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Thursday, May 28, 2015


I missed out on season one of the SundanceTV series "Rectify", which could be a problem with most continuing dramas when you try and pick up on what's going on in midstream and find yourself hopelessly lost. 

Not so, however, with Anchor Bay's 3-disc, 10-episode DVD set RECTIFY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON.  Once I'd read a brief rundown of the show's premise--a man convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend as a teen is released from death row after 19 years due to new DNA evidence and must somehow re-enter a world that is alien to him--I found it to be instantly watchable.

Much of this is due to Aden Young's intense lead performance as Daniel Holden, who, after spending two decades in a cell waiting to die, seems to be perpetually spaced-out just from the act of walking around free.  Daniel reminds me of a protagonist in one of those sci-fi stories about an alien trying to assimilate into human society a la "Stranger in a Strange Land"--an enigma not only to those around him but seemingly to himself as well.

Introspective and painfully self-conscious, he's always preoccupied yet acutely focused on everything going on around him as he tries to figure out how to properly interact with it.  As though this weren't enough, he still has to deal with people who suspect him of being guilty, including the murdered girl's family, a shady senator out for his blood, and a district attorney who is preparing a new case against him.

But the real heart of the series is Daniel's turbulent relationship with his family.  His long-suffering mother Janet (J. Smith-Cameron, THE RAGE: CARRIE 2, THE FIRST WIVES CLUB) and devoted sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer, COWBOYS & ALIENS, "Mad Men") are his biggest supporters and run interference for him when his stepfather Ted (Bruce McKinnon) and stepbrother Ted, Jr. (Clayne Crawford, WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY) find Daniel to be an intolerable burden to the family.

To make things worse, Ted, Jr.'s wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE) has a romantic history with Daniel that threatens to destroy their marriage.  Tawney's Christian faith (sympathetically portrayed, which is rare these days) adds to her guilt while Ted, Jr. takes a dangerous financial risk that may ruin them in order to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy.  This is exacerbated by the lingering memory of a violent and humiliating occurrence between him and Daniel which he mistakenly confides to the town sheriff (J.D. Evermore).

Season two begins with Daniel in a coma after having been beaten half to death by the murdered girl's brother and his friends.  Further episodes explore his difficult readjustment into family life and his sometimes pathetic attempts to make new friends.  (TITANIC's Frances Fisher guest stars as a woman with whom he shares a brief, bittersweet relationship under a false identity.) As the season draws to a close, the district attorney (Sharon Conley) and Senator Foulkes (Michael O'Neill) tighten their resolve to put Daniel back behind bars once and for all. 

The 3-disc DVD set from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole bonus feature is a twenty-minute examination of each of the season's ten episodes.

RECTIFY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is a solid drama, slow-paced but engrossing, with each storyline given time and space to stretch out rather than always catering to the attention-deficit crowd.  It builds to an intense conclusion with one of those season cliffhangers that puts us through the wringer and then leaves us hanging.  With Daniel facing the decision to go through a new trial or take a plea deal and sign a confession of guilt, this one has me really looking forward to finding out what happens next. 

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