Rectify 2.01 Review: “Running with the Bull”

Whether or not you love Rectify will depend on what you expect and want out of television. In many ways, Ray McKinnon’s series about a former death row inmate who has been released plays more like independent cinema than a traditional show, fitting the SundanceTV brand perfectly (Top of the LakeThe Returned and The Red Road are similar compositions on certain levels). If that description turns you off, the slow pacing and spiritual inquiry of Rectify will probably bore you before it entertains you. If you’re reading a review of its second season premiere, though, you’re likely to have seen the first season already and know that Rectify joins only a handful of shows–HannibalLouieMad Men–as something so distinctly and obviously several cuts above 99% of television. It is, much more than those series, so terribly difficult to describe when making a case for why it is so special. Many people would point to its treatment of religion, which is smart and not the least bit condescending. Even for viewers who have a natural impulse to treat that kind of material with cynicism, there is no eye-rolling going on in Rectify. Other people might point to the other individual parts of the series that work so well: the haunting music, the remarkable performances (led by Aden Young in the main role of Daniel Holden), its ability to use the dual-narrative device effectively with constant flashbacks, etc. But these are all common things we might point to when describing a television series. Rectify‘s most amazing quality is how utterly unique it is within the medium. Anyone familiar with Mike White’s Enlightened will have some sense of what I mean by that, since that series was (is) similarly beautiful in how it eschewed typical categorization. Rectify is somewhat of a spiritual successor in that regard and reminds me during “Running with the Bull” that McKinnon is one of the finest storytellers in the business and has crafted one of the finest products available.



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