“The Source” is named for the ocean, water, the source of life, which is the medium of both Daniel’s salvation and his transcendent imaginary rendezvous with Tawney. Yes, Daniel gets to see the beach. Pretty much everything happens as scheduled as the season winds down. Even when Daniel asks to take a detour to the detour, it’s a blip in the grand scheme. But Janet lets him commune with the penitentiary one last time anyway. “Sometimes I want to walk to the front gate and ask them to let me back in, back into my box, my cocoon. That’s not right thinking, Mother.” “You’re not the first to romance the cocoon.”
Everyone’s trying to figure out where he or she belongs now. While it’s true that the trains are running on time and everyone does pretty much what they’ve been doing all year, there are two shake-ups between episodes. The night between the episodes, Daniel slept at Jon’s, rather than Janet’s, continuing his elephant walk through Paulie. Once he’s been kicked out of somewhere, he never goes back. That’s significant in an episode that has him leaving one home, rejecting another, and returning to the original source of life for one last fantasy visit with Tawney. At least, given the way he yearns for Tawney, the connection between Paulie and Death Row and his fantasy of Tawney suggests he knows this is it. There’s no future for him there. Meanwhile, since Janet thought Daniel would sleep at home that night, she told Ted he could stay with Teddy if he wanted. Turns out he did want. It’s a sign of something, whether hostility for Daniel to the point that he refuses to harbor him or support for his son after Janet brought his trauma out into the open.
The other shake-up is Tawney accepted Ted’s offer after all. She’s been moving from house to house all season, too, but she winds up where she started, albeit with a twist. She wants the locks changed. Teddy’s already handed over all the keys, but that’s not good enough. If it feels like a mixed signal that she’s moving back home, this one’s loud and clear. Moving back into their house does not mean she’s ready to get back together. Again therapy comes to Teddy’s rescue. He swallows his protests and tells her he’ll get it done, Clayne Crawford using a voice that’s overly sweet but not insincere. It’s only the tone that needs practice, not the feelings.
Everything else is inertia. Daniel’s a weirdo, and, give or take a few sharp lines, his antics in “The Source” are as charming as they are novel. Janet and Ted are still on the rocks. We don’t even get to see her come home to him to see whether squaring Daniel away has had any effect on her feelings toward her husband. It’s the biggest supblot of the season that nobody’s talking about. It’s never risen to the level of text. It’s all in the way J. Smith-Cameron shrinks to get by Ted without touching him, and the way Bruce McKinnon conveys Ted’s supreme discomfort talking about his feelings. Teddy and Tawney are still separated, and Jon and Amantha are going the same places they’d been going all season, he to Boston and she to Thrifty Town. It hasn’t sunk in yet that Daniel’s gone, or that Jon’s gone, but sooner or later Amantha’s going to realize her life isn’t in Paulie anymore. What does she even do for fun without Daniel or Jon? Is she resigned to spending Friday nights playing gin rummy with Teddy and Saturday nights with Peanut?
Somehow the most moving scene in the episode doesn’t involve a single Holden or Talbot or Stern. It’s when nothing turns up in time to dissuade Carl from arresting Trey for a crime he didn’t commit. Unfortunately, without DNA evidence, the statute of limitations is up on the crime he did commit (assuming he didn’t kill Hanna after raping her). What’s funny is Trey takes a moment before deciding to come clean, and it’s like he’s cooking up a new lie. But he’s not, at least so far as we know. But it looks like he’s lying still, even when he tells Carl exactly what we know happened. George killed himself, and Trey tried to cover it up to protect himself. Maybe that moment before he says he’s gonna come clean is the moment he realizes he’s screwed. For the audience that moment comes when Carl turns around and says, “Trey Willis, you’re under arrest for the murder of George Milton.” Trey’s done a lot of bad things, but it’s hard to watch three seasons of Daniel Holden on and off Death Row and see this as justice.
On the subject of Hanna, D.A. Sondra Person arrives at another moment that makes the stomach drop. If Trey came to Chris’ house the morning after the rape to encourage them and George to maintain a united front, doesn’t it follow he didn’t know Hanna was dead? Trey could have been manufacturing an alibi—Carl sees Trey as someone who thinks the world is full of idiots—but suddenly the simplest explanation isn’t that the rapists murdered Hanna. It’s that Daniel really did do it. There’s only a quick wide shot of the table letting that sink in before the cut to Daniel, Jon, Amantha, and Janet eating breakfast, and the previous scene colors this one. As admittedly strange as Daniel’s sendoff is—seriously, Amantha says out loud that the scene is strange—the new light heightens the surface strangeness. Suddenly it isn’t just notoriety, strained family relations, and a witch hunt Daniel’s putting behind him but a murder. And he’s so carefree. There’s distance between us and the man performing a made-up gymnastic routine for his sister. And still he remains sympathetic as he says goodbye to Amantha and Jon.
Amantha and Jon are going their separate ways, too. On his way out the door, Jon tells Amantha, “We both know he would have been better off with somebody else, somebody less distracted.” She looks away, and he just stares at her, daring her to meet his gaze. In that moment he either blames her for his inability to get Daniel exonerated or is projecting his own self-blame onto her for a moment. Amantha’s already unsure whether she slept with Jon to get him to render his other services or vice versa. Now she feels an unbearable pang of guilt hearing out loud that he thinks it came back to bite them both, and most of all Daniel, in the ass. That’s part of the feeling of inertia. Everything’s playing out as it had been when the season began, but that involves chickens coming home to roost, and not just for Trey.
