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Rectify “Mazel Tov” Review (2×06)

25 Jul

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 9.24.59 PMCuriosity is the reason why we explore, why we create, why we take risks. It’s a major reason why we have so many technological and social advances, but at the same time, curiosity is also dangerous. As much as society fosters it, the pressures that come with society oftentimes prevent it from shining through, and Rectify is an in-depth exploration of what happens when curiosity comes into contact with history’s shadow, a shadow looming large over everything you do.

Daniel Holden is someone who’s inherently curious, who wants to learn to build upon that rich foundation of knowledge he already has; of course, that’s extremely difficult to do when everywhere you turn, there’s hostility. He simply can’t be Donald the Normal 24/7, but he’ll find a way to revel in the small moments. When he talks to Jared in this episode, he tells him that curiosity is a good thing, but that he has to be careful, that he shouldn’t let it spiral him straight into the paths of others who will fight to keep believing what they want to believe. Daniel mentions at Gaines’s funeral, in a wonderfully acted scene for Aden Young (what else is new?), the penchant of people to perpetually follow those preconceived notions, even if there’s evidence to the contrary; that, understandably, leads to uncertainty over whether he should talk or not, but when you strip away societal pressures, you’re left with a man who’ll continue to be Daniel Holden. This is a man who’ll put on a suit for Gaines because Gaines put on a suit for him.

Daniel’s conversation with Jared, if I may return to that, echoes the waitress at the beginning telling Daniel to be careful, as well as Janet telling him to be careful. This is a society in which you walk a fine line between safety and danger, perhaps even between life and death, but at the same time, people care about you and genuinely don’t want to see you get hurt. Daniel’s scene with Trey Willis is filmed at a distance, like a standoff of sorts, while Daniel and Jared–and Daniel and Janet–are filmed up close, a more intimate camera bridging whatever distance may remain.

There’s another standoff of sorts that I’d like to mention, and that’s the scene in which Jon turns a woman’s–who approaches him and Amantha in the parking lot and tells Amantha to go somewhere else–words right back around on her. It’s a very satisfying moment, and it also highlights the mood pervasive in Paulie, the way things get passed down and distorted until the next generation is left spouting out beliefs handed to them on a plate. The point here isn’t whether Daniel’s innocent or guilty, but rather the way the question of innocence or guilt has become one with the town.

Of course, while that question is raging, Daniel is attempting to live his life, one that involves his mother’s birthday party and a Wedgewood stove he and Lezley buy from an old man who hasn’t used it since his wife died. Daniel feels guilt as they’re discussing the stove, and that eventually leads to Daniel calling Lezley a piece of shit and Lezley responding with “At least I’m okay with it.” When Daniel apologizes after the party, Lezley urges him to look behind him as he moves on in life, and Daniel eventually follows up on that advice when he faces the past at the end of the episode; he hears Hanna’s voice as we fade to black.

When Lezley is involved, it’s difficult to tell how genuine their interactions are, though, because he seems to serve more of a symbolic role rather than as an actual human being. The relationship pushes Daniel toward the past he never had and the past he might never have wanted to face, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? There’s a sense that Daniel’s teetering and tottering, and he can fall over at any time.

Ted Jr. is in that same position, and he seems to be more like a pendulum: he can swing between one state of mind and another. However, he’ll always crack, and we see it in “Mazel Tov”; the bitterness rises up in him when he sees Daniel and Tawney–a beautiful scene, by the way–talking, and what should be a heartwarming announcement is tainted by resentment; what should be a celebration of the future is tainted by anger stuck in the past. Thankfully, earlier, we have people like Ted Sr. and Jon Stern to offset the decidedly negative tone that Ted Jr. brings to the Wedgewood stove gift. For Ted Sr., it’s a nice extension off of last week’s situation with the conflict that resulted from Daniel tearing down the kitchen. Ted was never trying to belittle Daniel, and instead, he acted reasonably and tried to help. This week, it’s even more evident, and he extends the compassion and appreciation Daniel needs in that moment.

Ultimately, there are two scenes I’ll keep coming back to. The first is the flashback in which Daniel tears up as he listens to music for the first time in a long time. It’s a brilliantly acted moment, and while the storyline with Charlie the Chaplain is written a bit too much like a successor to Kerwin, it’s nonetheless a moment that takes us into Daniel Holden’s mind, his emotions, his face, all through the slot of a prison door. As for the other scene, it’s the one in which Daniel hangs on a branch after he sees Lezley off. Rectify is one of the few shows on television that takes the time to show us these moments, and it’s a wonderful tie in to the tree branch that broke off a few episodes back. There, it represented Daniel’s desire to break free from the life he was living, but here, it isn’t breaking when he hangs on it; here, he doesn’t want to take Janet’s car; here, he’ll be Daniel Holden in Paulie.

And maybe that’s okay.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Daggett tells Foulkes about the assault, and now, the pressure is mounting.

-I will say this again: Jon, you lucky bastard.

-Note how Teddy says “I got you pregnant.”

-Once again, great work by J. Smith Cameron, especially with her barely concealed disappointment and nervousness at the dinner table. You can see Janet’s thinking about Daniel.

-Kudos to Amantha for not blowing up at the woman in the parking lot. You’d expect something like that to happen, but it doesn’t. Kudos to the woman for listening, too.

-Interesting detail: Ted Jr. mentions the throwaway society they live in. He’s talking about overconsumption and consumerism, but it can also just as well apply to the town feeding on Daniel.

-The music Daniel listens to at the end is “Tabula Rasa: Silentium” by Arvo Part.

Photo credit: Sundance TV, Rectify

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One Response to “Rectify “Mazel Tov” Review (2×06)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cuando quema la culpa (‘Rectify’) | Diamantes en serie - August 26, 2014

    […] El capítulo que menos me gustó fue el 2.6. (“Mazel Tov“), en parte por una jugada de guión muy forzada, aunque necesaria para dinamitar la trama: […]

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