Review BBC America’s Orphan Black: “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (Season Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

Season finales are conceived to be memorable and in that sense Orphan Black‘s was successful. Its shock moments gave viewers many reasons for pause. If only those pauses were out of a desire to revel in the cleverness of plot points, over attempts to shake away the unpleasantness of seeing this and that depicted on screen.

I enjoy grey area shows where nothing is black and white, so ethically questionable decisions in fictional works aren’t known to turn me away. That being said, the sudden, drastic choices some of the clones make here, forever changing their characters, are decisions too sinister too soon, and they repel me from a first season I had otherwise continually enjoyed. Instead of slowly embarking down dark paths Sarah and Alison leap straight into them. This goes against a path of natural, gradual progression towards darkness for the weaker, quick reversal of personality. Thus big finale moments are created, but minus the pay off of having these character changes be inevitable and worked up to by events leading up to these moments.

Worse, because it’s the finale, my unease towards this episode is what will stick with me in the months until the show’s Spring 2014 return. Instead of remembering the strong dimensions of the show that would have previously dominated my memory of watching it (mainly the cast, led by breakthrough powerhouse Tatiana Maslany), I’ll only remember the following three aspects, which I have pinpointed as the culprits for my taking issue with this finale. The first two might have been allowable and looked past on their own. The same cannot be said for the third,-Sarah’s impulsive, harsh deed- which I cannot excuse and which still has the gravity to turn me away from the show all together, despite my current plan to give Orphan Black a chance to redeem itself next year.
 

1. Lack of Felix

  • I will admit this is more of a personal qualm than an actual problem, but Felix was really poorly underutilized in this finale. Every scene he is thrown into seems out of pity: Sure, Felix can make a brief appearance here, but the catch is he’ll have little to say or do beyond standing/sitting in the background for back-up as Sarah’s loyal brother. We’ll make his apartment the impromptu home base/safe haven for Sarah’s fellow clones, but he’ll be pushed out and left ceding his own place to them a ridiculous number of times. In essence, his willingness to come to their aide on behalf of Sarah is not appreciated but assumed.
  •  

  • And speaking of Sarah, after being informed that Felix was, like her, arrested by the police, she didn’t include him in her terms to Art as one of the people that needed to be protected if she was to confess her “secret” (she only requests guaranteed safety for herself and her Felix talking his way out of the slammerdaughter, Kira). Art wants an explanation as to why she shares an uncanny resemblance to his former police partner, Beth, as well as a murder victim and a suburban mom. Sarah is willing to spill that information without the assurance of Felix’s freedom, despite the fact that his only crime was helping her. And if her lawyer hadn’t interrupted the police questioning, she would have gone through with leaving him in the lurch, too.

 

2. Alison lets neighbor, Aynesley, die

  • Alison standing by as Aynesley is strangled, her scarf caught in a garbage disposal*, goes along with Alison’s established proneness to paranoia, as well as a track record of instant, unfiltered reactions to presumed threats (the hot glue gunning incident with her back when Aynseley was alivehusband, Donny, comes to mind). She becomes cold and unfeeling in these situations, so that she can commit what she then believes has to be done to keep her and her children safe. However, the assumptions by which she acts in this instant turn out to be false conclusions. Aynesley was not her monitor and she should have been 100% sure of her former best friend’s guilt before allowing her death to take place, unhindered.
  •  

  • And what a death. Unabashed and dirty, the camera never turns away. The audience has to consider the full gravity of this “no time to think about things” decision, and that Alison’s instinct was to do nothing, changes one’s whole perception of her as the stressed but steady “soccer mom”. She also stands out for being the only one to sign Doctor Leekie’s contract, out of a compulsion to do anything to have her life return to normal. Since her life was never normal to begin with (as a clone, she was always being observed) it’s not about to become so now. What Alison truly desires is a return to the delusion of normalcy. By her coldness towards Aynesley, she proves how far she is willing to go to get it. Maybe this isn’t the greatest stretch for her character to take this route, but it certainly is the worst.

 
*I have seen limbs lost by garbage disposals on TV before but strangulation may be a first.
 

~ SIDENOTE ~

Alison’s inaction let me to make two other TV pop culture connections.