But Jon doesn’t leave Georgia after all, at least not yet. Instead he stops by Senator Foulkes’ place, the senator still recovering but aware. Jon gets down next to him and says, “The one thing I’m sure of is you are dirty here, Senator. And I’m going to find out how dirty, and I’m going to expose that dirt, and I’m going to make it your legacy. And then I am going to get my client once and for all exonerated for the killing of Hanna Deen.” Foulkes musters a four-syllable grunt that conveys the meaning of “Over my dead body.” Jon says, “Whether you’re dead or alive as this moves forward doesn’t really concern me. I would say, at this point, it’s not even relevant.” Then he leans forward to whisper his kiss-off straight into the bastard’s ear: “I hope your house has termites.” Jon’s trying to make up the debt he feels he owes Daniel, but he was always going to remain Daniel’s lawyer. There’s more to it than that. This is Jon setting up a magnet for himself in Atlanta, giving himself an excuse to come back. He’s trying to remain available in some roundabout way to Amantha. In fact, it rings of an old or mythological Southern chivalry, Jon threatening the man who did wrong to his woman’s brother, especially in the afterglow of a scene that tells us Daniel may have done the crime Jon’s trying to exonerate him for. This is romance on Rectify.
Actually there is a love scene in “The Source.” Daniel, after playing catch with a little boy on the beach, tells Janet he’s going to return to the source. She tells him to be sure to come back, which sets up the sequence with a sense of worry. Is there risk of him not coming back? He wades into the ocean and when the water gets to chest level he flashes back to Death Row. Only it’s not a flashback—it’s a dream where Tawney visits him, and they discover there’s no glass between them, and they decide to kiss. And after this sequence, the real Tawney wakes up from a nap, and it’s the last we see of her in season three, so who knows if she dreamed it too. The main idea is not to disprove it, to allow that the connection between Daniel and Tawney in this scene is genuine and not entirely projected by one side. So when Tawney says there is no God, it carries weight. It’s as strange as every other Daniel scene in the episode, but both seem restored afterward, after their dream selves redouble their faith and love and maybe wonder. Aden Young and Adelaide Clemens haven’t had a scene together all season, and it’s powerful to see them playing off each other again, but even though there’s no glass between them and no guards watching, they don’t quite get to kiss before they wake up. Which at least probably spares Daniel from making out with a wave.
There’s a sense of thawing afterward. In a way it begins with Jon reaffirming his commitment to Amantha and Daniel, but toward the end the whole family starts to warm toward each other again after a frosty season. Ted and Teddy finish Janet’s kitchen by sliding in the Wedgewood stove Daniel got her. Even Teddy agrees: “Fits like a glove.” That’s a gracious moment. It’s not difficult to imagine Big Ted hocking the Wedgewood and getting a stove untainted by Daniel or just one that doesn’t require installing a gas line, and it’s not difficult to imagine Teddy outright refusing to have anything to do with the Wedgewood. But they make a space for it and Daniel fits into the great metaphorical kitchen perfectly. Amantha and Teddy spend an evening over Chinese and gin rummy, both friendlier toward the other than they’d been in a long time. Jared gets to show up and say a line or two. It’s fun for the whole family.
“The Source” ends with two pieces of advice for the future along those lines. Big Ted tells Teddy to fight for his family and not just surrender, and Daniel tells Janet to forgive herself as he leaves to walk alone into New Canaan. Janet isn’t the only one who’s been putting things off until Daniel was taken care of. This season has kept them all in a holding pattern. No wonder the finale feels like things are playing out exactly as planned. Season three hasn’t been about what the Holden-Talbot-Sterns will do in the absence of Daniel. It’s about what they think they’ll do. What they will do remains to be seen. It’s been a year of alienation. Characters are physically isolated from one another in different subplots or branches of the family tree. They keep postponing dealing with their feelings, which is separating themselves from how they feel at any given time. Without Daniel bringing them together, it isn’t just the physical bodies that are pulling apart but the personalities, maybe even the souls. But that was the family reacting to Daniel’s confession and impending exile. Now that he’s in Nashville, they’ll have to move on. And if the end of the season is any indication, it looks like the worst has passed.
- “The Source” is written and directed by Ray McKinnon.
- Daniel in the parking lot of Jon’s motel: “I don’t really have context yet, Jon. Would this be considered a shitty view?”
- Amantha adds, “After eating fritters in a cheap motel, the beach is gonna be such a letdown.”
- As they leave the penitentiary, Daniel tells his mother, “I want to tell you about my friend, Kerwin.”
- Dream Daniel: “God is a rain frog. As God is my witness, He is a rain frog. May Frog strike me down.”
- At an empty seafood restaurant with no plastic lobster on the wall and no specialty grouper to serve, Janet tells Daniel, “We could go somewhere else.” “I’d feel bad for the piano player.”
- Trey was lured to the police station on the promise of kettle corn, and then after a long debriefing, as it were, Carl says, “Why don’t we just keep you here overnight and save you the trip?” Trey turns to the deputy and says his most sympathetic line to date: “You never even had any kettle corn.”
- Daniel: “See you in the funny papers!”