TV: Rectify (Season 3)

One of peak TV’s under-celebrated greats, the thoughtful, atmospheric Rectify extends its classy track record into its third year. Set in small-town Georgia, the show circles the haunted Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who, after twenty years on death row for a rape-murder to which he confessed, is released when DNA evidence exonerates him of his crimes. The show executes an impressive structural feat in its first two seasons: without exhausting viewer patience, it incrementally reveals new details of a decades-old crime, painting a clearer and clearer picture of what actually happened to put Daniel behind bars. But even as the second season ends with major components of the truth revealed, the full picture of the crime remains muddy. Daniel’s troubled psychology leads to perplexing behavior that continues to cast doubts on the extent of his involvement in the crime that forever changed his life.

As the season begins, Daniel has been banished from his home town of Paulie; he has thirty days to tie up loose ends and start a new life elsewhere. But while Daniel has resigned himself to this uncertain future, other developments in town start to pull away the veil of secrecy surrounding his past. A new body is discovered, and the resulting investigation, led by Sheriff Carl Daggett (J.D. Evermore), seems connected with Daniel and the tragic, defining moments that shaped him. Broken and bewildered, Daniel has accepted his own ambiguous guilt and is ready to move on, but Daggett has new doubts, and new details emerge that may change the fate of Daniel and his family.

Rectify isn’t always an easy show to watch. Its emotional lows are heart-breaking, and this season it reveals itself more as an oblique, damning critique of toxic masculinity and rape culture. Sad as it is, however, it’s also moving and beautiful, thanks to the nuanced, touching performances of its cast—especially Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, and Luke Kirby. Its dire, troubled atmosphere also muses thoughtfully on judgmental behavior, faith, and justice in a quietly hopeful way, and the title leaves me anxious to see how the show resolves its dilemmas in the fourth and final season.

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