Great TV has a way of dazzling you, leaving you dumbstruck, not knowing what just happened. Often, this is done by shocking the audience. A main character unexpectedly dies or is injured, or things get worse at a moment when it seems like they can’t. Other times, it’s done by changing the formula, handing you an episode that feels unlike the show as you’ve known it.
Rectify ended seasons one and two with the former. In season one finale “Jacob’s Ladder,” we were left with Daniel beaten close to death. Season two’s finale “Unhinged” ended with a lot of uncertainty, closing on a shot of Daniel, post-plea deal, sitting in the courthouse hallway, unsure of what’s to come.
Last week, I was worried about one line of dialogue spoken by Daniel: “It’s over, mother.” “It’s over,” like “I’ll be right back,” is a line signifying danger, that something awful is going to happen to this character. But to leave us on another bleak and uncertain finale would be predictable, and Rectify is anything but. So “The Source” wows us with the latter option, changing what we know about the show and these characters. The final shot of this episode is almost a counterpoint to the images that closed the last two seasons, with Daniel entering his new home in Nashville, full of hope for the future. “The Source” is the most optimistic episode the series has done so far, and yet it feels more like the show we know and love than any other episode this season.
“It’s over, mother” wasn’t the line that kept popping into my mind throughout “The Source.” Instead, I kept thinking of Jon’s line from “Sown with Salt”: “You haven’t given this a chance.” This episode is the one where Daniel finally decides to give “this”—his freedom, the outside world, his life—a chance. On the road trip to Nashville with his mother, he asks her to take a detour to the prison he spent much of his life in. “Sometimes I want to walk to the front gate and ask them to let me back in, back into my box, my cocoon,” he tells Janet. She responds, “You’re not the first to romance the cocoon.”
Suddenly, Daniel has a revelation. He wants to drive to the beach with the windows down (even though it’s raining). He wants to drive at least four and a half miles over the speed limit, and he wants to tell his mother about his friend Kerwin. He wants to live. And his newfound desire to live shows up most prominently where you’d least expect it to, in the prison flashback. So often, these flashbacks show up to signify how tied Daniel still is to his life on the inside, how he still hasn’t escaped it. Here, the flashback is actually a dream sequence, featuring his Girl Jesus herself, Tawney visiting him in prison. To think that Daniel hasn’t actually seen Tawney this entire season is heartbreaking, and her appearance in his dream shows that she may still be his only chance to actually live. But he’s going to try without her anyway. He has to.
“The Source” is a beautiful, optimistic episode of Rectify, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of darkness in it. The opening scene, in which Christopher is interviewed by Daggett and Person, ends with one of the most shocking lines of the series. “It evolved, Sheriff. It wasn’t—it wasn’t premeditated. It just became,” Christopher says. “Became what?” Daggett asks. “Rape. We raped Hanna Dean.” Cut to the opening credits.
And yet, because this is Rectify, the scenes that would most easily qualify as revealing in another show feel less important here. Late in the episode, after trying desperately to convince Daggett he’s innocent, Trey is arrested for killing George, something we know he didn’t do. But this arrest feels inconsequential compared to a scene where step-siblings Amantha and Teddy share their only moment together where it doesn’t seem like they want to kill each other, or a moment in which Ted tells his son to try and make his marriage work, or when Daniel plays catch with a child at the beach. So much happens in “The Source,” and what happens messes with your perception of what really matters.
So we end on Daniel, entering his new home, ready to try living. Whether he succeeds, or Tawney comes back into his life, or Trey goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit (like Daniel before him), remains to be seen. Season four can’t come soon enough.
Episode Rating: 9.5/10
Season Rating: 9/10