In the seventh season finale of ER, “Rampage,” [spoilers ahead] Anthony Edward’s Dr. Mark Green is alone in an elevator when a patient starts arresting in front of him. This dying man had been on a shooting rampage that day, at least eight or nine dead, including at least one child at a foster home. His motive for all the violence was Green and Adele, the hospital’s social worker, taking his son away due to suspicions of parental abuse. He shot Adele at her home address and she becomes paralyzed. He killed his neighbor, who out of concern had brought his son to the hospital in the first place. Her son, now motherless, was injured. And the address he was heading to when the police caught him was Green’s house, where his wife and newborn child were. It’s a morally ambiguous scene, especially when carried out by one of the more moral doctors of the show, but as you watch the episode’s closing sequence of Mark charging the crash cart paddles and then setting them off in midair, not attempting to save the patient, simply letting him die, you know why. He was protecting his family, who came out unharmed but were without a doubt the man’s next target. Alison didn’t have any solid proof when it came to her suspicions about Anyseley.

Then there’s Breaking Bad‘s Walter White, who goes into the meth manufacturing business to make some money to leave his family after a terminal cancer diagnosis. These “pure” motives turn out to be enough for him to convince himself that he is innocent, but not the DEA. If they found out about his dealings, every dollar would be seized, his family dropped in the middle of a gigantic scandal. As a precaution against such a reveal, Walter selfishly moves to block any potential loose ends that might rat on his drug operation. [spoilers ahead for end of season two] This includes his crime partner, Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend, Jane. Pushing her onto her back while she was under the influence of heroin in season two’s, “Phoenix,” he stood by and watched as she suffocated on her own vomit because she threatened to tell the DA about his meth dealings. There is nothing forgivable about this murder, which has a domino effect in setting off other disasters (Jesse’s mental breakdown, Jane’s father getting distracted while on the job, causing a passenger-filled plane to crash, etc.).

Even worse than Alison’s doing nothing, he deliberately pushed Jane on her back. If nothing else Alison can say she didn’t stick Aynesley’s scarf in the garbage disposal. Worse with Alison’s: she is not half as despicable as Walter White. I feel he has always been capable of turning into a monster but I wouldn’t describe her the same way. She shouldn’t have been able to just stand there**, no matter what her reasons for wanting the woman dead, especially while any doubt existed of her involvement with Dr. Leekie. Plus, Aynseley was moving away. If Alison has let that be enough and dropped it right there, instead of following Aynseley into her house, probably nothing would have happened.
 

** Walter shouldn’t have been able to not do anything either, but it somehow wasn’t surprising. No less horrific but not shocking for him to do, either.
 

3. Sarah shot and killed Helena

Sisters

Sisters

  • This was the worst to me. Helena was Sarah’s sister. Yes, she killed people, there is no denying or excusing that. But… if it weren’t for the circumstances of her upbringing, Helena might have been a very different person. That can be said of anyone, naturally, but a lot of her twisted actions can be traced back to a childhood of being mentally brain washed by Father Thomas. He manipulated her into believing she was the original clone, destined to destroy the others by some religious decree. And who was around to tell her differently? Sarah by no means had an easy life as an orphan. However, she did have a brother, and now a daughter, who loved her dearly and the effect of such companionship can never be underestimated.
  •  

  • Helena only ever had a man who was using her to carry out his plans, a man, as revealed in episode nine, “Unconscious Selection,” she would have never met if her birth mother hadn’t left her in the convent. Amelia separated her twins with the intention of keeping them safe from the scientists who created them but Sarah, who was dropped in the foster system, ended up getting the better deal. Therefore Helena has legitimate reasons for being upset with her birth mother, only she reacts in the way she has been taught to respond, through cold violence.
  •  

  • Truly, when she kills Amelia under the ruse of being Sarah using a wig***, it is a murder motivated by a recognition on her part of what she has become (a killer) and what she could have been (a mother like Sarah). This self-understanding started taking place after she meets Sarah. Suddenly she starts trying to be good, going against orders to come to Sarah’s aid during a rescue attempt of Paul in episode eight, “Entangled Bank,” and siding with Sarah over Thomas in, “Unconscious Selection,” before even knowing they were related. She even drops her kidnapping of Kira out of some newfound remorse and conscious. Kira recognizes this and goes on to tell her mom that Helena was not a real monster but Sarah isn’t listening. Helena wants to change, no longer purely a follower but a decision maker. This understandably means mistakes are being made as well. Because of her lifestyle as a trained assassin, these mistakes are on a grander scale. Sarah can’t take that.
  •  

  • I thought that the realization of them being related meant we would see a Sarah next season who was going to farther help Helena recover. These predictions made Sarah’s decision to kill Helena all the more unsettling and upsetting, a betrayal of sorts. Helena was no threat to her or Kira, yet Sarah cannot forgive Helena for Amelia’s death, nor Kira accidently getting hit by a car. Maybe no one could have been forgiving in that moment of discovering the dying Amelia, but Sarah’s reaction is quick and deadly. The sisters had had each others backs before, withholding from harming the other due to some internal feeling of identification and connection with the other. Those days permanently end with this finale.

