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'Rectify' Is the Rare Show Capable of Transporting Us Away from the Abstract World and Into a Real One

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 15, 2016 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 15, 2016 |


rectify-trump.jpg

We have been writing a lot about politics on the site lately, and it’s not necessarily because it brings in the page views (though it is that, too). It’s because it’s what we have all been preoccupied by. It’s not that I have stopped watching television or going to the movies. I’ve gone to a double-feature nearly every Thursday night for at least the last couple of months, and I’m still barreling through around two dozen television episodes a week.

But it’s not the same right now. It all seems so facile, and I can’t help but to view almost everything through the prism of politics. How many people watched this week’s The Walking Dead and couldn’t shake the imperfect and ugly parallels with the real world? But at least it held my attention. Most shows I watch dispassionately, eager for each episode to end so I can check Twitter to ensure that the democracy is still safe.

Meanwhile, I watched Arrival last week and loved it, but part of why I loved it so much was because its sense of hope and compassion stood in such stark contrast to the real world. I also watched Almost Christmas last week, one of those Christmas films with all-black casts that seem to come and go every other year. They’re not great, but they are comforting, and Almost Christmas was no exception. However, there was a pang of sadness amidst comfort, like we’d lost something — like the cast who had filmed the movie months ago had lost something and weren’t even aware of it yet.

Few shows can hold my full attention these days. Pitch is one, because I’m able to lose my self in a potent combination of soap opera dramatics, sports-movie formula, and a spectacularly uplifting story about Ginny Baker, the first female baseball player (the familiar and attractive cast doesn’t hurt).

The other is Rectify, a show we don’t speak off too often, but when we do, it’s always in glowing terms. I often wait to watch episodes of Rectify until late at night, around midnight or 1 a.m., because no one is awake to interrupt me and I know that the series will keep me from nodding off. That may sound counterintuitive for a glacially-paced character drama about a man returning to his small home town after spending 19 years on death row, but I watch with rapt attention. Daniel Holden (Aiden Young) is a man of very few words, but I hang on to each one, as though every syllable contains a clue to the universe.

It’s a unique story, but it’s Rectify’s tone that sets it so far apart from everything else on television. It’s meditative, calming even, but it demands contemplation. In the silence between the words alone, Daniel Holden is the most absorbing character on television. Here is a man, after all, who had 19 years to read and quietly reflect on his life, and who undoubtedly has a stimulating interior mind. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to use it in the real world. He has trouble with simple human interactions, and yet, he is the most transfixing guy in every room.

It’s an incredible series — and there’s only so many ways I can write that — but the miracle of Rectify right now is how transportive it is. It gets inside the soul of its viewers and it yanks us away from the abstract world of politics and places us into the lives of these kind, uncomplicated characters too wrapped up in their next interaction to concern themselves with the complicated dangers posed by politicians.

Now in its final season, Rectify sees Holden cast out of his home town, living in a halfway house in a state a couple of hundred miles away from his family, and yet, there is so much hope in his incremental progress. He’s lived inside of his own mind for two decades, and now he’s finally finding small ways to let others in, finding intimacy in the smallest of gestures. There’s something immensely profound in that, as there is in seeing those in Daniel’s orbit continue on the paths of self discovery that a laconic man of so few words put them on.

There’s every reason for these characters to feel sorry for themselves and to wallow in their misery, but there’s something so strangely inspiring in the way they’re all trying to move ahead in the world, not through promotions or ambitions, but by finding simple but meaningful ways to connect with one another.



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