Rectify is the most distinctive drama on television, mainly because of how much it avoids television’s biggest appeals. There’s little comfort on the show. Its most fascinating relationships—Daniel and Tawney, Amantha and Jon—are defined by how broken these people are, and it’s hard to believe that being together would make them any less broken. It also avoids closure, ending its seasons with uncertainty and pain.
Season three ended a little more bittersweet than usual, as Daniel moved forward to another life. Banished from the state of Georgia following the plea deal, he stepped into his new home with some level of hope. What would happen with Trey, having been arrested for a murder he didn’t commit? What would happen with Tawney and Teddy, separated and facing an uncertain future? We’d surely find out once season four premiered.
We should’ve known better.
The first episode of Rectify’s fourth and final season, “A House Divided” is essentially a bottle episode outside of a bottle. It’s not confined to one location, and there are many characters in it. But it’s in a place we’ve spent little time in, focusing solely on the character of Daniel. A show like Enlightened was subversive for crafting episodes shown from supporting characters’ points-of-view, a move that took the audience out of their comfort zone. This episode shows that the opposite is just as effective for bringing a sense of unease upon the audience. By showing Daniel alone in a new place with no one he truly knows, we’re placed in his shoes. Alone, scared, isolated in his own mind. Few television shoes would open a season with this sort of episode. Rectify manages to do it without disappointing at all. In fact, “A House Divided” ranks among its best episodes.
Not only do we spend time away from Paulie in this episode, but it doesn’t seem to even be there spiritually. The only appearance from a character we’ve seen before besides Daniel is a voicemail left by Janet, with Daniel never returning her call. Perhaps it’s too painful to even think about his former home, a feeling the audience gets around the 15-minute point, wherein they realize the show won’t be visiting Georgia this week.
Showcasing Daniel’s new life at The New Canaan Project, a group home for ex-convicts in Nashville, “A House Divided” highlights Daniel’s isolation with an opening two-and-a-half minutes of silence. When the character finally begins speaking, to the boss at his new warehouse job, he sounds as broken down as ever. Later, at a group meeting, others share how they’re feeling, while Daniel can only share the things he’d done that day. He’s so cut off from himself and those around him that he can only speak in facts. Considering this is the same man who walked into that group home with a shred of hope that had been missing for most of his life, it’s not only heartbreaking to see that things haven’t been fixed, it’s astounding that it ever seemed like they could be.
When the episode reaches Daniel’s conversation with Avery (Scott Lawrence), the group leader at New Canaan, in which Aden Young delivers a monologue that should grant him every award he can get, it suddenly feels as if we’ve made progress. Both the show as a whole and this single episode have made it this far, and Daniel finally says what’s been held inside for so long.
“After my friend was executed, I became despondent. More despondent. I guess depressed, enraged. But more than anything, I was lonely,” he says. “When you’re alone with yourself all the time, with no one but yourself, you begin to go deeper and deeper into yourself until you lose yourself. It’s a perverse contradiction. It’s like your ego begins to disintegrate until you have no ego, not in the sense that you become humble or gain some kind of perspective, but that you literally lose your sense of self.”
Avery tells Daniel he has to accept his truth—the fact that he simply doesn’t know whether he killed Hanna or not—and decide whether he deserves a life or not. In the end, he manages to find some level of acceptance, admitting his past life to Chloe, a pretty blonde artist who can’t help but bring to mind a certain Girl Jesus, who may still be Daniel’s only chance at forgiving himself. Will they be reunited? Perhaps. Hope for closure. Don’t expect it.