 
*** FX’s The Americans has shown me how well a wig can be pulled off, looking both real and undetectable (ABC’s Alias had to resort to bright colors to get away with constantly changing Agent Sydney Bristow’s hair styles). When Helena dons a wig of her own and succeeds in stabbing her birth mother, did anyone else feel like it was a cheat? I know clones pretending to be other clones has been used before. Previously viewers have always been aware when such attempts at subterfuge were happening. This use of a wig to hide Helena’s identity was different: not a drastic, intentional change in behavior and speech on the clone’s part (Sarah watching video of Beth to get her accent right) but a disguise that predominantly leaned on a cheap piece of clothing. For surprise it worked but because the clones are all played by the same actress, it felt cruel to mess with our ability to tell them apart with an item that could be purchased.
 
 
So, while I will be coming back for season two, the question remains as to whether I’ll be sticking around…. I still go back to the fact that, for all the craziness the plot was allowed to have (reasonable sci-fi explanations available for any outrageous directions it chose to take), the clones were supposed to be grounded in human qualities. Sometimes they did wild things (Alison and her hot glue gun interrogation) but their go-to excuse of still tackling the realization of, “being a genetic copy of others” was effective (plus the hot glue scene was original and darkly comedic). After this finale, the clones have officially lost their privilege of using viewer sympathy to get away with committing questionable actions (or, technically in Alison’s case, getting away with choosing to do nothing).
 
Is it just me, though? Did you enjoy the finale, or do you have trepidations as well? And what is Orphan Black without Helena? Will the void she leaves be filled with additional clones (already met one new one this episode with corporate “proclone,” Rachel), destroy the show or allow it to further progress towards something more complex? Mourn Helena, discuss the finale, or ponder the future of the show in the comments below.
 

-pictures from here

 

My Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series”

UPDATE:

Again, picking comedy nominees has not been my strong suit.
 
The Emmys seem unperturbed by the fact that The Office had its final season and will never have a chance to be given any awards again.
 
Congratulations Anna Chlumsky for your first Emmy nomination! You are my favorite character on Veep and that show is packed with funny characters.
 
Maybe next year Amy Poehler won’t have to be the only representative for Parks and Recreations. True, Poehler is a genius, even providing the best moments during actual award shows, but so are many of her colleagues (Aubrey Plaza!).
 
Alas, far less surprised that Cougar Town has no Emmy representatives, but that doesn’t make it right.
 
Here is the official nominations list.
 

***

 
Here is what the “Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series” category would look like if I was in charge of the Emmys (unfortunately, you can only nominate six people, and even my honorable mentions section is missing worthy individuals).
 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

– Anna Chlumsky (Amy Brookheimer, Veep)

– Jenna Fischer (Pam Halpert, The Office)

– Kaley Cuoco (Penny, The Big Bang Theory)

AUBREY PLAZA (April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation)

Was I excited when I realized I owned the same sweater as April? Yes. Yes, I was.

Source: Uploaded by user via Maria on Pinterest

– Busy Philipps (Laurie Keller, Cougar Town)

– Merritt Wever (Zoey Barkow, Nurse Jackie)

 
 

Runner Ups:
Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry, Community)
Hannah Simone (Cece, New Girl)
Melissa Rauch (Bernadette Rosenkowski, The Big Bang Theory)
Alyson Hannigan (Lily Aldrin, How I Met Your Mother)
Angela Kinsey (Angela Lipton, The Office)
Christa Miller (Ellie Torres, Cougar Town)
Eden Sher (Sue Heck, The Middle)
Cobie Smulders (Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother)

 

Honorable Mentions: Kristen Bell (Jeannie van der Hooven, House of Lies), Mayim Balik (Amy Farrah Fowler, The Big Bang Theory), Eliza Coupe (Jane Kerkovich-Williams, Happy Endings), Retta (Donna Meagle, Parks and Recreation), Alia Shawkat (Maeby Fünke, Arrested Development), Catherine Tate (Nellie Bertrum, The Office)

 
And let the debates begin! Do you agree with my choices? Voice your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to organize your own nominee list using the official Emmy ballot.
(P.S. It doesn’t matter if your choices are long shots (certainly many of mine are) but it’s nice to pretend they have a chance anyway.)
 

My Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series”

UPDATE:

This category was a wash, so go Tony Hale (Gary Walsh on Veep)! You are the best assistant a VP could have.
 
Here is the official nominations list.
 

***

 
Here is what the “Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” category would look like if I was in charge of the Emmys (unfortunately, you can only nominate six people, and even my honorable mentions section is missing worthy individuals).

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

IKE BARINHOLTZ (Morgan Tookers, The Mindy Project)

Ike Barinholtz as "Morgan Tookers"

– Max Greenfield (Schmidt, New Girl)

– Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation)

– Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir, Community)

– Chris Pratt (Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation)

– Brian Van Holt (Bobby Cobb, Cougar Town)

 
 

Runner Ups:
John Krasinski (Jim Halpert, The Office)
Neal Patrick Harris (Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother)
Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz, The Big Bang Theory)
Chris Messina (The Mindy Project)
James Van Der Beek (James Van Der Beek, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23)
Jason Segal (Marshall Eriksen, How I Met Your Mother)

 

Honorable Mentions: Josh Hopkins (Grayson Ellis, Cougar Town), Will Arnett (Gob Bluth, Arrested Development), Echo Kellum (Tommy, Ben and Kate), Atticus Shaffer (Brick Heck, The Middle), Lamorne Morris (Winston, New Girl)

 
And let the debates begin! Do you agree with my choices? Voice your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to organize your own nominee list using the official Emmy ballot.

(P.S. It doesn’t matter if your choices are long shots (certainly many of mine are) but it’s nice to pretend they have a chance anyway.)
 

-picture from here

 

My Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series”

UPDATE:

This category was a wash.
 
I am actually familiar with the work of all the actresses nominated, and they are all extremely talented but this list has been seen before (Emilia Clarke for Game of Thrones being the exception- bravo Mother of Dragons!). Would have liked to see the wealth spread, since there are so many actresses worthy of these six spots.
 
Indeed, Monica Potter plays my least favorite character on Parenthood, but I wanted to see her nominated (even over Mae Whitman, who plays my favorite character) because of her emotional cancer arc this season. It ended a little too happily (and please don’t take that the wrong way- having cancer of any form or degree, no matter the outcome, is terrible. I only mean that, in the case of this show, while a ton of issues have been thrown at the Bravermans over four seasons, they always seem to come out in the end overwhelmingly lucky).
 
As the category is, I’ll put my vote behind Christina Hendricks.
 
Here is the official nominations list.
 

***

 
Here is what the “Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” category would look like if I was in charge of the Emmys (unfortunately, you can only nominate six people, and even my honorable mentions section is missing worthy individuals).

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

– Rose Byrne (Ellen Parsons, Damages)

– Kim Dickens (Janette Desautel, Treme)

JOELLE CARTER (Ava Crowder, Justified)

ABIGAIL SPENCER (Amantha Holden, Rectify)

– Monica Potter (Kristina Braverman, Parenthood)

– Maggie Siff (Tara Knowles, Sons of Anarchy)

(tie)

 
 

Runner Ups:
Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart, The Good Wife)
Claire Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor, Nashville)
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones)
Joanne Froggart (Anna, Downton Abbey)
Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris, Mad Men)
Melissa Leo (Antoinette ‘Toni’ Bernette, Treme)
Linda Parrilla (Evil Queen/Mayor Regina Mills, Once Upon a Time)
Mae Whitman (Amber Holt, Parenthood)
Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper, Mad Men)

 

Honorable Mentions: Anna Gunn (Skyler White, Breaking Bad), Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader, Breaking Bad), Miranda Hart (Chummy Noakes, Call the Midwife), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones), Kelly Macdonald (Margaret Schroeder, Boardwalk Empire), Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes, Nashville), Beth Riesgraf (Parker, Leverage), Valorie Curry (Emma Hill, The Following)

 
And let the debates begin! Do you agree with my choices? Voice your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to organize your own nominee list using the official Emmy ballot.
(P.S. It doesn’t matter if your choices are long shots (certainly many of mine are) but it’s nice to pretend they have a chance anyway.)
 

-Carter’s picture from here; Spencer’s picture credited Sundance

 

My Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series”

UPDATE:

Can no member of an FX drama get nominated? Justified? Sons of Anarchy? The Americans? Poor Walter Goggins.
 
