God knows, we wrote about Rectify incessantly when it debuted on the Sundance channel last year. We called it the most captivating, unsettling, and profound new drama of 2013. I ranked the season finale as the most devastating episode of 2013 (ahead of even the Red Wedding episode on Game of Thrones). We put it ahead of Top of the Lake and Orphan Black as the best new show of 2013. The finale was among our staff list of the 10 best dramatic episodes of the season. Abigail Spencer was singled out as one of the women with the best heads of hair on TV. I even attempted to encourage people to watch by touting the cast of Rectify as sex symbols.
But look: It was on the Sundance channel. Many of you don’t have cable. Many who do have cable don’t have the Sundance channel, while others can’t even find it on their cable listings. But now it’s on Netflix. Everyone has Netflix. Ahead of the second season (which premieres in June), now is the perfect time to watch.
What’s it about? OK, it’s a about guy named Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a very soft-spoken, gentle, and thoughtful man who is released from prison after 19 years for the rape and murder of his girlfriend after evidence comes to light throwing suspicion on his guilt. It’s not enough suspicion to prove him innocent, however, so there’s still the matter of a possible retrial.
This possibility opens up old wounds in Daniel’s hometown, where he returns to live with his parents. He’s been in prison since he was a teenager, and while Daniel has wizened considerably while locked away, part of him is still very much a teenager. While he was gone, his mother remarried, and his step-father took over the family business, along with his new step-brother and his lovely wife.
The step-brother very much believes that Daniel is still guilty of rape and murder, while Daniel’s sister (Abigail Spencer) firmly believes he is not. Most of the small town he’s from believes Daniel is guilty and shuns him, while most of Daniel’s own family is on the fence. But here’s the thing about Rectify: The audience doesn’t know, either. As we watch this man re-adjust to a world he hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years, we develop a deep sympathy for him, and for his perspective on life, and his newfound appreciation for it. But we still have that nagging question in the back of our minds: Did he kill his girlfriend? Could this guy possibly be capable of that?
There’s some evidence throughout the course of the first season that suggests he might have been capable of such a grisly crime, but there’s plenty of evidence that cast doubt. But the question that the series asks, really, is this: Does it matter?
Rectify comes from Ray McKinnon (Sons of Anarchy), and if you’ve ever seen a Ray McKinnon character, the show kind of personifies them all: It’s a kind, gentle, and graceful show, but there’s something a little sinister and dark underneath all that Southern charm that we can’t quite place our finger on. It gets inside your mind and camps out, it f*cks with your energy, and by the end of the six episodes, it will cleave you open and rip out your soul.
It’s a short series, a one-weekend commitment, and I can’t think of another drama on Netflix that will offer as many rewards as the six hours we spend with Daniel Holden. It’s a remarkable and often disturbing series filled with absolutely incredible performances and and a gentle, inviting tone unlike anything else on television.
I cannot recommend it enough.