×

TV Review: ‘Rectify,’ Season 3

With:
Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith Cameron, Luke Kirby, Clayne Crawford, Adelaide Clemens, Bruce McKinnon, Jake Austin Walker, Michael O’Neill

Again plodding along at a near-hypnotic pace, “Rectify” begins its third season almost exactly where the second left off, and that’s a good thing. Awash in critical acclaim, this deeply rich and provocative drama remains a standout for its little-seen home SundanceTV, even warranting a pre-return marathon on big brother AMC. While that’s unlikely to translate into much of a ratings boost for a series so steeped in pain and sadness, it’s a welcome endorsement of a show that offers further proof great dramas are coming from an extremely wide variety of sources.

Just to recap, season two ended with Daniel Holden (Aden Young), the walking embodiment of coiled feelings and cordoned-off emotions, agreeing to a plea deal in the case that had put him on death row for 19 years, despite his apparent innocence. Weary from the struggle, he’s hoping to spare his family and perhaps find a fresh start elsewhere, although the motivations of the bureaucrats with whom he’s dealing aren’t necessarily to be trusted.

At the same time, Daniel’s act of aggression against Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford), the son of Daniel’s stepfather, risks coming back to haunt him and unsettle the family. And there’s the little matter of the strained relationship between Ted and his wife, Tawney (Adelaide Clemens), to whom Daniel was inexorably drawn almost as soon as he was released from prison.

Finally, there’s Daniel’s long-suffering mother (J. Smith-Cameron) and sister (Abigail Spencer), who have labored to defend and free him, and now face the deflating prospect of having him admit his guilt — or really, in his own mixed-up mind, culpability. Those long-ago events surrounding the murder haven’t entirely remained buried, despite Daniel’s riveting account of what happened at the close of season two.

Anchoring everything is Young’s remarkable work in the lead role, playing a man whose impassive demeanor only occasionally hints at his inner turmoil, illustrated in part through the judicious use of flashbacks to his time in prison. When he says to a mother and child on a playground, “I’m nobody to be worried about,” you believe him, but could hardly blame the woman for taking the kid and leaving nevertheless.

Created by Ray McKinnon (who wrote the Stephen Gyllenhaal-directed premiere), “Rectify” remains a master class in nuance — in small looks and long pauses that say more than pages of dialogue, where even a trip to the local convenience store fosters a sense of unease. In that respect, the series is frequently deceptive in terms of how much the story advances from week to week, since it regularly feels like not much is happening.

Sundance has delivered some admirable limited series, but its attempts to follow this show with additional dramas have been uneven, reflecting just how difficult it is to approximate this indie-film niche in episodic form.

After seeking to adjust to life on the outside, Daniel’s journey has taken turns that could hardly have been anticipated, and it’s frankly tough to foresee where the show goes from here, or for how long. Still, “Rectify” has established itself as a trip worth taking, and for a discriminating few, at least, the protagonist’s slow road to redemption remains an utterly absorbing one.

TV Review: 'Rectify,' Season 3

(Series; SundanceTV, Thurs. July 9, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Georgia by Gran Via Prods. and Sundance TV Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Ray McKinnon, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein; co-executive producer, Marshall Persinger; producer, Colin Walsh; director, Stephen Gyllenhaal; writer, McKinnon; camera, Patrick Cady; production designer, Hugh D.G. Moody II; editor, Christopher Cibelli; music, Gabriel Mann; casting, Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein. 60 MIN.

Cast: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith Cameron, Luke Kirby, Clayne Crawford, Adelaide Clemens, Bruce McKinnon, Jake Austin Walker, Michael O’Neill

More TV

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

  • BLESS THIS MESS - "The Chicken

    Listen: Lake Bell, Dax Shepard on Returning to Broadcast TV With 'Bless This Mess'

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday. The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City [...]

  • superstore renewed season 3

    'Superstore' Showrunner Justin Spitzer Steps Down as He, Gabe Miller, Jonathan Green Renew Overall Deals at UTV

    “Superstore” executive producers Justin Spitzer, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green have all renewed their overall deals with Universal Television. In addition, Miller and Green will take over showrunner duties on “Superstore” while Spitzer — who also created the series — will shift to develop new projects for the studio beginning with the 2019-2020 season. “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content