The silver lining is I’m very happy for Peter Dinklage and Aaron Paul. It’s a complete toss up between those two.
 
Here is the official nominations list.
 

***

 
Here is what the “Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” category would look like if I was in charge of the Emmys (unfortunately, you can only nominate six people, and even my honorable mentions section is missing worthy individuals).

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

WALTON GOGGINS (Boyd Crowder, Justified)

Walton Goggins as "Boyd Crowder"

– Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad)

– Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones)

– Steve Zahn (Davis McAlary, Treme)

– Dayton Callie (Wayne Unser, Sons of Anarchy)

– Luke Kirby (Jon Stern, Rectify)

 
 

Runner-Ups:
Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne, Nashville)
Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White, Boardwalk Empire)
Jordan Gavaris (Felix, Orphan Black)
Max Thieriot (Dylan Massett, Bates Motel)
Goran Visnjic (Nikolai Schiller, Red Widow)
John Slattery (Roger Sterling, Mad Men)
Matt Czuchry (Cary Agos, The Good Wife)

 

Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut), Kim Coates (Alex ‘Tig’ Trager, Sons of Anarchy), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley, Downton Abbey), Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates, Bates Motel), Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, Once Upon a Time), Josh Charles (Will Gardner, The Good Wife)
Michael Cudlitz (Officer John Cooper, Southland), Colin Donaghue (Hook/Killian Jones, Once Upon a Time), Seamus Denver (Kevin Ryan, Castle), Dean Norris (Hank Schrader, Breaking Bad), Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson, Homeland), Dax Shepard (Crosby Braverman, Parenthood), Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley, Nashville), Sam Palladio (Gunner Scott, Nashville)

 
And let the debates begin! Do you agree with my choices? Disagree? Voice your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to organize your own nominee list using the official Emmy ballot.

(P.S. It doesn’t matter if your choices are long shots (certainly many of mine are) but it’s nice to pretend they have a chance anyway.)
 

-picture from here

 

Review Sundance’s Rectify: “Jacob’s Ladder” (Season 1 Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

It has become an advertisement cliché to use phrases that contain the word, “Best,” in them. Since I put Sundance's RectifyRectify on a much higher level than most TV shows that stoop to injecting that commendation on themselves, I was surprised to see “Best Show of 2013,” pop up in one of the program’s recent trailers.

That being said, the designation of “Best Show of 2013,” while lofty, has been earned in this one very unique, and very rare, case of television.

Having managed to completely enchant me from the start with a pilot full of originality and heart, I had a lot of curiosity coming up to the season finale as to whether the show could keep it up. Could it possibly continue with the quality displayed in the previous five episodes? Could its ending somehow not disappoint? Of course, per usual, Rectify never disappoints.

Is Ted dead or not?

The finale wastes no time immediately revealing the results of last episode’s cliffhanger (Daniel strangling jerk stepbrother, Teddy Jr.), but the answer isn’t given without teasing out Ted’s fate first, with a slow camera pan from the car dealership’s counter… to the knocked-over coffee pot Ted had been preparing at the time of the attack… to Ted himself, laying prostrate on his stomach on the floor. For all intents and purposes, he doesn’t look alive, but as a viewer invested in Daniel’s well-being, which would certainly not be “well” if he murdered somebody, you want this to be a trick as you wait for a confirmation of life from Teddy that you’re uncertain you will receive.

Even if this murder was completely unrelated to the one he was accused of, and Daniel was still innocent of killing Hanna, no one in his prejudiced-against-him hometown would believe it. They are waiting for an excuse to send him back on death row. Teddy’s murder being explained away as a result of Daniel’s twenty years of pent up emotions for being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, emotions no longer able to be contained due to the verbal ignorance of a person as worthy of generating “bloody thoughts”* against him as Teddy is, would not have gone over well. I may have known personally that I could never turn against Daniel completely, the structure of the story having grown a fondness for him first, but such a finding about Rectify‘s protagonist being a killer would have crushed my belief that this particular sweet, thoughtful, lost soul was incapable of that degree of violence. It would have been a disconcerting, if not entirely outrageous, direction for the show to go in.

Luckily, the potential scariness of instinctively siding with a murderer, even in the face of such damning evidence as a dead body, doesn’t have to be analyzed because the body’s still breathing. In a call back to his acting disgusted, or like Daniel is lying while describing his horrific experiences of prison rape, Teddy hasn’t so much been physically injured but made to suffer damage to his pride, waking up with his pants down, backside covered in coffee grounds. It is out of embarrassment**, more than any regret for his cruel, unwelcoming behavior towards his stepbrother, that  Teddy Jr., remains silent about the ordeal. He certainly doesn’t change his ways, continuing to badmouth Daniel to his wife, Tawny, and father, Teddy Sr., and seemingly viewing this incident as more proof that he is right about Daniel, than as a sign he needs to reevaluate himself and how he treats others.
 
