Watch enough TV and cinema and you’ll believe that prison is just a place where they send innocent men in the wrong place at the wrong time. Linc the Stink in Prison Break, Ivan Dobsky in Monkey Dust, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs – all innocent men left to rot because the system couldn’t or wouldn’t admit a simple mistake. On Rectify Daniel Holden (Aden Young) exits chokey after a not entirely smooth 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his 16-year-old girlfriend Hanna. Exculpatory DNA evidence won his freedom but his sentence is merely vacated meaning he is not fully exonerated. Hanna’s family still live in the small town he returns to and media scavengers circle and swoop over her reanimated corpse. Plenty think the courts jailed the right man but they don’t really know and, intriguingly, neither do we.
I’ll tell you who never stopped believing in him though: his propane hot sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer). If you’re thinking that after 19 years without pussy he’s seriously considering banging her then you’re almost certainly on the money. To do that he’ll have to step over the corpse of his lawyer and Amantha’s current lover Jon Stern (Luke Kirby), but it’s not like it’s the first time Daniel stepped over a corpse to get what he wants, right?
To do that he’ll have to step over the corpse of his lawyer and Amantha’s current lover Jon Stern (Luke Kirby), but it’s not like it’s the first time Daniel stepped over a corpse to get what he wants, right?
He’s back with his ma Janet (J. Smith-Cameron) of course and she frets as the mother of a convicted rapist murderer always will. She remarried to Ted Talbot Sr. (Bruce McKinnon) while her son was inside and his creepy son Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford) is something of a Daniel sceptic. Still, his wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) senses a real affinity with Daniel. The last girl who felt that ended up strangled but, you know, the path of true love and all that.
Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) senses a real affinity with Daniel. The last girl who felt that ended up strangled but, you know, the path of true love and all that.
Rectify is superb – smart, compassionate and compelling. At the heart of it is a powerhouse performance from Aden Young. Walking around like a man from another planet he’s perpetually baffled by his new environment – the disconnect with his surroundings palpable in everything he does. His innocence is never made explicit and flashbacks to his time on death row offer nothing solid on that score. He seems like a good guy but so do a lot of killers. Creator Ray McKinnon you may remember as Reverend Smith on Deadwood (or his 2001 Oscar-winning short film The Accountant) and he has some serious skills. The slow-paced woozy ecosphere he creates here will stay with you like a bad dream or some dicey sushi. Not many are talking about it but trust – this is one of the shows of the year.
The verdict: He never done it. Or possibly, he did.
Marks out of 10: 8.5