Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Sundance’s Rectify is television as known unknown. Like any program that has a couple years under its belt, the show’s third season (premiering July 9th) features many of the touchstones that define the series: patient dialogue, dreamy photography and a pace that makes time feel dilated. The contemplative nature of Rectify took many viewers (at least, many among the show’s pitifully small total audience) by surprise when it first premiered, but certain expectations have since been established. Season 3 finds Rectify the same show it has been for two years now, but grappling with what exactly that show is still makes for a unique, at times transcendent TV experience.
Season 3 opens with a candy bar getting stuck in a vending machine, a handy, no doubt purposeful metaphor from creator Ray McKinnon (who pens the first two hours) for what you should continue to expect from his series. Rectify is a different kind of treat, a mug of spiced tea that’s meant to warm you up and clear your head. Even with a newly introduced murder investigation and ticking clock hanging overhead, Rectify still moves with sloth-like purpose in Season 3. The show ruminates in each moment, extracting every ounce of dramatic sustenance available, careful not to move so fast as to upset the delicate ecosystem of characters and relationships methodically created so far.
It’s a quality that saps a little urgency out of the season’s brewing storm. Last year ended with Daniel Holden (Aden Young) making a plea deal with the Georgia State prosecutors, confessing, rather unconvincingly, to the murder of Hannah Dean, a crime he’s already spent 19 years of his life paying for on death row. That it’s still unclear to everyone, perhaps even Daniel himself, as to whether or not he’s guilty is the sort of narrative vagary you’d usually want to roll your eyes at. But most TV cares about working through dramatic problems, not feeling out spiritual ones. Where the life and value of other shows can be measured like sand through an hourglass, Rectify finds comfort in admiring the individual grains.
The emotional gravity of the series means that time plays differently here than we’re often used to. In the months that Rectify has been off the air, maybe an hour has passed since we last saw Daniel and the rest of the Holden family. In a way, this makes Daniel’s punishment, banishment from his hometown of Paulie, sound a lot less threatening than it should be. Given that the series has covered only a few weeks in Daniel’s post-prison life over 16 episodes, the 30 day deadline until his exile is an eventuality that Rectify wouldn’t get to for another couple seasons at the current rate.