At the bar where Jon meets Amantha to have their own little debriefing, he urges her to help Daniel through the 30-day grace period he has to get his affairs in order before the banishment begins. “He still has to live his life.”
“So do we all,” she says. “Hoorah.”
A fitting title. “Hoorah” is mostly about everyone trying to keep living their lives in the immediate aftermath of Daniel’s confession. Daniel’s the reason everyone came together, and now that he’s leaving everyone’s pulling apart. When Daniel was released from Death Row, everyone was there to see him. When he was signing his own banishment order, none of the family is there. It’s so strange to see Ted Sr. working on the kitchen when Daniel gets home, like it’s any other day. That’s one of Rectify’s gifts, reframing the ordinary as exotic.
The first sign that season three is getting off on the right foot is that it starts with Ted Jr. On a show of philosophical zags and Southern manners, Teddy’s so down to earth he’s crawling through mud, and Clayne Crawford is television’s best kept secret. That’s our way back in. The production doesn’t execute the Twix fiasco quite right—now the next person who wants a Twix has to pay twice—but life being unfair to Teddy and the law bending the rules are exactly right. Ray McKinnon quickly walks back the plot about Teddy pressing charges against Daniel for his assault, one of the quirks of everything happening at once in the final minutes of season two, and it retroactively adds some grace to that final montage. No, the Trey-George angle of the case isn’t reopened in the nick of time, but Daniel does sign his confession just in time to defuse his brother-in-law. Teddy reminds us, “I didn’t want to press charges in the first place.” No, but he did decide to press charges in a fit of pique about an exaggerated affair between his wife and Daniel. Rectify lives in these gray areas, the nuances between yes and no.
That night at dinner, like a lot of scenes in “Hoorah,” is a series of flashbacks to Daniel’s confession, including its culmination in a tragic mix-up: Janet is sure that Daniel used to love Willy D’s barbecue, but it turns out that was Teddy’s favorite. Foreshadowing? Janet insists that Daniel used to love Willy D’s in that passive-aggressive Southern small-talk kind of way, and he tells her, “Maybe so. I just don’t remember,” which is also his position on his own criminal guilt. When Teddy shows up, Daniel tells him he’s sorry. “Sorry for what?” Ted demands, like Faulkes wanting to hear his accusations publicly validated.
Maybe Daniel is having an emotional affair with Tawney, but it’s awfully intermittent, and it’s certainly not sexual. But it’s so human that Teddy can only see his projection. He thinks Daniel told Tawney about the assault to emasculate him in order to take Tawney away from him, because that’s the kind of thing Teddy would do, and he thinks Tawney’s impressed by masculinity because that’s what he’s so insecure about. In his review, Matt Zoller Seitz points out Daniel’s dishonesty, but it seems to me that Daniel is almost masochistically honest, most clearly in this conversation with Teddy. Daniel tells Teddy, “She was confused about her situation, and I felt that telling her might help her clarify things.” He was trying to help Teddy. He was trying to explain to Tawney that her husband has been traumatized, and that’s why he’s been so prickly lately. But with the way Daniel speaks and the thoughts Teddy has, it comes off like he’s trying to come in between the Talbots. Daniel doesn’t often volunteer information, but that goes both ways. He doesn’t stick up for himself, either. He accepts disproportionate blame in all kinds of situations, and he lets Teddy mistake his intentions with no possibility for redemption because he’s the only one in a position to explain himself. Meanwhile there’s Teddy’s polite lies (“Maybe she’s got her appetite back”) and Ted and Janet talking about whether to tell Jared family news right in front of him and Amantha hiding out from both of the men she loves. Daniel’s just about the only one who can face up to darkness.
Eventually he fantasizes about his execution, which he’s never done before. He’s thought about the day coming, and he’s imagined the slow walk to the chamber, but he’s never made it as far as being strapped to a gurney and spotting his mom in the gallery. “Hoorah” cuts to Daniel enjoying a park before the execution proper. Maybe that’s how he imagines his banishment. He’s confessed to the crime, and his punishment approaches. He’s going to have to say goodbye to his family.
