October 27, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Rectify”


RECTIFY:  Wednesday 10PM on Sundance

Ray McKinnon’s Sundance drama RECTIFY is the prestige television series for those who consider themselves just a little bit too good, even these days, for TV.  With its glacial pace, arid narrative, film festival trappings and copious religious touchstones, it announces its own self-importance to the world at large.  In its way, that’s fan service just as much as one would find on a sci-fi or supernatural drama, except in this case it earns critical hosannas for its integrity and assorted honorific loot like Peabody Awards.

As must be evident, I’ve never boarded the Rectify covered bandwagon, and I’m content to see it ride off at the end of this 4th and final season to the land of critical All-Time Top 10 Lists and Hall of Fame inductions.  Even I, though, have to admire its very fine acting, and the commitment it displays to its own parched view of the world.

Tonight’s Season 4 premiere, written by McKinnon and directed by Patrick Cady, was both the same as all other Rectify episodes and somewhat different.  At the end of season 3, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) took a plea bargain for the murder he’s not sure he committed, the same murder that had him on Death Row for 19 years until he was freed because of DNA evidence.  The deal banished him from his hometown of Paulie, Georgia.  When we meet him again, he’s living in a halfway house in Nashville, and aside from a quick voiceover from mom Janet (J. Smith-Cameron), none of Rectify‘s 0ther regular characters appear in the episode.  Daniel, though, despite his new surroundings and warehouse job, is much the same:  alienated, socially uncomfortable, and pulled to and fro by a sense of guilt he can’t atone for, and an anger he can’t express.

There are hints, though, of a possible path out for Daniel.  In a late scene with the halfway house’s counselor, he speaks about his inner devastation more fully than we’ve ever heard before, and by the episode’s conclusion, he’s met a pretty local artist (Caitlin FitzGerald from Masters of Sex) who seems to be Rectify‘s version of a Magic Pixie Dream Girl, and he’s reluctantly sitting in on a game of cards with his fellow halfway house residents.

With 7 episodes to go until Rectify is done, there’s little doubt that things will become more dour again for Daniel before they have any real chance of finding sunlight.  (All the original characters are still in the show credits, so at some point Daniel must be going back to Georgia.)  And even with new characters to introduce and stories to tell, the hour moved at three-quarters speed, and with much of the dialogue flatly earnest in the show’s indie movie way.   There are reasons why Rectify, despite years of abundant critical praise, has barely found a measurable audience.  With the end in sight, though, it appears that Rectify may attempt some forward movement.  Perhaps in its last visits to church, Rectify will reach out beyond the choir that’s been eagerly humming along with its song.




About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."