I’ve never been a fan of slow-burning shows, but in the past month I’ve immersed myself in 3 of the slowest yet well-produced and thought-provoking pieces of television. It all started with Breaking Bad (which I finished in less than two weeks), and when that was over I felt the need to replace it with another slow-moving series. Mad Men seems like the perfect show to bingewatch now due to its terrific production values and stellar cast, but I never thought I’d love Rectify, despite all the critical acclaim it’s gotten over the years.
Always There is a brilliant opening, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, as it perfectly introduces us to the show’s characters and its quiet world. Daniel Holden (an outstanding Aden Young) spent 20 years in prison after confessing to the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. Now, new DNA evidence has proven that he was not responsible for the crime, so Daniel is released and has returned to his family in a small rural town in Georgia where he must adapt to a new world.
The most impressive thing about this hour is that it lacks exposition, a usual trademark for pilot episodes, and it moves along a brisk albeit fresh pace. It’s also interesting to note just how bleak and depressing the show can be when it takes place during the present time (I’ve seen 2 episodes already), yet every time we flash back to Daniel’s time in prison, it’s unexpectedly positive and uplifting. It’s tonally jarring because you’d expect that the prison scenes would be haunting and hard to watch, but the show luckily deviated from any cliched tropes. At least for now.
Of course, Rectify is also gorgeous to look at it with its beautiful scenery and exquisite cinematography. More often than not, it reminded me of the first season of The Affair; both shows are atmospheric and beautiful to look at and there’s a central mystery surrounding both seasons. Also, the cast, which includes the always stunning Abigail Spencer as Daniel’s sister Amantha, the heartbroken mother (J. Smith Cameron) or the sleazy senator (Michael O’Neill), is just as impressive. By the time the first episode comes to an end, you’ll definitely want to spend more time with these characters.
Daniel: I can’t quite get a handle on the concept of time yet. There have been moments here today where I feel like I’ve only been gone a few weeks, and I’m still in high school. But mostly it seems like I was always there.
Daniel: I had convinced myself that kind of optimism served no useful purpose in the world where I existed. Obviously, this radical belief system was flawed and was, ironically, a kind of fantasy itself.
Kerwin: I can’t do time the way you do it.
Daniel: I don’t do time.
Kerwin: That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t do time by not doing time the way you do time.