The park scene, like pretty much every scene of Daniel alone experiencing the world, is a great showcase for Aden Young as well as for Ray McKinnon’s penchant for misunderstandings. Daniel’s trying to be friendly to a mother on the playground, but he’s a strange bird, and she’s naturally suspicious. He tries to put her at ease, but it only makes him come off creepier, and eventually he walks off with his serial-killer duffel bag so the woman can breathe. But we see the poignancy in his description of the park. He says he’s never had the chance to read outside “under the big blue sky,” and Young plays that phrase spontaneously, like it’s only then hitting Daniel how grand it is to read in the open air. “It’s almost too much.”
He’s avoiding telling Janet about assaulting Teddy, which is part one of Ted Sr.’s demands, and which is entirely in keeping with my take on Daniel’s honesty. He wouldn’t deny it or lie, and I suspect he will tell her soon. He’s just extraordinarily pensive. The second demand is a miniature banishment ahead of the big one. Ted kicks him out. So now he and Tawney are both dislodged from their lives. She’s bunking with the greatest woman who ever lived, Beth, and he’s staying with Amantha. By the end, both duos are emotionally doubling down on the season two finale. Amantha impresses upon Daniel once again that she can’t keep reaching for him, that he’s going to have to try himself, and Teddy gets momentarily nasty, forfeiting his shot at a quick reconciliation with Tawney. They all still have to live their lives. Hoorah.
At the end of season two of Rectify, I thought the question of Daniel Holden’s guilt had been settled. I asked around and some people disagreed, but even the hesitance of the people who agreed with me was my clue to watch again and pay closer attention this time. I was seeing what I wanted to see. What I had pieced together from Trey’s bender with Daniel and Daniel’s debriefing, along with bits and pieces from season one, is that Daniel didn’t rape Hanna, didn’t murder her, and was coerced into confessing. But we don’t really know, and there’s no reason a coerced confession can’t coexist with Daniel having done it.
When I read Abigail Spencer’s thoughts on the matter, my jaw dropped. “I’m going to steal a Ray McKinnon line. He said, ‘I think he did it, but I think he feels real bad about it.’” I thought I had accounted for that possibility, accepted what it would mean, made peace with it. Boy, was I wrong. Now even Amantha’s “beginning to wonder.”
- “Hoorah” is written by Ray McKinnon and directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal.
- Another great Teddy scene is when he thinks Tawney came home and then realizes he was just hearing things. Television and movies never show the weird things we do when we’re alone. I’ve never quite had that experience, but it’s not far off.
- Amantha and Jon talk about whether either was using the other when they first met. Amantha: “Certainly wasn’t premeditated now. Maybe it was. Doesn’t matter now.” Every third conversation seems to apply to Daniel.
- Jared and Claire are practicing their theatre class exercise. “Was it like they say?” “What do they say?” “You know what they say.” “It was like they say.”
- Janet asks Ted if he saw Daniel the morning after he leaves. “No, not this morning… He didn’t say anything to you?” Another lie, another pleasantry with an agenda.
- I didn’t have room for it in the main review, but another strength of Rectify is on display in the exchange between Janet and Teddy. “I wish I hadn’t asked you to call me Janet.” He buckles. He’s trying not to cry, but he can’t look her in the eye, and he can’t pull off the nonchalance he’s going for. His body and voice betray him. “No biggie.” Rectify is so coiled that it can release a ton of emotion just like that, and it’s all the more powerful because the characters are trying to fight it.
- Is Amantha a managerial candidate? Good metaphor. One employee has already found her place, and another is stopping at Thrifty Town on the way to somewhere else. But for Amantha, it’s time to decide. Is she planning to stay in Paulie or what?
- “Marital problems or whatever.” That “or whatever” is Teddy’s defense mechanism. He can’t bring himself to say they’re having problems. He leaves himself a way out.
- Faulkes’ stroke is a sad twist, not least for the sight of half of Michael O’Neill’s face drooping on the spot.
- In case you missed it, Rectify was already renewed for a fourth season! So whatever happens this season, the show isn’t winding down.
- If you’re looking to fill the time before episode two, check out Chuck Reece’s close-up on McKinnon, Rectify, and Southern-ness for The Bitter Southerner. Among other things, he makes a sharp point about Rectify and The Andy Griffith Show.
- Finally, Sundance has launched a Rectify podcast, a pitch-perfect Serial riff that I hope ends with the host eloping with Daniel (and that Sonia Saraiya wrote about at Salon). We’re probably not the only ones, but we pointed out the connection between the shows in our list of 2014’s best TV.