Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Rectify: “Mazel Tov”

Image for article titled Rectify: “Mazel Tov”

The transition from the final shot of “Mazel Tov”—with Daniel Holden lost somewhere between the night that changed his life and the present, with his dead girlfriend calling his name—into the chipper version of murder ballad “Tom Dooley” might have been Rectify’s most perverse moment yet. (And this is a show in which coffee grounds—not beans—have been used as a means of sexual intimidation.) But it was a perfect choice, as well as a perfectly unexpected one. Rectify is so adept at navigating complex emotions that it deserves a little bit of that strange relief.

In season one, things wrapped up at episode six—this year we’re getting ten, and while the silences still feel earned, it also feels like it’s time to offer a bit more in the way of plot. “Mazel Tov” moved a couple of pieces around wisely, hopefully setting up at least a bit of a reveal sometime this season. (Then again, Rectify is nothing if not withholding, so we may have to wait until season six to find out what happened 19 years ago.)

To that end, we get Daniel sleeping with the same waitress as his nemesis—Senator Foulkes—and the admission by Sheriff Daggett to Foulkes that Daniel assaulted Teddy in a matter at least somewhat consistent with the attack on Hanna. And then, of course, there’s Daniel’s brief encounter with Trey, which said a ton about what Daniel may know—and what we’re being led to suspect—with almost no words. Sean Bridgers’ face conveyed it all: fear, arrogance, suspicion, confusion. (The knocking of the air machine he was using offered a nice, menacing touch, too, as did the score.) These two are the only ones who know what happened, and Daniel’s memory is clearly compromised. We do, of course, know that Trey is no saint—his scenes are what define Rectify as a murder-mystery rather than just a contemplation of life and death.

Beyond the plot—which should probably be Rectify’s motto—the episode offered its usual insights into the human condition. From the subtle heartbreak of Daniel’s mother half-rejecting his gift to the breakthrough moment between Daniel and Tawney (“You made me feel, Tawney… I’ve been deepened”), the episode again expertly explored Daniel’s unfolding emotions. You’d think that’d be old after 12 episodes, but the show finds some new niche to explore every week, both by introducing Daniel to new people—the “full of shit” exchange between him and Lezlie was great—and by making it clear that he’s actually processing his feelings differently, and growing toward something.

And man, the prison flashbacks are always powerful. On the one hand, Rectify is guilty of overstocking extraneous characters (hello, Jared, why are you here again?); on the other, it’s unafraid to introduce new people who are there to provide nothing more than some beautiful color in a stark black-and-white world. In his brief scenes, Charlie the Chaplain lets us inside Daniel’s head, inside the mind of a condemned man. And the important pieces are conveyed without words—with Daniel’s desperate hands, and his eyes. (Couldn’t Charlie have brought some cheerier music, though? The Beatles? Or The Four Seasons?)

And then, back to the end: Those mushrooms from last week weren’t going to go unused. Daniel is more ready every week to confront that fateful night, and where this all might go has been expertly shrouded by the show. But that song that played over the end credits, “Tom Dooley”—it’s the true story of a man convicted of murdering his fiancee, a man who’s given a new trial and convicted again. Just before his execution, the real-life Dooley (actually Dula, but that’s another story) proclaimed his innocence. It seems unlikely that Daniel Holden will ever get as far as declaring himself innocent; then again, Rectify, though slow as molasses, has also been full of surprises.


Stray observations:

  • I’m not Erik Adams, but I do watch Rectify. He’ll be back next week.
  • Teddy’s a creep, but will his embarrassment supersede his hatred of Daniel? I don’t think so. I think he’s going to overcome his trauma if he thinks it’ll get Daniel far away from pregnant Tawney. (Also: Tawney’s pregnant! Also: Who cares?)
  • How many characters told somebody to be careful in this episode? At least three.
  • I didn’t get to Daniel’s excellent speech at the funeral. “The contagion of menace and fear, and mercy be damned.” Great.
  • “He damn sure wasn’t making sandcastles back there.”
  • “You’re full of shit, Lezlie.” “Least I’m okay with it, you okay with what you are?”
  • And of course, “Mazel Tov!” “Is that appropriate?”
  • How is a meeting between Daniel and Tawney—who had “feelings” but didn’t act on them—initially more awkward than a meeting between Daniel and Teddy?