All Fear Has Been Overwhelmed By Desire On Rectify

Desire for gelato, that is -- but the show's ear for what's true is also being overwhelmed by the TV-weirdness of Chloe.

It says a lot about the goodwill and trust Rectify has built up over the years and seasons that I don't just fast-forward Daniel's scenes with Chloe, but even if their relationship never goes any farther than two lost souls, as Chloe puts it, "temporarily perfect for each other," Chloe overall is the rare misstep for a show that has historically had a much better ear than this for its characters and its world. What's worse, we've reached the halfway point of the show's final season, and while Rectify's determinedly deliberate pacing is one of the things I enjoy about it, the time we have left with characters I don't find tiresomely arch and twee is dwindling rapidly.

Amantha's force-of-habit contrarianism on her hunting date with Billy is uncomfortable to watch, sure; her "rooting for the birds" joke is, well, for the birds and doesn't land, and the bitchy directness she's gotten used to using to discomfit or repel others doesn't have the expected effect on Billy. (It's also literally uncomfortable to watch. Girl, it's hunting, not a glamor shot; put your damn hair up before you and a bramble bush end up common-law married.)


And I physically cringed just a little at her defensive "oh well I'm not necessarily looking for someone either so there" response when Billy doesn't take her Freudian bait, but it's not awkward from a construction standpoint, or a contrivance standpoint, in the writing. It's awkward because Amantha is a fully realized, not fully matured human being who's flailing around trying to live for something besides Daniel's case, and that shit can get weird, because: people are weird.

Things between people can get weird, too, like Janet's conversation with Jared about his selling his Furbies. It's one of those conversations between a mother and her adolescent son that can feel like it's taking place across a transatlantic connection from the 1950s, made worse by Janet's nagging of him about giving his address to someone "on the internet" -- she doesn't seem engaged with what she's saying. Then she coos over finding "your dad's" army coat, but of course it's Lester's, not Ted Sr.'s, and Janet's response is say that that's what she meant, with as vague an investment as the nagging, then murmur that she's sorry she was "such a bad mother." Jared's honestly taken aback, and Janet claims she doesn't know where that came from, but the show has always kept Jared on the edges, up in the attic -- the same afterthought he's been to his mother.

"Weird" is fine. "Weird" is a state Rectify doesn't flinch at; it knows the beauty of "weird," even when it's bleak or bittersweet, like Teddy's inexorable approach towards the abyss. His status in the family is reduced, his marriage is a torn cobweb, and now his stepmother's going to sell the tire store out from under him -- the store only he really cares about -- and on top of that she's being a pill about his colloquialisms. When Tawney calls to apologize for not being there for him on a date night he walked out on, frustrated by her inability to engage, he just listens to her voicemail and cries; he was happier staring out Amantha's window at the neighbors, imagining himself stepping sideways into another life.


Jon's pause-giving DGAF-ness about figuring out who killed Hanna, to the point of tailing Trey to a bar and goading him into pointing the finger at "Country-Club Chris"; the sheriff's wife saying that Pickens won't talk to Jon, but Jon can pee in their yard if he needs to after a fruitless doorstop stakeout -- that kind of weird tracks. It makes sense for these characters, because it makes sense for people to behave in these ways, as self-destructive or goofy as it might seem. The problem with Chloe is that she's TV-and-movie weird; she's a maneuver, not a person, a means to get Daniel to step out of fear, or talk about his PTSD, or whatever her purpose is. I don't disagree that Daniel needs some sort of dialogue foil that will allow him to express in so many words his feelings of disorientation, exile, and grief at part of a life lost. But a be-bangsed pregnant artist who thinks she's doing him a therapeutic service by trespassing in the home of a country artist, and opening walnuts with one of the singer's awards? It's like the Curtis Armstrong character in Risky Business with his "sometimes you just gotta say 'what the fuck'" speech, but we've...heard that speech, is A, and B, historically saying WTF and seeing what happens hasn't worked out for Daniel.

A try-hard who's helping herself to a client's expensive desserts shouldn't be the recipient of quite such an adoring gaze, although spending 20 years on death row means Daniel hasn't been overexposed to this particular grab bag of fortune-cookie philosophy the way we have.


I'd like to think it's telling that, after Chloe drops him off, Daniel is gazing hopefully out the window...only to have his reverie broken by the unmistakeable sound of his roommate rudely knuckle-shuffling in the next bed.


I'd like to believe that Rectify is commenting on Chloe's bloviatory self-regard by cutting fairly quickly to someone else who doesn't actually give a shit about Daniel and just wants to hear himself moan. But I doubt that's the idea. I understand how the show might need to show Daniel working through his anxieties (and while Aden Young does his typically outstanding job conveying them; Daniel's agitation at Chloe's unrepentant snacking is nearly contagious). Its sometimes stagey conversations don't annoy me when it's Tawney and Mr. Zeke. I should also note again that Caitlin FitzGerald is doing her very best to nuance her scenes, and my issue isn't with her choices. But Chloe's whole "free your soul through shoplifting" school of whatever the hell isn't merely irritating or odd; it's synthetic, and it doesn't go with anything else in Rectify. Put Daniel in actual therapy, please; the flea-market-collage version isn't cutting it.

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