So many cable channels are getting into the original scripted programming game these days it’s hard to keep track of all the shows they put on. I’m not even sure I get the Sundance Channel, but that’s the one that airs Rectify. It’s a quiet, thoughtful, gorgeously-shot slow-burner of a series, a six-episode multi-character study revolving around one Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who’s been on death row in Georgia since he was a teenager for confessing to the murder of his 16-year-old girlfriend. Now, some nineteen years later, new DNA evidence voids his original trial and he is set free. He returns to his hometown, where everybody, including Daniel, must adjust to the sudden turn of events.
We primarily follow Daniel, with Young saying a lot with just his face and body language as he shows Daniel’s struggles with adapting to life beyond a cell, being a man out of time, and his possession of a seemingly crushing sense of guilt and grief over the murder itself (although we never do learn if he’s truly guilty of the crime). The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, in particular the beautiful Abigail Spencer (Chasing Mavericks) as the sister who always believed in Daniel’s innocence (and who is sleeping with Daniel’s new lawyer), and Clayne Crawford as the older of Daniel’s two stepbrothers (whose strongly Christian wife takes a certain shine to Daniel). And Michael O’Neill is wonderfully wily and nasty as the Senator who originally prosecuted Daniel.
The show’s tone is decidedly somber and the pace slow (the only real thing that happens plot-wise is O’Neill doing what he can to get Daniel back in jail), so it won’t appeal to everyone. But I appreciate that it takes its time, love the beautiful photography and, more than anything, am impressed by how well the makers create such a genuine small-town atmosphere. Not just in the physical sense, mind you, but in how everybody knows everybody, and in how some citizens, despite believing Daniel is innocent, don’t like that his return stirs up a tragedy they just want to forget ever happened. [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 6/18/13