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'Rectify' review: Stay with it

Adelaide Clemens, left, and Aden Young in a

Adelaide Clemens, left, and Aden Young in a scene from the drama series "Rectify." Credit: AP

THE SHOW "Rectify"

WHEN | WHERE Two-hour premiere Monday night at 9 on Sundance Channel. Subsequent episodes air Mondays at 10 p.m.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT After serving 19 years on Georgia's death row, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released pending a new trial -- thanks in part to the efforts of his sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer) and his lawyer, Jon Stern (Luke Kirby). Years earlier, Holden had confessed to the brutal rape and murder of a teen girl who lived in his hometown, but recent DNA evidence appears to exonerate him. A lot of people in town want him back in the hole, though -- including a state senator, Roland Foulkes (Michael O'Neill) -- while Holden's original attorney, Rutherford Gaines (Hal Holbrook) can't do anything for him now.

This six-part series -- created and written by Ray McKinnon -- takes place over the first seven days of Daniel's release; it's also Sundance's first scripted series.

MY SAY "Rectify" isn't for everybody -- as a friendly reminder, this is on the Sundance Channel and not CBS, so that's perfectly OK. The pace can be glacial, the tone at times sullen, the storytelling spare and even the Georgia heat oppressive. (Think "The Walking Dead" without the walkers.) In the first couple of episodes, "Rectify" also extends the slow drip . . . drip . . . drip of prison time to the outside world, where Daniel suddenly and abruptly finds himself.

On death row, he contemplated "the time in between the seconds . . ." -- and "Rectify" seems to want viewers to as well. But the story picks up, and something rich, powerful and emotionally engaging slowly begins to emerge with it. There's real beauty here, too, but it's often a strange elusive beauty, just off-screen -- out there, out of reach and waiting to assume its rightful place in Daniel's life. Will it? You assume so, hope so, but there's also that nagging question of his innocence. The title certainly indicates a wrong will be set right at the end of six episodes, though McKinnon smartly keeps that final answer just off-screen, too. This animates the core mystery of who really committed the crime and why Daniel confessed in the first place. Believe me, you'll want to know. At least I do.

BOTTOM LINE Takes time to get into, but once in, you're in.




No spoilers from 'Rectify' creator

"Rectify" creator Ray McKinnon, who is also an actor (he played Lincoln "Linc" Potter on "Sons of Anarchy"), refuses to say whether his show will eventually reveal whether its central character, former prisoner Daniel Holden, was guilty of the crime he was convicted of, although his response to a question on the matter hinted at an answer.

"Why do we wrongly convict people? A lot of times, we want order over justice or the illusion of order, and that was one of the things that intrigued me about this story," McKinnon said during a January news conference for TV critics in Pasadena, Calif. "We want to have closure as human beings, and in our storytelling, we want to have closure. I'm not so sure I want to abide by those conventions.

"The more interesting part of the story was not who did it, but how does a man re-acclimate himself back to this world when he's been in a box for 19 years, more than half of his life?" he continued. "How does a family reinvent themselves when this person literally or figuratively comes back from the dead? A lot of this story is about the human dynamics between the family and Daniel and between (the family and) the town, as opposed to a whodunit."

-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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