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Rectify – “Donald the Normal” and “Act As If”Reviews: Characters Deepen

Since I was away on vacation last week, I’d like to touch on both last week’s episode of Rectify along with this week’s installment. Both episodes actually fit very well together, with each taking steps to flesh out some of the supporting cast of characters while continuing to give us insight into who Daniel once was and who he has become.

Daniel has spent so much time observing and reacting to the changes in the world around him that its easy to forget that we actually don’t know all that much about who he once was and who is in the present. We’ve seen what he missed- the many changes in the world, from Wal-Mart to Occupy Wall Street- but he has only ever been honest and open with Kerwin, and now that Kerwin is no longer a part of the series we have lost that insight into what makes Daniel tick. Clearly, he possesses a desire to be normal, which is explored beautifully in “Donald the Normal” in his interactions with Frances Fisher’s Peggy (an excellent guest starring turn for Fisher).

This idea of “being normal” is continued within “Act As If,” which sees Daniel returning to the mental state of the high school boy he was before getting sent to death row- booze, drugs, and girls. Comparing the two, it seems that Daniel’s back slide into a debauched partier doesn’t sit nearly as well with him as his foray into the world of the ladies who lunch crowd. But, without knowing more of the puzzle pieces (such as what actually happened with Hannah, and how much of the guilt that Daniel carries is truly justified), we don’t have a clear idea as to what made him look so incredibly spooked after firing the rifle alongside Lezlie (and, considering Daniel’s past strange encounters, is Lezlie really even there).

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In addition to dropping bread crumbs about Daniel’s past exploits and current mental state (after all, someone with a great grip on the here and now doesn’t demolish a kitchen because he feels like it), these two episodes take time to finally dive into two underused characters: Amantha and Ted Sr. Up until now, Amantha has essentially been the poster girl for anger and betrayal. She’s spent the last season and a half mad at the world and desperate for Daniel and the rest of the family to validate her feelings. When she’s been rebuffed, most recently by Daniel himself, she’s hidden back in her shell and isolated herself from the rest of the family. If Daniel is lonely, he certainly isn’t the only one in the family feeling the same. Janet’s incessant need to coddle Daniel (more on that in a moment) while continuing to demand bigger and better things from Amantha appears to have permanently damaged their mother-daughter relationship (assuming it wasn’t already in danger of failing as a result of the stress of Daniel’s prison sentence).

So, it was great to see Amantha take steps toward her own independence. Yes, she is still tethering herself to Daniel, claiming that he needs her (even though all signs indicate he would do better without his family and their constant hovering), but getting a job and trying to be proactive in even the smallest manner is necessary- both for her development as a person and for the character’s forward trajectory. Honestly, I’m not sure how many more episodes I could have handled with Amantha screaming and yelling about freedom and fairness.

On the other hand, I could certainly do with more Ted Sr. Considering the sorry state of his family, they could certainly do with more Ted as well. From Teddy making the horrific error in putting his house up for collateral on the rim business loan (and now, with a child potentially on the way, this seems even more idiotic), to Janet refusing to accept that Daniel is a man who should be forced to at least act like a considerate human being, things are spiraling out of control and Ted seems to be the only one left with any sense. Janet has been particularly cruel to Ted of late, a troubling development seeing as Teddy and Tawny are still on rocky ground. For some reason, these characters are all allergic to the truth and commons sense, save for Ted. While I understand why the show has been so reluctant to give us insights in his character (having the one guy who is actually talking sense constantly showing how smart he is would get tiresome), I certainly would like to see more of this caring and intelligent man in the future.

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Final Thoughts

I was wondering when Teddy would play the “Daniel is still violent” card. I honestly didn’t see that confession coming though. What’s even more troubling is hearing the sheriff say that the “zebra hasn’t changed his stripes” in response. That is incredibly ominous.

— Daniel’s old high school buddy was back this week, and was wading through the river in the dead of night. That’s not suspicious at all.

— How incredible was the scene between Daniel and Kerwin’s family? Such a heartbreaking scene and so wonderfully played.

Rating
9.0
Pros
  • Strong character moments
  • Great development of previously undeveloped characters
  • Insight into Daniel
Cons
  • Slow playing the mystery a bit too much

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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