“Hoorah” began Rectify’s third season by showcasing the aftermath of the events that ended its second. With Daniel having agreed to the plea deal, Amantha losing her faith in him, and Tawney and Teddy’s continuing struggles with their marriage, the episode focused on avoidance, and how nobody wanted to actually confront what was happening around them.
“Thrill Ride” is the opposite. Now, everybody is being forced to confront the events that have transpired. Because whether it’s the inevitable consequences of a plea deal, a convicted murderer crashing at your apartment, or a crumbling marriage, eventually you have to face what’s happening around you.
Whereas last week, the first dilemmas to be confronted were those of the men, “Thrill Ride” opens with Amantha waking up hungover and realizing she’d allowed Daniel to stay with her. “I don’t know why I drink. I don’t like the high and I hate the hangover,” she says, which says more about her than she’d like to think. The night before, she said, “I can’t be your keeper, Daniel.” Now, visibly annoyed with him, she offers him money and the key to the apartment. Devoting her life to her brother, like alcohol, is frustrating and leaves her feeling exhausted, but she keeps going back to it.
Not being able to rely on Teddy for anything, Tawney has now started seeing a marriage counselor by herself. In an extremely telling scene, she begins by talking about her time in foster care and how she stayed two years after aging out. She felt safe there. Her counselor asks, “Do you feel safe with Ted?” She doesn’t. She feels cornered, trapped, and like there’s no way out. “What do you want to do when you feel this way?” the counselor asks. “Run.”
Janet, meanwhile, is confronting more things than anyone. Knowing that Ted is hiding something from her, she asks him why Daniel moved out. Ted is now forced to tell her about the assault, a task he tried to push on Daniel. Later, Jon shows up at the house looking for Daniel, only to find out he moved in with Amantha—someone he’ll have to confront eventually. He tells Janet that Daniel will have to let people know where he is, one of the terms of his probation. How long is his probation? “Twenty years.” Torn up by everything happening around her, Janet is still mainly concerned about how she can help her son. At this point, I’m regretting saying that nobody on the show is as strong as Amantha. Janet’s giving her a run for her money.
While everyone else is miserable because of the plea deal, the person it affects most, Daniel, winds up having a good day. Sitting around Amantha’s apartment, alone and bored out of his mind, he finally leaves to do laundry, only to run into an old friend and immediately get a job as a pool painter. He later makes a nostalgic dinner for Amantha, who arrives home from a hungover day at work and can’t match his enthusiasm. “This is all very thoughtful, Daniel,” she says, “but I just can’t pretend that I give a shit.”
If there’s a big flaw in “Thrill Ride,” the best episode to air in the first half of a Rectify season so far, it’s that appearances from both Mr. Patel (played by Ajay Mehta)—the Indian convenience store clerk, making his first appearance since season one’s “Sexual Peeling”—and D.A. Sondra Person highlight how poor the show is at representing people of color. As much as I loved Kerwin, his entire motivation as a character was cheering Daniel on (meeting his family in “Donald the Normal” helped, though). Similarly, we know nothing about Sondra beyond her job, since nearly all of her dialogue is there just to move the story along. I’d like to see an episode actually focus on her character a little bit and reveal her to be more than just a convenient lawyer character.
Teddy, for once, steals the episode. He begins by staring at the airdancer waving outside the store, a host of bad memories. He unplugs it, only to have his dad plug it back in when he arrives. There’s no escaping what’s happened to him, no matter how hard he tries. Later in the episode, similar to Daniel’s scene at Amantha’s, Teddy is all alone at home, sad, listening to Hayes Carll loudly, before Jared shows up. Teddy decides to go for a ride with him.
As they pull up to Mitch and Beth’s, Jared asks if they’re stalking. “Who knows these days?” Teddy asks. He then proceeds to tell Jared a story from when he was in high school. The first night he could legally drive, Teddy asked a girl with a “reputation,” Julie, out on a date. After the two of them got pizza, Teddy coerced her into sex. “I didn’t make her do it. I didn’t force her. I just kept at it.” This moment, despicable even for Teddy, then turns into a rare moment of self-awareness for him. “You know when I told you you weren’t like him? Like Daniel?” he tells Jared. “You’re not like me either. And that’s a good thing.” What began as his lowest moment turns into his most sympathetic in what could be the best written scene Rectify has ever done.
Everyone is confronting something in “Thrill Ride,” but there’s one thing the show hasn’t confronted: Senator Foulkes, who makes no appearance after the stroke that poorly ended “Hoorah.” Hopefully he returns eventually, if only to settle a disappointingly moralistic move on the writers’ part.