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"Rectify": The Complete First Season DVD Review

Rectify: Season One DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Rectify: Season One (2013)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Ray McKinnon / Executive Producers: Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Ray McKinnon

Writers: Ray McKinnon, Graham Gordy, Michael D. Fuller, Evan Dunsky / Directors: Keith Gordon, Billy Gierhart, Nicole Kassell, Jim McKay, Romeo Tirone, Ray McKinnon

Regular Cast: Aden Young (Daniel Holden), Abigail Spencer (Amantha Holden), J. Smith-Cameron (Janet Talbot), Adelaide Clemens (Tawny Talbot), Clayne Crawford (Ted Talbot, Jr.), Luke Kirby (Jon Stern)

Recurring Cast Members: Jake Austin Walker (Jared Talbot), Johnny Ray Gill (Kerwin Whitman), Bruce McKinnon (Ted Talbot, Sr.), Jayson Warner Smith (Wendall Jelks), Michael O'Neill (Senator Roland Foulkes), J.D. Evermore (Sheriff Carl Daggett), Kim Wall (Marcy), Sean Bridgers (Trey Willis), Michael Traynor (George Melton), Sharon Morris (D.A. Sondra Person), Lara Grice (Susan Gunter), Linds Edwards (Bobby Dean), Robin Mullins (Judy Dean), Adam Fristoe (Lenton James)

Notable Guest Stars: Sonny Shroyer (Mayor Johnny Daggett), Frank Hoyt Taylor (Sheriff CJ Pickens), Roger Edwards (Young Guard Mitchell), Ajay Mehta (Mr. Patel), Hal Holbrook (Rutherford Gaines), Abigale Corrigan (Claire), Madeline Taylor (voice of Hanna Dean), Graham Gordy (Pastor Beau), W. Earl Brown (The Stranger), Rebecca Koon (High School Principal), Doug Bertolini (Baptism Man), Russ Prine (Death Row Inmate), The Peasall Band (Themselves), Brian Bremer (Chet)

Running Time: 271 Minutes (6 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) / Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98 / DVD Release Date: June 18, 2013
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cut-Out Cardboard Slipcover
Season 1 Airdates: April 22, 2013 - May 20, 2013
Also available as Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video HD

Buy Rectify: Season One from Amazon.com DVD Instant Video Instant Video HD

Ray McKinnon has slowly but surely climbed Hollywood's creative ladder. His career began as an actor, playing the role of "Trooper #1" in the 1989 Oscar-winning dramedy Driving Miss Daisy. In the years that followed, McKinnon continued to act, taking supporting roles in films like The Net, Apollo 13, and O Brother Where Art Thou? and making guest appearances on a wide variety of television series.
In 2001, McKinnon ventured behind the camera as the writer, director, and star of The Accountant, a 35-minute comedy that won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short among other honors. Since then, he has written and directed a couple of small crime films: Chrystal (2004) and Randy and the Mob (2007). While still turning up in films (e.g. The Blind Side, 2011's Footloose remake) and on television ("Sons of Anarchy"), McKinnon takes his career to new heights as the creator, showrunner, lead scribe, and occasional director of the drama series "Rectify".

There's no need to apologize if you haven't heard of this show. It's a product of Sundance Channel, a deep cable network devoted to independent films. McKinnon conceived the series back in 2008 as an AMC vehicle for repeat collaborator and production partner Walton Goggins. Three years later, AMC's sister channel Sundance took it on, sans Goggins, as the first original scripted series in their fifteen-year history. "Rectify" finally made it to the air this past spring, was renewed for a second season nine days after premiering, and recently had its short first season of six episodes hit DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment in an undesignated two-disc set manufactured before the renewal became official.

In "Rectify", Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is momentarily exonerated of the murder and rape for which he has spent more than half of his life on death row.

"Rectify" centers on Daniel Holden (unknown 20-year acting veteran Aden Young), a man convicted of a teenage girl's rape and murder, whose death sentence becomes vacated when DNA evidence clears him of the crimes to which he had confessed nineteen years ago. The sudden breakthrough relocates Daniel from his small, solitary death row prison cell to his close-knit family in tiny Paulie, Georgia. Needless to say, that is not an easy transition to make.
The change of pace, unforeseen regular interactions with relatives, and assortment of societal advances require much acclimation and adaptation from the odd, serious, and reserved ex-con.