* to quote General Crook in Deadwood season 1, episode 12 “Sold Under Sin”

** Loved his fearful stares at “Tall Man” in front of the dealership, a symbol of his assailant which I have since found available for purchase on Amazon, but not cheap.

Breaking down in front of mom

Daniel's mom started out the series staring out of windows a lot, appearing glazed and numb. As the show's continued, though, it has become clear who Amantha inherited her spirit from.

Daniel’s mom started out the series staring out of windows a lot, appearing glazed and numb. As the show’s continued, though, it has become clear who Amantha inherited her spirit from.

Looking back, Amantha was only twelve when Daniel was found guilty and sentenced to death row. She probably didn’t understand everything that was going on, or attempts were made to shield her from some aspects of the town’s complete hatred of her brother. Mom, unfortunately, had to witness and remember every terrible detail, and you can visibly see how those twenty years hardened her. A fighting nature, that was probably as loud as Amantha’s during those early years, is still there but has become more of a blazing internal fire, whereas Amantha continues her loud, proactive crusade of refusing to hold back her temper from anyone who insults the people she loves. She goes so far as to yell at a retreating officer that the police are a lynch squad.

It’s Time

Janet knows that the majority of the  town will never change their perception of her son as a killer. She knows that Daniel would be safer somewhere else, and that her house, family, and business (the tire store) will forever suffer and be threatened as long as he stays in Georgia. Yet, in a terrific scene, she considers telling Daniel to leave and then doesn’t. She is not going to ignore what’s best for her son (readjusting to his new, free life with family at his side, who will stand by and care for him at the only home he’s ever known outside of a prison cell) for what’s possibly best for herself.

Especially socially, it might be better for all, Daniel included, if she told him to go. Daniel even gives her permission to tell him to leave in the first episode, “Always There,” warning her that he might not realize when he’s overstayed his welcome, unable to see that it’s time to go off on his own because the will-power and strength to start over alone, as a thirty-eight year old man who’d never had a career, has no one willing to hire him, is unsure how to fill his time, and still sees the world from an eighteen-year-old’s perception, is immensely daunting.

Instead, Daniel’s mom asks for her son’s help in demolishing her kitchen, a task she’d held off on (whether out of being distracted or a desire to preserve her home as Daniel remembered it, allowing his house to be one constant in a world that would not otherwise standstill for twenty years until his release) but has decided she now wants to tackle. The very mention of the project seems to bring life back into her eyes, life that had been buried by worry and increased cynicism at the cruelty of people around her.

But Daniel knows what she was going to say. And if she had asked him, he would have left, already feeling guilty for what his family’s had to go through because of him***. He recognizes that in not telling him to leave, his mother is ready and willing to live a harder life because of him. He also feels “pathetic” in that a house revamp needs to be arranged for him to have something to do. Nonetheless, it’s not out of pity that his mom makes the offer but love, and when Daniel is no longer able to hold back the tears in front of her, you can see the pain he carries for all the sacrifices his family has had to make for him, and how useless and out of his depth he feels, back in reality. He’s trying to find a way to fit into a world that’s kept moving, a world where he has a lot of enemies and an unearned criminal reputation but, so far, he still hasn’t figured out all the answers.

 
*** Amantha dismisses this notion during a whim ride brother and sister take to a place from their childhood, clarifying for him that it was the town that hurt her and their family, “not you, Danny”. This trip also marks the return of the statue the goat man was so fascinated with last episode. Seeing it standing there in this new context either:

  • supports the idea that Daniel really did meet this man. The money he has to show from the encounter also acts as corroboration.

or

  • legitimizes the theory that he met the guy in a dream. If the place was important enough for him to remember and want to return to with his sister, why couldn’t a statue from the area (a statue covered in vines which would have had to have grown over night to not have been there the previous morning) appear in his dream?

Daniel latest monologue

“You know, and if you don’t have the, the years of experiences, the- if there isn’t the, the repetition of everyday living to make things mundane- and because, because mundane is calming and soothing. Mundane isn’t out of the ordinary… And when everything is out of the ordinary- it can be too much sometimes, you know?”

