INDEPENDENT – Back in 2013, a small TV show crawled onto US screens airing a modest debut season of six episodes. It returned for two more instalments in 2014 and 2015 with the show’s final episodes due later this year. It’s in this way that the series will bow out, not unlike a mouse in the corner of the room you never knew was there.
The show is Rectify. Developed by writer-director Ray McKinnon, the drama provided cable channel SundanceTV with its first original drama that may just be America’s best.
One read of the premise lures you in: Daniel Holden (Aden Young), imprisoned as a teenager for the rape and murder of a young girl, spends 19 years on death row before fresh DNA evidence throws the verdict into question. His release and ensuing assimilation back into society, however, won’t be easy; many of the townsfolk are convinced he’s guilty.
Early episodes are scattered with flashbacks serving as metaphorical open windows into Holden’s time behind bars which ultimately serve to combat his (silent) expression of innocence. They yank you back as you teeter on the precipice of making a decision regarding his potential guilt.
Crucially, this never becomes the show’s pull – instead, Rectify is intent on telling the story of a man forced to readjust to a freedom he never thought he’d be granted; it’s this that injects the series with an emotional heft.
It helps that Holden’s character is held up by Young, a staggeringly great Canadian-Australian actor whose most prominent film credit is extraordinarily the abysmal I, Frankenstein. The remainder of the ensemble is clearly relishing every second also: J. Smith-Cameron as Daniel’s long-suffering mother, Janet; Abigail Spencer as his bolshie sister, Amantha; and Luke Kirby as his kindly lawyer, Jon to pinpoint a few.
It’s Clayne Crawford and Adelaide Clemens that prove Rectify’s true aces in the pack, however; as Daniel’s step-brother and sister-in-law Teddy and Tawney, their already fractured marriage unravels even further upon Daniel’s homecoming, leading to the most powerful home showdown since that Tony and Carmela scene in The Sopranos’ sourth season finale.
But, of course, these actors wouldn’t be working to such high standards if it wasn’t for the pristine quality of storytelling. Backed by the Georgia setting – all beating down sun and inflatable arm flailing tube men (just watch it) – Rectify, sharing producers with Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, bears echoes of that series largely attained through the meticulous pacing. Another similarity, though not as stark, is Nic Pizzolatto’s first season of True Detective in that, underneath the sleepy town’s exterior, dark happenings are afoot.
In a time when Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead haul in record-breaking viewing figures week after week, Rectify champions unhurried, high-quality storytelling told at no television network’s mercy. Perhaps Rectify will garner the acclaim it deserves years after it reaches its sure-to-be affecting climax. Perhaps not. Either way, unlike the blurred lines separating Daniel’s innocence or guilt, there is nothing ambiguous about you needing to seek this series out for yourself with immediacy.
Rectify season three is now available to buy on DVD from ITV Studios; amazon.co.uk