Wednesday, December 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Rectify' - Daniel and the Family Try to Accept the Changes in Their Lives in 'All I'm Sayin''

SundanceTV's Rectify - Episode 4.08 "All I'm Sayin'"

Daniel begins to appreciate his progress as he realizes what his new life may look like, while the old life is quickly disappearing for Teddy. Jon debriefs Janet and Amantha on what he has learned about Daniel's case.

"All I'm Sayin'" is the longest episode Rectify has ever produced. It's just slightly over an hour in running time once the commercials are removed. And yet, none of it feels bloated. This series has had such a profound concept of emotion and time. It has always loved to linger in the moment longer than narrative stories typical do. It has enjoyed slowing things down and letting the emotions speak for themselves instead of moving onto the next plot point. This feels like a satisfying way to conclude the series because it does such a fantastic job honoring the past while looking ahead to the future. This has been one tremendous series. This was a phenomenal final season filled with so much gutting emotional work and terrific performances from the entire cast. The day Daniel Holden was released from prison changed all of these characters' lives. He had a profound effect on everyone he met. This finale doesn't set out to provide answers or resolution to every single detail of this world. It instead just wants to focus on the moment and how the characters feel regarding the progress they've made while also looking towards the future not exactly with hope but perhaps a bit more optimism and clarity than they had before.

The finale even opens with Janet and Amantha outside the house the day of Daniel's release from prison. It was a huge moment for this family. Their lives were shaped by Daniel's incarceration. It's fascinating watching that scene and seeing those two characters not knowing how much their lives are about to change because of this event. Daniel is coming home. And now, no one will know how exactly to be around him. Nor will he know how to be around other people and try to have a life of his own. This finale doesn't parallel that journey with Daniel being able to come home yet again with his plea deal being voided. He is still in Nashville unable to return to his home state. But an official investigation has reopened the case of Hanna's death. That's a huge first step. It's still a long road to getting Daniel fully exonerated for this heinous crime that forever changed this small town. But it's now a process that everyone feels is worth doing. There is more doubt than ever before about Daniel's guilt. Throughout the series run, it was always unclear if Daniel did or did not kill Hanna. The narrative lived in that ambiguity and instead focused on how being convicted of that crime affected him in every way. This finale doesn't fully resolve the case either. The DA does bring an outside investigative unit in to look over the details of the case. It's now clear that the original investigation was so problematic just because Roland Foulkes and the sheriff steered their inquiries to fit the narrative of Daniel being guilty. This hour even provides new evidence in Trey confessing that Chris was bitten by Hanna while he was raping her. All of this has been so confusing for Sheriff Daggett. His opinion on the case has changed widely over the course of the show. And now, he has to be content with handing the investigation over to someone else to make sense of it all. It's still a mess. But it's one that is filled with more hope that Daniel will one day be able to visit his family at the house again.

All of this is such monumental news for the entire family. Jon Stern informs them of all the new evidence that has come to light. He sits Amantha and Janet down. Then, he goes to see Daniel. This is a huge victory even if it ultimately doesn't change anything. But it's also moving to realize that the characters' lives no longer revolve around exposing the truth of what happened that night. It won't change the fact that Daniel spent almost two decades in death row. It won't change any of their lives in any significant way. They have to accept that and find a way forward. Answers can mean a whole lot. They can provide peace and clarity. But those aren't the only emotions necessary to forge ahead. The trauma of this whole experience is still present. The amount of change is still present. Some characters are appreciative for the change while others are apologetic for it. Daniel is both at the same time. He caused all of it with his return home. His presence forced Janet & Ted and Teddy & Tawney to notice the real problems in their marriage. His presence made Amantha see that she had no life outside of trying to get him free. But more importantly, his freedom was an alienating concept that Daniel just didn't know what to do with. This final season has seen him succeed in Nashville. He has developed close personal friendships. He has connections that will mean something to him in the longterm. He's building a life. It's a simple life where he goes to work making eight dollars an hour and attends therapy sessions. He doesn't know if that's all that he can expect from his life. But it's still a significant change from him. It's an improvement on what he was doing during those first few days out of jail.