Daniel is welcomed with open arms by his loving younger sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), teenaged half-brother Jared (Jake Austin Walker), their widowed, remarried mother Janet (J. Smith-Cameron), and dutiful new lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby). More ambivalent of Daniel's return and doubtful of his innocence are step brother Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford), who feels his cushy job in his family's tire shop could be threatened. Ted Jr.'s doubts are shared by much of Paulie, including Sheriff Carl Daggett (J.D. Evermore), state senator Roland Foulkes (Michael O'Neill), and district attorney Sondra Person (Sharon Conley), all of whom believe that justice was carried out back in the mid-'90s and will again be as soon as the case is rebuilt without the disputed DNA "technicality."

"Rectify" is rich and rewarding television. McKinnon has crafted a gripping and compelling Southern Gothic drama that is likely to hook you. The strong premise resonates thoroughly, but so too does the flavorful storytelling it gives way to. There is not a single character who is simple or one-dimensional. For instance, we aren't even sure that Daniel is genuinely innocent. That could be played as a gimmicky mystery, with ambiguous clues dropped each week. But McKinnon and his fellow writers and producers set their sights higher, with a compelling, slow-boil presentation that deepens with each serial installment. Daniel is well-read and there are fitting literary allusions made to everything from Dante to the Book of Job. A man who has seen the depths of hell without leaving this Earth, only to return to our civilization with his true nature uncertain all the while, is a supremely fascinating subject that is loaded with dramatic potential.

Though regular flashbacks show us Daniel's life inside prison, "Oz", this is not. "Rectify" is surprisingly tame for a subscription cable drama. There is little profanity, no nudity, and minimal violence (albeit what's there is of the powerful and graphic variety). The show is not far from network broadcast standards, even if its content skews dark and its execution offbeat. Unlike most television shows, "Rectify" is not chockfull of dialogue; it features only as much as it needs, allowing us to soak up the atmosphere of small-town Georgia, where it is both set and shot. The DVD cover art advertises that this hails from producers of "Breaking Bad", referring to Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein. You can easily spot similarities in the way that the mature, complex sagas unfold elegantly and artfully. "Rectify" may lack the sizzle and explosiveness of "Breaking Bad", but it is similarly high on human interest, arresting arcs, and multi-faceted characters you can't quickly form judgment on.

Young half-brother Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford) and his wife Janet (Adelaide Clemens) do not agree on Daniel's redeemability. Sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) and lawyer Jon Stern (Luke Kirby) are two of Daniel's greatest defenders.

One of the best things "Rectify" has going for it is its meager first season order of just six episodes. That resembles the British television model even more than AMC or HBO originals and it suits the series exceptionally well. The six 45-minute episodes make for fast and fulfilling viewing. If you didn't watch these as they aired (and I doubt you did), it might very well be difficult to drag out your enjoyment beyond a single day. It's far easier to watch the whole lot, if not in absolute succession than within 24 hours, which most certainly will not feel like overkill.

You can easily identify this as a low-budget series. Sundance doesn't even issue Nielsen ratings and one struggles to believe the average episode's viewership is all that close to seven figures. And yet it clearly doesn't matter because "Rectify" holds you captive just the way it is, void of star power (the biggest "get" is a brief appearance by Hal Holbrook, who starred across from McKinnon in the winning 2009 drama That Evening Sun) and exciting licensed music (Stone Temple Pilots' "Creep" is probably the most recognizable needle drop).

Tears fall from Daniel Holden's eyes as he is released from prison into his mother's embrace. At Walmart, Daniel (Aden Young) discovers just how far video games have come since 1994.

Disc 1

1. Always There (48:00) (Originally aired April 22, 2013)
After spending nearly twenty years on death row,
Daniel Holden adjusts to life on the outside.

2. Sexual Peeling (44:49) (Originally aired April 22, 2013)
Daniel unsettles a curious Ted Jr. with his descriptions of prison life.

3. Modern Times (44:44) (Originally aired April 29, 2013)
As Daniel spends a day at home revisiting the past (Sega Genesis and a Walkman!), Amantha looks for an apartment in Atlanta, and their half-brother gets threatening anonymous text messages.

