TV: Rectify (Season 4)

It’s the rare show that lasts precisely as long as it should. The eloquent, moving Rectify is one of them. This haunting drama closes it final season on a perfect note, more than justifying the emotional struggles and painful tragedies that lead up to its final moments.

Rectify chronicles the efforts of Daniel Holden (Aden Young) to re-enter society after nineteen trying years of solitary confinement on death row. Exonerated on late-to-develop DNA evidence, Daniel returns to his small hometown of Paulie, Georgia as a divisive figure and lost soul. The black clouds that follow him create emotional turmoil for everyone around him—and even more for himself. Through three seasons, Daniel’s guilt or innocence remained a mystifying puzzle, even to Daniel, who’s traumatic prison stay thoroughly warped his memory of the events that changed his life. As season four begins, Daniel has relocated to Nashville as part of a plea deal, fulfilling the terms of a banishment from Paulie. With the help of a halfway-house program, he’s landed a low-paying warehouse job and quietly struggles to make a new life for himself. But despite his every coping mechanism, the traumas of his past continue to haunt him—until a chance encounter with a complicated artist named Chloe (Caitlin FitzGerald) finally starts to erode his defenses. Meanwhile, back in Paulie, Daniel may no longer be around but his presence is still sharply felt, his absence now a powerful void that continues to trouble the members of his family, especially his mother Janet (J. Smith-Cameron) and brother-in-law Teddy (Clayne Crawford). But a kind of resolution may be in sight: Daniel’s steadfast lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) can’t shake the feeling there’s still legal hope to truly clear Daniel’s name, and comes back to town to pursue promising new leads.

With its stately pace and emotionally fraught subject matter , Rectify likely won’t connect with certain viewers, but it’s a subtle masterpiece, one of the most emotionally satisfying dramas of the modern TV era. Young’s touching performance serves as the mesmerizing centerpiece of a talented ensemble that expertly enacts the smart, powerful scripts that patiently solve the decades-old mystery at the series’ heart. But as compelling as its plot may be, Rectify excels most in its moments: its beautiful imagery, its poetic turns of phrase, its spine-tingling emotional insights. Perhaps the fourth season’s most impressive feat is creating a new world for Daniel, away from everything he (and the viewer) knows—the season opener, “A House Divided,” eases us poignantly into this new world, which is brilliantly cast. In an absolutely crucial role, Caitlin FitzGerald couldn’t be more perfect, and by season’s end I was just as invested in Daniel’s new life as his old one. But the denizens of Paulie aren’t neglected either, and somehow the writers manage to bring satisfying emotional closure to every plot thread and relationship, even as they avoid easy solutions.

Rectify isn’t the most electrifying show, and it’a not terribly diverse, but it’s engrossing, confident, and memorable, a series that more people should know about. Its hopeful final moments will stay with me for a long time.

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