“You’re about the loneliest person I’ve ever seen.”
Personally, “Act As If” felt like one of Rectify’s strongest episodes in quite a while. That’s not to say that the rest of this season hasn’t been great (because it certainly has been), but the many emotional punches of this week’s episode were absolutely welcome.
First of all: Poor Ted Sr. Ever since the beginning of the series, Teddy Jr. always served the primary adversarial role for Daniel, and I found myself counting down the episodes until the always-reasonable Ted Sr. would find himself siding with his petulant biological son. Instead, kind Ted Talbot has consistently been one of the show’s single most level-headed characters, and this week was no exception. The unusually funny cold open of Ted navigating the wreck of a kitchen was largely a stylistic departure for the series, and the punchline of missing coffee filters had me laughing my way into the opening credits (a phrase I never thought I would write about Rectify, of all shows).
But more importantly, the way he spoke to Daniel about moving forward with the kitchen renovations was heartbreakingly reasonable, and I couldn’t bring myself to agree with Janet later when she berated him for his tone. Janet’s point of view regarding every event of the series is considerably more complicated than Ted’s and rightfully deserves careful consideration – but Ted handled Daniel’s explosion in the most patient manner possible and I really felt for him as Janet stormed away in frustration.
Lately, it’s been obvious that Daniel is most comfortable in his own skin when around Janet (a fact that clearly irritates Amantha), and their pivotal conversation about Janet’s bike riding featured truly outstanding work from J Smith-Cameron. Before we even get to Janet’s tragic monologue, the soft manner in which Daniel tries to goad the words out of her was incredibly touching and sad. But the true pain of the scene comes from the reasoning behind Janet’s last bike ride so many years ago. For Janet, riding away from Paulie until midnight is a shameful moment – as mother – in which she truly gave up on Daniel and assumed that he wouldn’t make it out alive. Smith-Cameron’s performance does a spectacular job of conveying this profoundly deep remorse, and duh, I choked up when her voice cracked as she asked Daniel if he would like a sandwich.
For a show that tends to be firmly grounded in realism (excluding W. Earl Brown’s potentially imaginary drifter, Daniel’s conversations with a dead Kerwin… okay, maybe not always so tethered to realism), I really appreciated the sense of danger that permeated the entire party sequence. In the case of a show like Rectify, this is about the closest thing to a set piece we get. Daniel initially floats around the fringes of the party in his usual haze, and it takes Lezley’s stirring (yet haunting) mantra of “Act. As. If.” to finally snap Daniel into a more lasting feral state – albeit one that he’s arguably shifted in and out of for the past few episodes. A sudden influx of women, attention, cocaine, and shotguns is probably the absolute last thing that Daniel Holden needs in his life right now, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only audience member holding their breath when Daniel suddenly lowered the shotgun while staring intently into the night. The abrupt flashes to black to indicate the temporal gaps that Daniel (and the audience) experienced were also a great stylistic flourish (and indulging in “stylistic flourishes” tends to be a very rare occurrence for this series).
I have a strong feeling that Daniel is hurtling toward some sort of violent and rude awakening – this episode ultimately felt like a really interesting and cautionary preface before we get to some real emotional fireworks.
- Amantha’s really bashing her head against rock bottom right now. The grocery scene was painfully awkward, and combined with the tension in the Holden-Talbot kitchen upon her entrance? She really needs to get the hell out of Paulie. Pronto.
- Not sure that I completely buy the emotional transition between Teddy Jr./Tawney of last week and this episode. In a vacuum, Teddy’s genuine attempts to work with Tawney and understand her were kind of touching and sweet – but getting there from the end of last episode (him sitting at the edge of the bed while she turns away) felt like we missed a crucial beat or two.