You might not be alone if you haven’t watched the first season of “Rectify.” The drama aired only six episodes in 2013. But positive word of mouth is spreading about the show, which has just begun its second season on SundanceTV.
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“Rectify” revolves around a single event. The main character, Daniel Holden, was convicted of a brutal rape and murder as a teenager. Some 20 years later, he’s released from prison on a technicality. But without an exoneration, no one quite knows how to interact with him. How can he adjust to life after 20 years on death row? Did he really commit the crime? The show is notable for its steadfast refusal to pass judgment on these and other questions, as well as its patience with the story it’s telling. It’s all held together by the intense performance at the heart of the show.
Aden Young inhabits Daniel with a stillness almost unique on television. Long moments on the show pass while Daniel observes something silently. One early scene featured him pulling a pillow apart only to joyfully watch the feathers float down on him like snow. If this description makes the show seem dull, it isn’t. Measured and gorgeous, yes, but not boring.
“It’s a hard show to define because it fits outside of the boundaries of so much of what we’re used to structurally on television,” says Young. He’s not exaggerating. Those first six episodes take place nearly in real time, across Daniel’s first six days out of prison.
Young thinks the premise itself has allowed for more interesting storytelling. He describes Daniel as a man coming back to life, which explains part of why Daniel is so slow to react to the world around him. It’s a difficult performance to calibrate, and Young jokes that “a great deal of Valium” is needed to slow himself down to the pace at which Daniel experiences the world.
That said, he calls Daniel a “gift for an actor” because of how quiet he is and how much he listens. “If you do that, you find that those spaces where very little is happening are really filled up with a great deal of introspection and thought.”
If Daniel seemed a bit passive in the first season, look for that to change. In the second season, he’ll be a little more proactive about exploring his new freedom.
“It’s much more about him wanting to experience life, almost in the way an adolescent might. To feel it, and taste it, and rush off with a new discovery, very unaware of the consequences those actions will have,” says Young.