"Rectify" -- Sundance TV's much-admired drama, returning for a third season Thursday, July 9, at 10 p.m. -- is a mournful melancholic that explores the cold empty places of the heart ... where human memory is either a weapon or salvation ... where human isolation, one human in particular, fills the screen like a lonely cork floating in the middle of a vast, dark indifferent ocean.

And given all that, remarkably, this wonderful series is back in just a few hours.

Pay attention, although for newcomers this may be particularly complicated given the long back story (the first two seasons are available on Netflix), because "Rectify" just might attract some attention next week, when the Emmys are announced. Many Emmy observers and professional TV critics believe Aden Young -- who plays series lead Daniel Holden -- should get an Emmy best actor nod.

Will he The problem, as always, is one of visibility and the usual pressures on Emmy voters -- who are overloaded with candidates this year. "Rectify" remains a much esteemed but much under-viewed series; voters may simply pay attention to those who already have the press and the plaudits, while they pass by excellent shows like "Rectify" and excellent actors like Young. But this year ... maybe, just maybe.

To catch up, in the second season finale, Daniel confessed -- not the right word, but the only one under the circumstances -- to the murder of Hannah during the plea deal session with D.A. Sondra Person (Sharon Conley) and Sen. Roland Foulkes (Michael O'Neill), as a skeptical Sheriff Carl Daggett (J.D. Evermore) looked on. It was all ambiguous because Daniel first said he had witnessed the murder from the top of a bluff; then -- on the assumption that Foulkes would end the long witch hunt -- confessed to a murder that he did not commit.

"Rectify" could have almost ended on this -- Daniel's plea would have banished him from the state of Georgia (where he had already served nineteen years on death row) -- but Sundance handed series creator Ray McKinnon a third season just days before the finale last August. When this episode aired, McKinnon had no idea whether the show would go forward, and so a fine Sundance series could have ended much as it began: a mournful melancholic about the indifference of the universe, and one man's strange, lonely concession to that indifference.

Now, McKinnon has another season to take this story deeper into places that will either illuminate the themes or resolve the story once and for all. (There is that title -- "Rectify" -- after all). Fans naturally want both.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Thursday's premiere is very good indeed -- picking up days, even hours, after Daniel's plea (and by the way, viewers still don't know whether the presiding judge even accepted the deal), and how his brother Teddy (Clayne Crawford), father Ted Sr. (Bruce McKinnon), sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), and Foulkes respond.