16 August 2014 | hughman55
It's the time between the seconds...
I discovered this on Netflix and knew nothing about it when I began watching it. It is a brilliant piece of television. The story is gripping and this caliber of work is very rare. The writing is the best you'll find and the cast is powerful. This is not a chest thumping, triumphant, primal scream of a story. This is a walk through fear, uncertainty, and madness, that is at times almost too painful to watch. But you will watch it.
I've read a few reviews here and one stood out for its criticism of the pace of the action and the "laconic" depiction of the lead character played by Aden Young. To that critique I would offer this: Daniel, who at the age of 18 was sent to death row for rape and murder, is now free after 19 years. In the second episode of season 1 he is describing his time there, and what was "real" to him for those 19 years. And he sums it up as, "the time in between the seconds". This is a man who for nearly two decades felt time passing in half seconds, one second at a time, every minute, of every hour, of every day, week, month, year, and decade. Aden Young portrays Daniel as someone who was thrust suddenly into freeway traffic when he's never even seen a car. The everyday world is whizzing by him at a pace he's never seen or doesn't remember. He is in a constant state of confusion and bewilderment. Every move he makes is cautious because in his mind it could be his last. He is slow. He speaks with the syntax of someone who has had the time to read a lot of books but very little experience of actually having a conversation with another living person. And he comes off as odd. And who wouldn't after what he's been through.
The story does delve into the ugliness of prison life in a way that may be a first; where "prison rape" is actually acknowledged as "rape", and even "systemic rape". Primarily though it deals with the shock waves and exponential suffering experienced by so many because of the rape and murder of a young girl. Though no one suffered to the extent that the unseen murder victim did, Daniel's 19 years on death row as an innocent man, his lost youth, the experiences he endured and will never recover from, comes close. And all around him are more victims: his family, the family of the murdered girl, the community where it happened; and they are all trying to recapture a "normal" that is forever lost. Some things cannot be fixed and you just have to live with them. It's an ugly lesson no one wants to learn.
The acting in this series is staggering but measured. The undercurrents and crosscurrents are where everything happens. Aden Young is haunting as Daniel. This actor creates a character you can feel in the room with you. Luke Kirby, who plays his attorney, is a comfortably natural actor no matter where he turns up. From "Mambo Italiano", to "Say You Love Me", to "Rectify", he just disappears into the character and can be anything at any moment with so much subtlety that you forget you're watching a performance. Clayne Crawford, playing Daniel's stepbrother, is the breakout performance of this series though. His character is written as a regular guy. A "bubba". His crumbling middle class life is the polarity to Daniel's gasp for air as he breaks to the surface for the first time in 19 years. Crawford's "Ted Jr." is a good guy, a regular guy, but he can deliver a compliment with his words and then send a shiver up your spine with a glance. He is a gifted actor and a more than substantial counterweight to the emotional tomb of "Daniel".
It is almost the end of season 2 and there is a mine field of plot twists yet to be resolved. The genius of this script, however, is that we know from episode 1 that Daniel's guilt or innocence is not one of them. This is a gripping drama about the effects of a horrible crime. And from a perspective not often presented. The writing in "Rectify" is mind boggling and brilliant. And everything, and everyone, that follows from it delivers equally.
UPDATE: 8/1/15 -- I called it when I wrote the above review. Now I want to re-emphasize it halfway into the third season. This amazing cast headed by Aden Young is unreal. Adelaide Clemens as a young woman confused by her maturation, J.D. Evermore as the conflicted and curious small town sheriff, J. Smith-Cameron as the mother tormented by the loss and then return of a son, Sean Bridgers as a really creepy default suspect, Abigail Spencer, and Sharon Conley, are just shredding this series. Clayne Crawford gives the most complex, multi-layered, multi-faceted, performance in this deep and stellar ensemble. The car ride scene with his step-half-brother at the end of episode 2 is bone chilling and revelatory.
UPDATE: 12/8/16 -- I didn't think it would be possible to keep this up for another year. How does Ray McKinnon do it? Season 4 is off the charts. Parachuting Caitlin FitzGerald into this hive of raw emotions, as "Chloe", was genius. Next week is the final episode and I don't want this show to end. It's so good and so compelling.
UPDATE: 12/15/16 -- I couldn't even imagine how they would end this. But they did, sadly - and perfectly. Farewell "Rectify".