Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man

The penultimate episode of the debut season of Rectify on Sundance - yep, the season is a total of just six episodes - was more moody, introspective, philosophic, even spiritual than usual, but with a wallop of a punch at the end that just might change everything.  Or maybe not.

The opening sequence is dreamlike but real.  We accompany Daniel on a murky adventure with a goat-man, the gist of which has Daniel stealing some goats with a guy who picks Daniel up in his pick-up truck.  But there could be more, because Daniel spends some time sleeping and dreaming in the truck.

All of this is prelude and foundation to the main story tonight, in which Daniel the next evening takes Tawney up on her offer to see him through a baptism.   The experience is of course emotional, and Daniel not only hugs Tawney afterwards - hugs that she returns - but wants to kiss her, which she declines.   This leaves Daniel not only spiritually but sensually charged, and not some one who should be goaded by anyone - least of all Teddy.

Daniel's father ran, and now Daniel's stepfather runs,  a car dealership which has one of those tall, thin, balloon figures that waves in the wind to attract the attention of would-be customers.  The waving red figure will provide brilliant crucial symbolism for and at the end of the episode, which features Teddy finding Daniel sitting outside of the dealership looking at the waving balloon.  Teddy shuts if off.   The balloon deflates and falls shrunken to the ground.  Daniel asks Teddy to let the balloon live.  Teddy obliges.

But now things take an ugly turn.  Teddy is justifiably jealous of Daniel.   Teddy knows that Daniel feels more than a spiritual connection to Tawney and doubts, at least partially accurately, that Daniel really shares any of Tawney's faith at all.   He not only tells Daniel to keep his hands off of Tawney but  taunts Daniel about his sexual experiences behind bars.   Daniel leaves, but something snaps.  And in the last scene Daniel has his arms around Teddy's neck in a choke hold.  Teddy's head and body bend at an angle terribly similar to the red balloon figure.  And like the deflated balloon, Teddy's body goes limp.

So Teddy tried to kill the balloon, Daniel interceded, and Daniel tries to do to Teddy what Teddy did to the balloon.

If Teddy dies, that will change everything.  Daniel will get caught and get put back on death row for a brand new murder.  So I doubt that will happen.

But even if Teddy lives, we've seen what Daniel is capable of.  Whatever faith we had that Daniel was just a soft-spoken kid, railroaded into prison, is now irrevocably shaken.  Or, at very least, whatever he was as a kid, Daniel is not just soft-spoken any longer.  Or, in a slightly different interpretation to this superbly ambiguous story, maybe Daniel with his moody outbursts now is not just a product of prison.  Maybe Daniel was always that way.

On the other hand, Daniel might still be innocent of the murder of his girlfriend - I still mostly think that he is -  and  prison gave him the well of violence which he now draws upon.  Even so, the ending of tonight's episode shows, if we ever had any doubt, that we're watching something far more profound and complex and unpredictably wild than just an innocent boy wrongly accused and convicted.

See also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry


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