A cap­ti­vat­ing mystery about a man re­leased from death row but still sus­pected of mur­der, Rec­tify may be the great­est show you’ve never seen. With the fi­nal se­ries set to air this au­tumn, Crime Scene ex­plores this unique drama’s TV legacy.

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

Will the mystery be solved?

Crime fic­tion and drama is de­fined by a sense of clo­sure: an ex­plo­ration of a mur­der ul­ti­mately reaches a solution that al­lows the char­ac­ters – and view­ers – to move on. But Rec­tify, one of the most ac­claimed US mys­ter­ies of re­cent years, does things dif­fer­ently.

In the first episode, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) leaves jail on a tech­ni­cal­ity af­ter 19 years on death row for the rape and mur­der of his teenage girl­friend, Hanna Dean. As it reaches its fourth and fi­nal sea­son, the dreamy, med­i­ta­tive drama has loyal fans hooked but per­haps not hold­ing out for a clear-cut res­o­lu­tion from writer, pro­ducer and di­rec­tor Ray Mckin­non. His show isn’t a typical who­dunit, which may ex­plain why its au­di­ence is loyal but small.

“The mur­der mystery, cer­tainly it’s the back­drop of the story,” says Clayne Craw­ford, who plays Daniel’s step­brother, Teddy Tal­bot. “I don’t know if, when this thing is all said and done, we’ll have any more clar­ity on the mur­der of Hanna Dean. I think the story is more about the flaws of the ju­di­cial process: re­gard­less of [whether] he was in­no­cent or guilty when he went into the sys­tem, he’s cer­tainly bro­ken when he leaves. The fact that in this coun­try there’s just zero re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, I think Ray kind of wanted to shine a light on that as­pect of the process.”

Craw­ford has com­pared Rec­tify to Twin Peaks, which also shifted the who­dunit el­e­ment into the back­ground in favour of ex­plor­ing fam­ily se­crets in a small town. David Lynch fa­mously re­gret­ted an­swer­ing the ques­tion of who killed Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. Rec­tify has – so far – shown the con­fi­dence to hold out on us.

Although it spurns ob­vi­ous TV twists, Rec­tify is grip­ping and sus­pense­ful in its por­trayal of a man who was sen­tenced to death at 18 and is now try­ing to ad­just to re-en­try into his life. In­evitably, he is not wel­comed back by ev­ery­one in the town

of Paulie, Ge­or­gia, par­tic­u­larly the un­apolo­getic for­mer prose­cu­tor, Sen­a­tor Foulkes (Michael O’neill), who wants to send Daniel straight back to jail. DNA ev­i­dence has freed him, but he’s not been for­mally cleared of the crime – and that un­cer­tainty never goes away. “It wasn’t ever re­ally my fo­cus to look at his pure guilt or his in­no­cence,” Young said at a US launch for Sea­son 4 of the cult drama. “It was my fo­cus to look at how this man’s life has im­pacted this town and his fam­ily.”

It’s a heart­break­ing role for Young as Daniel, who strug­gles to cope with life on the out­side. “I think that Aden Young’s per­for­mance as Daniel is ex­quis­ite and, if more peo­ple had seen the show, would have been Emmy wor­thy,” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Mark John­son tells Crime Scene. As well as por­tray­ing the trauma re­sult­ing from his years of soli­tary con­fine­ment, Young has to get into the head of a man who’s re­peat­edly come close to death: Daniel re­ceived a stay of ex­e­cu­tion on five separate oc­ca­sions while on death row.

Dur­ing flashback and fan­tasy se­quences in the jail, Daniel is seen an­tic­i­pat­ing his ex­e­cu­tion as he’s strapped to a gur­ney, as well as shar­ing hopes and fears with his neigh­bour­ing pris­oner. Although it’s a mi­nor part of the show, the flash­backs en­sure that Rec­tify is one of the great prison dra­mas, not least be­cause Daniel strug­gles to leave the con­fines of his cell be­hind when he fi­nally finds free­dom.

If Daniel is in­no­cent, he’s never vo­cal in his own de­fence – his sis­ter Aman­tha (Abigail Spencer) and lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) did all the heavy lift­ing in the ap­peals process. “You’re the most reluc­tant in­no­cent man I’ve ever seen,” says the fel­low in­mate. De­spite his frag­ile state, there’s a quiet dig­nity and a courtly South­ern charm to Daniel, though that doesn’t mean he didn’t kill his girl­friend. “I truly don’t think he knows,” his lawyer ad­mits in Se­ries 3.

It’s a lin­ger­ing mystery in a po­etic crime drama that re­sists easy an­swers. “There’s that is­sue and hope­fully by the end of this sea­son, how we deal with that will leave you, in a Rec­tify way, sat­is­fied,” Mckin­non said re­cently. “Maybe some peo­ple it will, some peo­ple it won’t. Some­thing’s go­ing to be re­vealed for sure.”

