It’s doubtful this is really what McKinnon has in mind for the future, but it’s not like Rectify has ever been a show strictly concerned with objectives and destinations. George Melton’s corpse, discovered at the end of last season, ought to further complicate Daniel’s case, but it’s a thread the show is in no hurry to tie up. Rectify likes to linger on big questions of existence, family, and morality, but your moment-to-moment enjoyment of the show often stems from how minutely constructed it is as a whole.
Young’s reserved but captivating performance turns the show around him into an echo chamber for Daniel’s internal plight, his smallest actions daisy chaining through the rest of the Holden family and Paulie. Information travels slowly on Rectify, and the show’s heavy reliance on two-hander dialogue scenes ensures that every member of the cast is adding to the broth when the slightest change occurs. Daniel’s fate having seemingly been decided, Amantha (Abigail Spencer, bitter and wounded as any sympathetic TV asshole should be) discovers newfound resentment for the brother whose life she put her own on hold to save. Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) and Ted Jr.’s (Clayne Crawford) separation is still in its infancy, with revealing details about both their childhoods coming to light in the second hour.
Rectify’s wandering spirit and the usual demands of television structure have kept an uneasy truce since the show’s beginning, a balance the second season started to get out of whack over the course of an expanded 10-episode run. J.D. Evermore’s Sheriff Daggett is one of the most fascinating characters in Paulie, a man increasingly devoted to the power of law the more it’s corrupted by powers that be, but police procedure isn’t typically what one comes to Rectify for. On the flip side, the human mysteries that McKinnon really wants to investigate are liable to their own hang-ups and tail chasing. Like its existentialist crime contemporaries of Hannibal and True Detective, Rectify sometimes requires faith in the meaning of the words being spoken, not the words themselves.
But also like those contemporaries, any “act” the show is putting on is a beautifully maintained one. The music of Gabriel Mann and cinematography of Paul M. Sommers let much of Rectify play out like a wordless tone poem. Stephen Gyllenhaal, who directs the premiere, visualizes the season’s looming countdown in an otherwise simple dinner conversation. Despite its probing questions about intangible concepts of innocence and forgiveness, it’s the simple things that matter just as much to Rectify. It’s not a show that talks down to matters or people of belief, but instead recognizes the basic, universal qualities felt by anyone who’s experienced fear and wonderment in the face of the unknown.
Season 3 keeps Rectify as compelling and challenging as summer TV usually gets.