Rectify Review: “Donald the Normal”

(Episode 2.04)

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<i>Rectify</i> Review: &#8220;Donald the Normal&#8221;

After commenting last week about the show’s subtle and oft-missing humor I was surprised and enchanted, by the breezy little montage that opened this episode—a 180 turn from where we left off when everyone was down in the dumps. Half-expecting to hear “We’re gonna make it after all” a la “Mary Tyler Moore” (we get the cheery sixties tune “The More I See You” instead) Daniel journeys to the big city for a day of adventure. He smiles at the couple with a baby. He meets the funny homeless man on the street who, laughing, gives Daniel directions. The light touch is effective; and it appropriately ends quickly. After all, mystery and distress await our “hero”, or whatever he turns out to be.

While visiting an Atlanta museum Daniel is drawn into a conversation, and eventually lunch, with a fellow patron (Frances Fisher) and her friends. Daniel chooses to identify himself as a bookstore owner from Alabama named Donald. We can see why he does this, when someone later recognizes him as “the guy that got off death row” making Daniel feel like a carnival attraction. While the exchange ends badly—due more to his inadequate social skills than anything else—Daniel’s compassion for others is still evident as he visits Kerwin’s mother and brother, something that means as much to them as it does to Daniel.

Meanwhile, Amantha begins to pack her things, apparently moving back to Atlanta as her mother suggested. With her usual, sarcastic disposition, Amantha goes through the motions—eating junk food while running errands until she finds herself applying for a job at the local market. She even surprises herself when she is hired. While she justifies her decision to stay to protect Daniel there is also a subtle suggestion that she is doing it for her mother and/or because she needs her mother.

The strain between Teddy and Tawney remains, and Teddy copes by drinking too much as they entertain friends. Later he becomes overly aggressive, sexually, causing Tawney to fight him off. Teddy leaves in a huff as Tawney uncharacteristically yells, “What the hell is wrong with you?” But the real shocker comes when he visits Sheriff Daggett at his home and tells him about the coffee grounds assault he received from Daniel. He doesn’t want to press charges, saying he just thought Daggett should know. “I know what he’s capable of, Ted,” says Daggett who appears to believe in Daniel’s guilt. “I saw it in those woods twenty years ago.”

A weight is obviously lifted when Teddy goes home and apologizes to Tawney. “I’m glad you made it back,” she says—seemingly, knowingly, laying down the double entendre. The chemistry between these two actors grows stronger with each new episode and every highly-anticipated scene.

In spite of good intentions, Daniel’s modus operandi is anything but normal, at least not by society’s standards. When he arrives home to an empty house he begins to demolish the kitchen, obviously with the intent to start the remodeling his mother was hoping for, but was not going to get because of the family’s poor financial situation. But is it anger that motivates him, with the remodel serving only as an excuse to tear something apart? At present, I have no answers. But I am enjoying the questions.