–Daniel Holden

Aden Young showed his skill last week at delivering speeches when Daniel shared with Tawny his experiences with the “goat man” that morning. In this episode he has a new listener, his lawyer, and Amantha’s love interest, Jon Stern (played by Luke Kirby, Jack in the first season of other TV gem, Slings and Arrows). Whereas Tawny had a reversal in her eagerness to help Daniel after hearing his monologue, in which he also asked permission to kiss her****, Jon is Jon Sternmuch more sympathetic towards him, trying to assure Daniel, for whatever comfort it can bring, that, “It’s normal to not be happy sometimes.”

Please, don’t take my word for the beauty of this scene:

Daniel’s full monologue

 
****Avoiding Daniel’s phone calls, she returns to the man she had been avoiding, her husband, Teddy, and tells him she wishes she had not convinced Daniel to get baptized. It appears in attempting the sin of kissing a married women her openness towards him has flipped (perhaps not permanently but temporarily), but is her anger at Daniel (who drops the topic after she declines, meaning no harm and only feeling a closeness to the first friend he’s made since freedom) or herself (for wanting to say yes)?
 

~ Re: SIDENOTE ~

The fate of Kerwin is revealed and it isn’t a happy end.  With a reluctant Daniel appearing Kerwin's Goodbyesat his prison door’s window for good-byes, unable to speak to his pal but for a distraught expression that says it all, Kerwin walks off to face the death sentence Daniel later evades for himself. Their camaraderie had been a bright spot in an otherwise unpleasant situation, a mutually beneficial friendship for talking and getting distracted from the endless routine of jail that grated on composure and sanity.  Now Daniel truly is alone in his cell, more so than even before, and that is traumatic.

Before he is marched away Kerwin has one final note to say to Daniel: he knows he’s innocent. Whereas I can’t remember what Kerwin’s death row-deserving crime was (has it ever been mentioned?), there are few  who’ve doubted (or voiced their doubts) about the accusations against Daniel. This proclamation is therefore pretty meaningful, for being rare and for coming from a friend that didn’t know Daniel before Hanna’s murder, and isn’t biased for or against him.

When Amantha goes on that trip with Daniel in this episode she diagnoses him as suffering from survivor’s guilt. Kerwin would be a prime example of that guilt: why did I avoid death while he was forced to face it?.
 

Success as a season finale

The good news is, unlike Sundance’s other trial run at original television content, Top of the Lake, Rectify is going to be a continuing series while Top of the Lake, always intended as a miniseries, is over.

For me, however, Top of the Lake ended up not working as a miniseries because it chose the wrong episode to end on. “Episode VI,” with Jamie and the reappearance of Tui was heartbreaking and powerful. It didn’t provide all the answers but offered such an emotionally resonating punch that it didn’t matter. “Episode VII,” the actual finale, also didn’t provide all the answer but the new questions it brought up instead ended the series on a sour note instead of an impactful tragedy. The twist that Robin and Johnno could be brother and sister was supposed to be shocking but instead only infuriated and ruined what was already a complicated (what happened at their prom) but strong relationship. There were some moves towards closure in the season long mystery of Tui but not enough, and at this point in the series I had lost interest in her fate. Yes, she’s gone through things no one, let alone a fifteen year old girl, should go through but her numbness, trying to still be a child when actually a mother, doesn’t have the endearing effect it might have if we had known the Tui before all of this happened, to see what having a baby has changed and cost her. She’s not mature, and as a child she shouldn’t necessarily have to be, but this is what has happened to her and as wrong as it is, she needs to adapt. We’ll never know if she does, and I wish I wasn’t ok with that. I wish I still wanted to know.

Rectify‘s season finale could have worked as a series’ finale. I’m very, very, very thrilled it’s not one, that a second season has been ordered, but if this had been a miniseries, I would  have been satisfied and not at all disappointed with this phenomenal closer.

The Final Scene

Visiting Hanna’s grave, a move that almost seems like he’s asking to get noticed and attacked*****, the outnumbered Daniel is beaten up by Hanna’s brother and his masked cronies. This is a terrible conclusion, but at the same time it releases the tension that had been building up ever since DNA evidence was found which exonerated Daniel. By Daniel going to this unspoken forbidden spot for him to visit (certainly never by himself), his assailants can attack unrestrained. They leave his body a bloody mess, but he’s finally met that inevitable, dreaded attack, felt the agony physically that he’s long felt mentally, and I think, somehow, sadly, there’s some relief to be found in that for him, some finality to that dread of what’s coming. It’s come.

