* RECTIFY. 10 tonight, SundanceTV.
I'VE LOVED "Rectify" from the moment that Daniel Holden (Aden Young), free after 19 years on Death Row, fell asleep on the car ride home.
He may have been reacting to overstimulation, the way a newborn would, but that nap also signaled that this was a show that wouldn't be hitting viewers over the head to keep them awake.
As the third season begins tonight on SundanceTV (which yesterday renewed it for a fourth), the Peabody Award-winning "Rectify" is still a show that trusts its viewers more than most, telling a high-stakes story in a decidedly low-key way.
Barely a breath has passed since the Season 2 finale, in which Daniel agreed to a plea deal that would prevent a new trial and keep him out of prison but required him to confess to the murder of his high school girlfriend. He also agreed to be banished from his small hometown of Paulie - where his family still lives - and most of the surrounding state of Georgia, and to leave within 30 days.
Little wonder that his sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer, "True Detective"), who's devoted years to the fight to free her brother, isn't pleased. Not with Daniel and not with his lawyer (and her boyfriend), Jon (Luke Kirby).
Having taken a job as a cashier to make ends meet, she's now cause-less and rudderless. The job she saw as a stopgap now may require her to at least feign ambition, and at what point does slumming become settling?
Daniel's earlier assault on his stepbrother, Teddy (Clayne Crawford), continues to have repercussions even as the local sheriff (J.D. Evermore) investigates a more serious crime.
"Rectify" has never offered certainty about Daniel's innocence or guilt, and while I won't say that that question doesn't matter to me, I have come to appreciate creator Ray McKinnon's studied ambiguity.
Is Daniel the way he is - slightly otherworldly and given to bursts of violence - because he spent all those years living in isolation behind white walls, waiting to die? Or was he there because he killed 16-year-old Hanna Dean when he, too, was still a teenager?
And does he himself know which is which?
The idea that even the people involved in a murder might not know exactly what happened isn't often explored in a medium crowded with crime shows, but like most of the story lines in "Rectify," this possibility rings true.
Noting the overlap between this fictional story and the one told last year in Sarah Koenig's true-crime podcast, "Serial," the network's offering a "Serial" homage by staff writer Kate Powers that effectively recaps the first two seasons, complete with (scripted) interviews and "maybe it's just me"-style speculation. You can find it here: http://www.sundance.tv/series/rectify/podcast.
But while that would take far less time than watching the first 16 episodes on Netflix, the podcast's more successful at capturing the flavor of "Serial" than of "Rectify," a slow-cooked meal in a fast-food world.