Starting: Rectify

This show presented me with a chicken and egg type quandary that I’m still struggling to figure out. The 6 episodes of the first season are each their own entities, but put side by side, they link up to form a novel-like season. Is it a novel broken into 6 episodes or 6 episodes morphing into the Megazord of a novel?

I like Rectify a lot. It’s powerful and thought-provoking, while also really beautiful. Aden Young smolders. But I understand why people think it’s slow. It is slow. To me, that’s because this show wants to explore conflicts, but also just show what it would be like to come back from this on a human level. There isn’t a story that can be told about Daniel not experiencing women for 19 years, but a scene with him jacking off for the first time out is understandable. I’ve never felt so happy to see someone masturbate. Scratch that. Change someone to “a man.” It also has a bit of a 13 going on 30 (19 going on 37?) vibe because a chunk of his life was skipped. That stuff gets played separately from conflicts that drive the story.

I wanted to explore the slowness and I noticed that a lot of times, conflicts were teased, but not paid off until way later. Daniel and Tawny’s relationship was teased in 2, when Tawny and Ted are strained and Tawny and Daniel seem connected. It’s a sure thing again in 4 when she takes him to church, but I was expecting the kiss then. Instead, it’s the most sexually intense hug ever. The attempted kiss comes in 5, which feels late. Then, they don’t explore the consequences on Tawny’s marriage until season 2.

A lot of conflicts are set up right away, with the option to drop in whenever. The trial coming up, the business issues, Ted and Tawny’s marriage, the potential murderer Trey, and prison flashbacks are all introduced in the first episode. How can you do justice to all of those stories while also showing Daniel’s adjustment? You can’t. Here are some set-ups, developments, and when they pay off.

Senator and the trial against Daniel (1) -> continuous, not answered in season 1

Business is in trouble (1) -> Ted learns about the rental plan (4) -> comes back a couple episodes into season 2

Trey and George, witnesses/potential actual killers (1) -> Sheriff visits Trey (4) -> into season 2

Family of Hannah (3) -> Attack (6)

Melvin the turtle guy (3) -> Visits in the hospital with chocolate turtle (1 or 2 of season 2)

Wendell bashes his face (5) -> Daniel bashes his face (a couple into season 2)

Coffee up the butt (5-6) -> episode 4-ish of season 2

A lot of set-ups that are not paid off until way later. This makes it boring or just hard to remember. The times they get it right are interesting. It’s usually when something is set up and paid off in the same episode. Or the set-up is a development of a pay-off from before. The need for intimacy show by the hug pays off with sex with a woman at the end of 4. Setting up the baptism in 4 makes it a conflict whether or not he goes in 5. It also hints at a climax because events are climactic. Bobby Dean is introduced at the start of 6, although you know what he’s about from before. By the end of 6, it’s time for him to become the villain.

Positives:

Present – Other than the flashbacks to prison, we never get to see the past. This isn’t a show about what happened. It’s about what happens next. You can have that, Sundance marketing department.

Daniel’s Monologues – Daniel doesn’t speak much, so you better listen when he does. My favorite of his monologues was when he goes to Amantha’s and John opens the door. The speech about not even thinking that was a possibility is a look into the mind of someone coming back and it’s fascinating.

Coming Home – The show takes breaks from the conflict to just show Daniel and it’s gripping. They don’t overuse it because it can be boring, but Daniel playing Sonic or Daniel taking in Walmart are what the show is made of.

Pick Up Where You Left Off – There is a certain cohesion that comes from episodes starting exactly where the last one left. It helps to keep you oriented and it can make for interesting transitions, like in this. I might have noticed this more because I watched on Netflix, so I didn’t have to wait for episodes, but it felt good. The best of these is between 2 and 3. 2 ends with Daniel tugging it and Amantha creepily listening. 3 rejoins Daniel in the morning, where his jumping on the bed confuses a still-creepin’ Amantha. Hilarious.

Levity – The scene after Ted Jr. is coffee raped is hilarious. The whole coffee rape story is pretty funny, especially in season 2. When he sees his dad making coffee, he says something about how it’s time to buy new coffee because the stuff they have is bad. That’s just funny stuff. In a show so slow and heavy, you need to have some humor.

Negatives:

Take Time – Audiences are smart. They pick up what you’re putting down. If you put something down in an episode, audiences will start to see where you’re going. Don’t let them get ahead of you. This covers a lot

Trey – Trey is sketchy, but we know very little about him other than that. It’s kind of clear that he’s the other suspect for Hannah’s death. NOTHING happens with him in season 1. That’s a problem.

Holding It In – When something pisses you off, you can only stew so long before you have to let it out. Ted not confronting his coffee butt is excruciating.

Pacing – I want to scream at the TV sometimes and yell “Do something!”

Lessons:

Slow – You don’t have to chug along, but you can’t leave things hanging. Setting things up makes things easy for you to write, but too many makes it hard for viewers to follow. This show is the writers’ main focus. They know the ins and outs. Fans have lots of other shit to watch.

Don’t You (…) Forget About Me – Jared is such a weird character. Sometimes, I completely forget he exists. What up, Rectify?

Climaxes – Events (i.e. the baptism) are climactic. You can take time to lead up to the action by prodding the characters, which leads to fireworks at the payoff.

Binge Friendly – Making a show with the intention of people watching more than one at a time is silly because people just don’t have that much time in their lives and there are so many other shows. That said, once it does reach Netflix, heavier serialization will be rewarded by the binge experience. I’d even say the same for Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Breaking it up isn’t just to make it easier to digest. It makes you save some for later so you’re not a fat fatty.

Names – Amantha blows. Seniors and Juniors are tough to follow when you don’t always say it after the name every time.

Things I Would Like To See:

  • Rectify: Jewish Edition
  • What happened 19 years ago!!!!