4. Plato's Cave (44:59) (Originally aired May 6, 2013)
Daniel and his mother go shopping at Walmart and attract a small crowd of media. Ted Jr.'s wife Janet (Adelaide Clemens) reaches out to Daniel, as does an old classmate turned hair stylist.

Daniel (Aden Young) gets baptized in "Drip, Drip." Kerwin (Johnny Ray Gill), Daniel's closest friend on death row, expresses his faith in his next-cell neighbor.

Disc 2

5. Drip, Drip (43:33) (Originally aired May 13, 2013)
A sleepless Daniel gets into some late night mischief with a stranger before getting baptized at Janet's church and having a showdown with Ted Jr.

6. Jacob's Ladder (45:11) (Originally aired May 20, 2013)
As both sides prepare for the relaunched case against Daniel, his time in prison is recalled more.

VIDEO and AUDIO

In an apparent acknowledgement of the series' modest audience (even treated to one post-"Mad Men" encore broadcast on AMC), "Rectify" hits home video exclusively on DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is adequate, but you certainly do miss the sharpness and detail of high definition (if you're used to that). The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a bit better, although the opening theme's bass-booming stomps are a bit much. English SDH subtitles are supplied and can be useful when dealing with thick southern drawls.

Michael O'Neill discusses his character, state senator Roland Foulkes in his one-minute "Meet the Cast" short. Costume designer Ane Crabtree shows off some of Amantha's wardrobe in an "Inside Job: Behind the Scenes" short.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Disc One opens with promos for "Low Winter Sun", "Breaking Bad": The Final Episodes,
Pusher and Pawn. Beyond these, all extras are short videos (with a low frame rate) that appear on Disc 2 presumably after airing on Sundance.

"Sundance On Set" (4:02) offers a compact, general, promotional overview of the series, with comments by creator Ray McKinnon, his fellow executive producers, cast and crew members. They discuss the characters, the setting, and McKinnon's leadership.

"Meet the Cast" (8:10) spends a minute on eight main characters, gathering remarks from the actors and pertinent clips.

"Inside Job: Behind the Scenes" (7:38) devotes 90 solid seconds to profiling/interviewing key crew members: cinematographer Paul Sommers, costume designer Ane Crabtree, pilot director Keith Gordon, first assistant director Polly Ann Mattson, and production designer David Blass.

Creator/showrunner Ray McKinnon takes us inside each episode in exactly 90 seconds. Each disc's main menu displays character photos, some of which are ever so slightly animated.

The remaining two listings are episode-specific bits that should be individually accessible and presented alongside the corresponding episodes, but are only viewable in lumps.

"Inside the Episode with Ray McKinnon" (9:09) collects 90 seconds of thoughts
from the show's creator/executive producer on each installment of "Rectify."

"Behind the Scenes" (12:08) expands to include more voices, including those of executive producer Melissa Bernstein and cast members, for two minutes of reflection per each episode.

The main menu on each disc displays barely animated stills and clips to the theme score. Episodes are split into chapters where commercial breaks occur (a new phenomenon for Sundance, and one easily noticed even in DVD viewing).

Though fairly routine in many ways, the DVD does score points for creative packaging. It uses a slipcover resembling Daniel's dank prison room to cage the keepcase's freed depiction of the character. Well done, Anchor Bay! There are no inserts within the black Eco-Box keepcase.

The sympathetic Janet (Adelaide Clemens) welcomes Daniel to her church. Daniel uncovers the jackpot for a teenager of the 1990s: a Walkman and Sega Genesis!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I didn't know all that much about "Rectify" coming in and hadn't even heard of the show until it was announced for DVD, but I'm so glad that I gave it a chance. This is TV drama done right, intriguing with characters, story, and atmosphere instead of gimmicky, drawn-out mysteries. There is plenty of room for this series to grow, but this short debut season is a compelling and satisfying opening act you are sure to breeze through, hungry for more.

Hopefully, this release helps the show build an audience because "Rectify" deserves to be on Blu-ray. The DVD is good enough, though, carrying a reasonable list price, a decent selection of bonus features, and an okay standard definition presentation. I suspect that a Blu-ray edition eventually comes, but until then, this earns a recommendation as a perfectly satisfactory treatment of a great television show.

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Reviewed June 30, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Sundance Channel, Gran Via Productions, Zip Works, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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