A man apart
Rectify helps a wrongly convicted man become whole again.
Imagine spending 19 years on Death Row, then being told, “Oops, the cops made a mistake – you’re free!” That’s “life” for Daniel Holden in drama series Rectify (2013-2016 – all four seasons are on internet streaming service Showmax. “It is always more of an intrigue not knowing than it is about knowing,” says Aiden Young, who plays Daniel. “Allowing the ambiguity and the confusion of that night to reign as opposed to the knowledge of that night and the facts of the case creates a much more complex process of working and I am intrigued by that.”
Throughout season 1 (the six episodes span six days), there is a constant unease in the fact that Daniel and the witnesses who helped convict him the first time can’t recall that fateful night. He was arrested and prosecuted for the rape and murder of his teen girlfriend Hanna [who’s never seen], to which he confessed after spending 11 hours in the police station interrogated without a lawyer. But as each episode unfolds, it’s clear that there’s more going on than an open-and-shut murder case…
Daniel has been released thanks to conflicting DNA evidence, discovered 19 years after his arrest. But most of the town hates him, including Senator Foulkes (Michael O’Neill), the attorney who originally convicted Daniel. The only people who believe in him are his family and new lawyer, who help Daniel with his journey. And that re-integration drives the series – Dan is still a teenager in his mind and struggling to process things like DVD players, 24-7 quickieshops, even being a man. But he isn’t alone, explains Aiden: “What happens when such a traumatic event invades the life of a family? You have no choice but to really examine who you are and who you were and what led up to that. It’s just human nature”. But as difficult as it is for Daniel’s family, he’s still suffering the most with his newfound freedom…
BREAKING THE BARRIER
Daniel doesn’t know how to interact with people and it’s painfully clear as he stammers though a press conference after he’s released in episode 1. The only people Daniel’s spoken to over the last 19 years were killers, rapists, criminals and prejudiced prison guards. While he comes across as having a mentally diminished mind, it’s clear later on that Daniel is impossibly intelligent.
A lot changes in a year, so imagine what it’s like for someone who’s been locked up for 20 years! Seeing adult Daniel in awe of Walmart shelves packed with everything from knitting yarn and TVs to videogames and a kid with lights on his shoes is heart-breaking. On a roadtrip with his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), Daniel asks, “When did they open a videostore there?”, to which he is told, “It was there for about 15 years.” Not only did Daniel miss the opening, he missed it closing too!
THE SIMPLE THINGS
During his first week (which spans the first season), Daniel figures out what he does and doesn’t like about his new world. He tells his mom Janet (J SmithCameron), “I do not think I want to be computer literate, or cellular telephone literate either.” What Dan does want is to enjoy things most take for granted – like drinking water, eating a chocolate and feeling grass between his toes.
TREADING ON TOES
One of Dan’s biggest struggles is people, like his step-brother Teddy Jr (Clayne Crawford). Teddy’s dad married Daniel’s mom while he was in prison and Teddy Jr has had it in for his “new” step-sibling. Teddy Jr wants Daniel to leave town so that he doesn’t lose the family business “to a killer”, while Daniel just wants to be accepted – and his bond with Teddy’s wife Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) is a problem in season 1 episode 5 – Teddy over-reacts and Daniel is forced to put Teddy in a chokehold to calm him.
But while it seems that everything is falling in place, Daniel is still struggling emotionally. He tells Amantha in episode 6, “When I confessed, it was such a relief. To be free of all that unbelievable guilt. After I told them that I killed her, I could accept that she was dead. But the guilt returned. That I survived.”
Daniel (far left) is struggling being free as much as his family are out of place with him at home.