What’s Next

The reaction I most dread seeing is Amantha’s. I can already picture season two’s premiere: Amantha at home, staring at the mysterious present Daniel left behind for her in the back seat of her car. She decides to unwrap it and finds an item that is incredibly sweet, outdated, and meaningful inside. Maybe this is a present he had bought for her twenty years ago, back when she was twelve, having every intention of giving it to her but sideswiped by a prison sentence that prevents gift giving. Then she’ll get a phone call on her cell, or hear the tires squeal outside as Jon appears at her door. Camera zoom on her terrified face. She knows what has occurred and, uncharacteristically speechless, she makes her way, dazed, to the car, Jon talking to her but her unable to focus on the words. Once at the hospital all hell breaks lose as the slowness of the medical personnel in pointing her in the direction of her brother, filling her in on what happened to him, marks the return of her stubborn, feisty, loud speech.

Naturally, this is all speculation but I’m hoping season two’s premiere starts off right after the event, and not a month later, with Daniel healing, staying with his sister in Florida******, or at the very least somewhere not Georgia*******.  while the episode ends on a highly dismal note, it included two moments of hope for improvement and acceptance from town.

The Hopeful Moments

To end my review on a positive note, while the episode’s closing is highly dismal, there were two moments before that scene which brought up the possibility that there could be improvement and acceptance for Daniel from his hometown.

  • The first occurs at the start of the episode, at a place from his past. Frightened at what he has done to Teddy Jr. (even if deserved) as well as what Teddy’s reaction will be (a call to the police means a return to the suffocating prison cell), Daniel awaits the consequences of his actions. While he waits he seeks comfort in a nearby diner that’s on the brink of closing time. Eighteen year old Daniel must have frequented the spot, for he nervously asks the waitress if his usual meal is still on the menu. It is, but the concerned cook, who was about to go home and doesn’t want to leave the waitress alone with “him”, asks her if he should stick around. She says “no,” and when Daniel finishes his meal and asks if he could have another, instead of telling him “no” and pushing him out the door, she offers him the diner’s leftovers, free. He would have had no clue that leftovers were available. He would have had no clue that he didn’t have to pay for them. He would have gone away. But the waitress, perhaps having known him from his visits there before his rap as a murderer, perhaps purely out of niceness, shows kindness towards him.
  • The second moment is at a book store that didn’t exist in the town twenty years ago. Stepping inside for the first time, Daniel soon runs into the owner. He knows who Daniel is, from news and gossip, but couldn’t be more cool upon their meeting, helping and treating Daniel like any other customer. Since the store already looks empty of shoppers, maybe it wouldn’t be hurt by the taking on of a new employee who doesn’t attract them…

 
***** Could his phone message to Tawny saying he’s leaving have a darker, suicidal connotation, because the grave site truly was a foolish place to go alone and he should have known that? Daniel doesn’t mean any harm by the visit, of course. He cared, very probably loved, Hanna. This could be part of his grieving, his feelings of guilt (even if he didn’t kill her). Few would see things from his side, though, and Daniel knows that as well.

****** If he thought Walmart was disconcerting and overwhelming in episode four, “Plato’s Cave”, how about Disney Land, where dreams come true and adults’ showing childlike wonder at what they see is expected?

******* Georgia is a fantastic location for the show that I’d hate to see dropped, but as an officially unsafe, volatile environment for Daniel, not sure if there’s going to be a way for him to stay.
 

Were you as satisfied and ecstatic at Rectify‘s finale ( horrid as the actual climatic event was) as me, or do you feel too many threads were left open (for example, whatever became of the threatening text messages Jared was receiving?). What do you most want to see happen next season (for example, will there ever be any flashbacks to Daniel and Amantha before Hanna’s murder, or is that too against the format of the series, which is set in present time?) Throw out your opinions and have fun brainstorming ideas in the comments below.

-Sundance credited for all pictures

 
 
 

UPDATE  4/16: After recently starting to rewatch the series, in preparation for the 4th (and final season), I feel I was too harsh towards Teddy Jr. in this review. I still don’t appreciate how Teddy has never seemed to recognize, or brought up, how he verbally bashed Daniel before his attack. There’s no excuse for that. There’s also no excuse that Daniel physically attacked him.

Maybe, it could be argued, Teddy deserved to be punched in this moment. I think that was the mindset I was coming from, writing this after the episode aired. What Daniel did was more than punch. It was sexual assault and traumatizing.