Mesmerizing. It’s from Sundance TV, which for reasons I can’t easily describe turned me off – I had half-baked notions of wanky, abstract, film-school nonsense. No particular logic behind that – it’s not as if I’d ever watched a minute of the Sundance channel (if there is such a thing). I dunno, I haven’t screwed a coax cable into a TV in about 20 years, so I’m either ahead of the curve or hopelessly out-of-touch. Probably the latter.
Anyway, nothing warms my heart more than discovering good media, especially when it confounds my preconceived notions. I’m as weak as anyone in that regard, but I pride myself on my voracity (which makes me try new things) and my extreme pickiness, the marriage of which makes for what I flatter myself is a not inconsiderable objectivity. And if my “taste” – as far as such a thing can be qualified – is of any value whatsoever, then I feel confident in putting this forward as a most uncommonly good series. A slow, quiet, nuanced monster of a series, so well-written and -acted, so unpretentious, so deliberate (what some might even deem plodding if they weren’t inclined to pay attention to the finer points of the thing), that to this day I can scarcely believe it exists. How it came-about I cannot imagine, though I fairly glow with happiness that it did.
The premise is a total downer – so much so I encourage you not to bother with the sort of summary research I engage-in by reflex, for it almost led to my not trying it at all (my current circumstances being sufficiently depressing to discourage me from any indulgence in what might be termed “tragic” drama). The show is by no means sad – quite the contrary. In another place and age, its protagonist would have been a Zen monk, or a transcendentalist poet of the more severe sort. He is immediately likable and utterly captivating, and his living, breathing presence on the screen is hypnotic.
Rectify is a rare gem: a work of art whose beauty makes one’s heart ache – not at specific, choreographed moments – but at almost any time for seemingly no reason. Aden Young doesn’t portray the character of Daniel Holden, any more than letters and subscripts and arrows portray the combustion of nitroglycerin. He simply happens, moment after moment, like a bomb going-off in slow-motion.
I just finished season 2, and still don’t even know with any certainty that he is innocent. The kindness and care he shows for others lead one to think he’s made of glass. Yet over time his naivete betrays telltale signs of conscious strain, and his awkwardness a tincture of artifice. The objective eye might notice his caution directed always outwards, not inwards: it’s not Daniel who’s fragile and in-need of protection, but the world around him. However, guilt and innocence seem more irrelevant with every passing moment. This series is morbidly obsessed with who or what one is right now, in this present moment. And that’s an even greater puzzle than what came before. I’ve no idea who Daniel was, but I’m even less certain what he is now. He simply happens, moment after moment, like a bomb going-off in slow-motion.
PS: The opening sequence features a highly-edited cut of Balmorhea’s “Bowsprit”. The showrunners get bonus points for taste, but I nonetheless abhor hearing the track so cruelly butchered, it being near and dear to my heart for years. I highly encourage you to listen to it in its entirety…