Rectify “Donald the Normal” Review (2×04)

11 Jul


“Thank you for, well, for Kerwin. He was a good person, and he was my friend. I miss him every day.”

Donald the Normal is a version of Daniel that’s been pushed aside by the rest of society, buried under the details of the case and whether he’s guilty or innocent. For all the labels that have been slapped on him–killer, celebrity-of-sorts, oddball, rapist–there’s one that has been constantly missing: human.

Now, his family certainly recognizes him for who he really is, but his family’s been broken down just as much as he has. In “Donald the Normal”, he gets to converse with people who don’t know who he is, who appreciate him for his mind rather than for his image. Daniel’s situation is succinctly summed up by the wonder vs. expectations exchange he has with Peggy at the beginning of the episode, significant because for once, someone is asking him what he thinks rather than coming up to him and treating him in accordance to whatever preconceived notions they may have. Peggy tells him to “reinstate wonder and banish expectation”, and that strikes at the very essence of his struggle in adapting to life outside of prison; in fact, reinstating wonder is exactly what we see during the opening montage of the episode, a beautifully constructed sequence that portrays a man on an adventure, a man learning and eventually being allowed to talk about books, music, art, etc.

Of course, with every rise comes a fall, and Daniel once again faces the ugly reality of his situation later on in the diner. These are the people who’re preoccupied with his image and can’t appreciate his mind, and it’s sickening to watch him being treated like an animal, asked about Facebook and Instagram and being called an oddball and eventually an asshole. Whereas the opening montage portrayed a man on an adventure in a new world, Facebook and Instagram reflect a man shrinking from the void that exists between him and the world around him.

How do you fill that void, though? Maybe you attempt to rid yourself of the weight that’s been piling up on your shoulders, and we see that mindset in both Daniel’s and Teddy’s behaviors at the end of the episode. Daniel gives the kitchen a good ol’ remodeling, and Teddy tells Daggett about what Daniel did to him. With the latter, we see him make that decision after getting drunk at a BBQ and making a pass at his wife, which eventually leads to her screaming “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” and telling him she was a bit scared of him. We know that Daniel’s the weight on Teddy Jr.’s shoulders, as the immediate response is along the lines of “You’re not afraid of a killer, but you’re afraid of your own husband?” As much as he wants to distance himself from Daniel, he’ll always get pulled right back in.

Elsewhere, we see Amantha aimless for once in her life. The thing is, though, the “aim” has always been Daniel, the brother she structured her life around, the brother she needed to defend, the brother she loved. She’s admirable in her fierce and steadfast nature, but the reality of the situation is that she’s missed out on so many opportunities. Spencer does melancholy and boredom and ketchup face extremely well, and her job interview is devastating in so many ways: to actually hear her talk about what little of a past she has, and for her to hear herself talk about it? We can tell that it’s a knife right in the gut for her, and the words come pouring out before winding their way back to a confession: she has to stay in Paulie to be with her brother. When she receives the call about the job, she lets out a laugh that’s anything but joyful.

When I think about this episode, though, I’ll mainly remember Daniel’s conversation with Kerwin’s family. It’s genuine and touching, and all the actors involved do wonderful work conveying not only the fond memories they have, but also the empty space in the room and the emotional weights still on their shoulders. The way silence is utilized is key here, and with each extra beat taken, that’s another fond memory being thought about or emotional connection through shared hardship. In essence, the scene is a wonderful, yet bittersweet, moment because it also marks the end of Donald the Normal; Kerwin’s been an essential aspect of Daniel’s mindset toward life and would encourage him to talk about books and music and art, but simply put, loss remains with you. Daniel’s moved, yet shaken, by the conversation, and he returns home with it very much on his mind.

Donald the Normal may not have lasted forever, but I loved watching him while it lasted.



– “Hindsight.” “Really?”

-I really love the various unique ways of referring to Teddy Jr.’s asshole, and as hilarious as that scene is, it also brings up some legitimate points about Daniel, and the dark undertones are ever present.

-The opening montage is set to Chris Montez’s “The More I Want You”, which is a perfect choice of song that sets the mood nicely.

-Daniel+panini bread=good.

– “Because I know you”, then the pasture scene, then this one with Kerwin’s family…everything that has to do with Kerwin makes me tear up a bit/release an ocean of tears. They could have a heartfelt conversation about him taking a dump, and I’d still get emotional.

-Voodoo Tatum as Kerwin’s brother!

Photo credit: Sundance TV, Rectify



One Response to “Rectify “Donald the Normal” Review (2×04)”

  1. Matthew Thompson July 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    What an incredible episode. The scene with Kerwin’s family was particularly great. I can’t get enough of this show. Great review.

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