There are some echoes of the true­crime case in Mak­ing A Mur­derer in the way that Daniel is freed af­ter a lengthy sen­tence but then be­comes a tar­get of the cops in an­other case. When Daniel goes on a road trip to Florida in Se­ries 2 to talk to an eye­wit­ness in the Hanna Dean case, the reper­cus­sions could be fa­tal. Sher­iff Carl Daggett (J.D. Ever­more) con­sid­ers Daniel a sus­pect over the sus­pi­cious death of that wit­ness. How­ever, Mckin­non ma­nip­u­lates the viewer’s sense of jus­tice by putting some­one who’s in­no­cent of this crime in the frame. Be­cause you’re root­ing for Daniel, you find your­self will­ing an­other po­ten­tial mis­car­riage of jus­tice to take place. Rec­tify may be break­ing the rules of crime drama, but it works mag­nif­i­cently.

While Daniel is frag­ile and trou­bled fol­low­ing his re­lease – he goes off on ben­ders and is prone to self-sab­o­tage – the im­pact is just as mo­men­tous on the wider fam­ily. In par­tic­u­lar, his ar­rival ex­poses cracks in Teddy’s mar­riage to Tawney (Ade­laide Clemens), who forms a spir­i­tual con­nec­tion with Daniel. “I think it’s a unique fam­ily drama,” Craw­ford tells

It wasn’t ever re­ally my fo­cus to look at his pure guilt or in­no­cence

Crime Scene in his rich Alabama ac­cent. “It’s re­ally how these fam­ily mem­bers are nav­i­gat­ing life and one an­other with this new el­e­ment. And once you’ve been in con­tact with Daniel, it’s dif­fi­cult to kind of go back to this life that you once knew.”

While Young has been praised for his per­for­mance, Craw­ford is also a rev­e­la­tion as he’s forced to con­front his own demons. “The fight be­tween Tawney and Teddy at the end of Sea­son 2 was gutwrench­ing,” says Craw­ford. “You know, you have to im­merse your­self into these sit­u­a­tions or it would just never work, be­cause so much of it is what’s not be­ing said. I grew up with guys like Teddy, who were jocks, ath­letes – ev­ery­thing had to be per­fect for them, their hair, their clothes, but truly they were just bro­ken on the in­side.” As well as the script, Craw­ford was drawn to work­ing with Mckin­non, a showrun­ner who’s also an es­tab­lished ac­tor. “The work that he did on Dead­wood for HBO was just so incredible,” he says. “It’s been such a joy as an ac­tor to have a man like that who’s there help­ing you.” Com­pared to his new role on Lethal Weapon, Craw­ford says Rec­tify is “quiet, peace­ful, it’s like a monastery” dur­ing film­ing. “Be­tween takes it’s quite a del­i­cate process, it’s un­like any­thing else that I’ve ever worked on,” he adds. “So we keep the set ex­tremely quiet. The crew could not be more re­spect­ful and un­der­stand­ing of the ac­tors and the work that’s go­ing on there. It’s a lot like work­ing on an in­de­pen­dent film.”

Rec­tify is a low-key, slow-burn­ing se­ries made by Sun­dancetv, though it has the in­volve­ment of some big hit­ters. John­son and fel­low exec pro­ducer Melissa Bern­stein also worked on Bet­ter Call Saul and Break­ing Bad. “I was drawn to the pilot script of Rec­tify by the af­fec­tion Ray Mckin­non had for all of his char­ac­ters,” ex­plains John­son. “Even the so-called ‘vil­lains’ were re­deemable and com­pletely un­der­stand­able.”

While John­son be­lieves Rec­tify de­served more in the way of awards recog­ni­tion, he does con­cede that the show is “not for ev­ery­one”. Craw­ford claims there are “more peo­ple in Europe and the UK who are watch­ing this show than in the States – no­body gives a shit out here – so I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate all the sup­port that we have over there.”

Nev­er­the­less, Rec­tify has been a crit­ics’ favourite on both sides of the At­lantic – and there’s a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion for the fi­nal se­ries. “Without giv­ing too much away, with Sea­son 4 I think you’re go­ing to see who we were be­fore Daniel’s re­lease,” says Craw­ford. This fi­nal sea­son also in­volves a ma­jor change for Daniel, who is leav­ing be­hind a town di­vided over the ques­tion of his guilt. Mckin­non has said that “part of the ten­sion and part of the mystery and part of the sus­pense of this sea­son will be ‘Can Daniel be­come him­self?’”

“I will miss Rec­tify in a very pro­found way but recog­nise that this is where it should prob­a­bly end,” adds John­son. “I think it is a show that will be dis­cov­ered over the years and may have a very strong af­ter­life.” It may be the end for this beloved show, but the en­dur­ing TV mystery of Rec­tify will con­tinue to cap­ti­vate view­ers new and old.

Rec­tify se­ries 3 is out now on DVD. Se­ries 4 airs on AMC UK later this year.

Teddy’s wife Tawney (Ade­laide­clemens).

Daniel and the se­ries never re­ally leave jail be­hind.

Claynecraw­ford plays Daniel’s step­brother Teddy, who is forced to face his own demons.

Daniel’s re­turn has an im­pact on the town and fam­ily around him.

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