Even Daniel's therapist notes that this is going to be a long road of recovery for Daniel. He's still sensitive to the trauma he experienced on death row. He's doing his homework and listening to the recordings. Progress is being made. It's just slow and incremental. But it's also significant that Daniel is seeing his self-worth reappear again. He notes to Jon that so many people have tried to help him over the years. The people who hurt him ultimately built the person he became. He was depressed and void of personality because he was so beaten down and traumatized. He didn't believe he was worth all the hard work from his family. And now, he's not completely appreciative of it or making extravagant plans for the future. He's still so uncertain about his path in this world. He still needs the help and support of his family and his new friends. But now, he's at least trying and feeling emotions he hasn't felt in a long time. He's feeling disappointed that Chloe left without saying a proper goodbye. He's trying to think about the world and what he wants from it. It's still incredibly difficult. And yet, it has gotten better over time and he's on the right path to continue making progress. It's so incredibly moving to see the show revisit his time on death row and his relationship with Kerwin as well. That relationship meant so much in the early seasons. Kerwin fully believed that Daniel would be released. He believed it even when Daniel didn't. And now, Daniel has been released and he's starting to form his own life. It's now more than just imagining driving a car on a trip through New York City. That relationship was crucial in prison and Kerwin's death marked a key turning point for Daniel. It was just as traumatizing as his sexual assault in the shower. But again, it's a message of hope and the desire to try for something better than what already is.

Of course, this is a key day for the rest of the family as well. Yes, there is the big news about the new investigation into Hanna's death. But this is also the last day of business for the tire store. The family all has to come together to help pack the place up. That store was a legacy of sorts. It's been so moving to watch as the family wrestled with their feelings about this place. It's the end of an important part of their lives. It's opening a world of possibilities for all of them. Yes, that's scary and uncertain. But it's also wonderful that they are all there to support each other as a family. Teddy and Tawney are getting a divorce but she still wants to be there to support him. Their futures are about to go in separate ways but they are still holding onto each other in the moment while recognizing the events that led to this point. It's in this moment where the family just gets to act like a normal family again. Of course, they aren't all sitting around the dinner time reminiscing about all the great times they had at the store. Daniel is still missing. And yet, his presence is still felt during that family celebration. His phone call offers a way for him to still be included even though he's not there physically. It's because of Daniel that Teddy and Tawney are getting divorced. He has caused a lot of pain on Teddy. And yet, Teddy still wants to talk with Daniel and let him know that things will be back home waiting for him when he returns. And then, Tawney gets to talk with Daniel as well. Their bond was a crucial element of the show in the early going. Tawney has questioned or lost her faith because of Daniel. She has seemed to found it again and makes Daniel know that she's been praying for him. It's a sweet and simple gesture but it's also one that Daniel accepts as being a good influence on his life.

Everything ultimately is about that final sequence as well. After that phone call with his family, Daniel is just laying on his bed thinking again. He's listening to the tapes. But this time he's not lingering on the trauma. Instead, he's fantasizing about the future. He's only cautiously optimistic. Anything could go wrong. The hopes for the future may not be as bright as they seem in this moment. He's just trying to feel things again and accept them as they come. He has his family and their support. But now, he's thinking about the future. There really may not be a future with Chloe at all. And yet, she had an important effect on him this season. He felt love and a connection with her. It was the first time he felt that in a long time. She wasn't the one trying to save him. He had to do that work all by himself. Her loving has a profound effect on him. He questions if all of this is worth it or not. But again, the sheer thought of potential happiness is now something within Daniel's grasp. He can actually try to think about it now. That's just such a small step of progress. But it's also key in understanding that Daniel's life will be better even if the investigation ultimately doesn't reveal anything different. He's free to live a life on the outside. He may have Chloe and her kid in his future. Or he may have something else that could be just as special and real. It's just important that he understands what's real and can accept it into his world again. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "All I'm Sayin'" was written by Ray McKinnon and directed by Ray McKinnon.
  • Amantha has moved on with her life. She has the manager job at Thrifty Town and is dating Billy. But it's still nice to see her agree to come to Daniel if he needs her to - even though she currently doesn't have a vehicle.
  • Amantha being appreciative of all that Jon has done is another great scene. They got too close over the course of this legal process. But it's still nice that they can support each other throughout all of this uncertainty. Jon is a good one willing to fight until the very end.
  • Judy's note to Janet was an invitation to come over and talk things out. They have both been through so much trauma. They have a lot in common. Their lives are forever connected through this tragedy. They have different grieving processes. But it's still an important scene in saying that answers won't be the thing necessary to move on from all of this.
  • Will Janet and Ted stay married? That's been a question for most of this season. They've only seemed to drift further apart following Daniel's absence. His actual presence wasn't a whole lot better when he was at home. But he still has brought up a lot of issues for them. It's left unclear. It's instead about the feelings that they have and the question of should they still be together.
  • Sheriff Daggett plays a key role in getting Teddy to talk with Daniel again. He comes to the tire store to tell Teddy about the consequences of shooting himself in the leg. He also shares his own doubts about Daniel's guilt. But he also encourages Teddy to reach out and see what would happen.
  • Again, this was such a terrific final season. Perhaps the strongest the show has ever been. The series overall has been a phenomenal journey. It brought a unique and nuanced look at raw emotions and human connectivity. It stood out by telling stories in a new way. It will be missed. And yet, this is a powerful and appropriate ending. More could be told but this is satisfying nevertheless.