Rectify: Season 1

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I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that Rectify is the slowest show on TV. I don’t mean this as an insult or a compliment, but instead as a fact. Rectify is slow because it has to be. Its story requires that of it.

Rectify is a criminally underwatched show that just began its third season on SundanceTV and had its fourth season picked up. The story follows Daniel Holden (played by Aden Young), who returns to his tiny hometown after spending 19 years on death row for a crime he [didn’t / may not have / probably didn’t / who knows?] commit. A lot has changed in the world in the past two decades, and there’s a lot of pieces for Daniel to put back together.

His family and his hometown each have mixed reactions to his return. Nothing will ever be the same, and that’s the point. Daniel exists in a world he’s never known, and each day he spends (and each episode we watch) is a struggle to figure out where he belongs.

Each of the first season’s six episodes takes place over a single day; the first season pretty much depicts his first week upon being released from prison. While other shows may rush to get to conflict after conflict with no time to breathe, Rectify is wholly content to slow things down and let the looming conflicts simmer. It’s methodical in a way that few other shows (aside from Hannibal, The Americans, The Leftovers, and Game of Thrones) dare to be.

That’s tremendous company for any show to find itself, and I fully believe it earns those accolades. Up until a few years ago, SundanceTV didn’t even have original programming. To find a gem of a show like this so early on speaks volumes about Sundance’s prospects as a TV channel. (Also definitely worth a watch is Top of the Lake, another show that’s content to take its time and let the horrors of the real world sink in.)

Rectify isn’t an easy watch. It’s very slow and relatively brutal in the way it captures Daniel’s day-to-day life. It pulls no punches and makes viewers persevere to enjoy it. But it’s shot in such a gorgeous way and filled with so many wonderful performances (by everyone, really, but especially by Aden Young and Abigail Spencer, who plays Daniel’s sister Amantha) that Rectify is absolutely worth your time to anyone looking for a meaty drama to dig into.

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