conception of himself.
The last impression of Rectify though is always authenticity — in fact, it may be the most authentic series, from top to bottom, that has ever been on TV. And Season 3 is just as raw, intense, and darkly beautiful as ever before. It’s a continued meditation on family, on the self, and on a certain subsection of life in the South. In Season 1, Daniel returned home to a family who (for the most part) could not wait to embrace him and celebrate his return. Season 3 finds things in a very different place. Daniel has lost many of his supporters among his family (including Bruce McKinnon’s Ted, Sr.), and is preparing to leave home forever and go into the unknown. The beginning of the new season is filled with uncertainty, but not from viewers. We will go wherever it takes us.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
Rectify Season 3 premieres on SundanceTV Thursday, July 9th at 10 p.m. ET