TV review: the human condition, not crime drama, adds tension to ‘Rectify’

As a TV experience, Sundance Channel’s first original drama, Rectify, is frustrating, yet satisfying; painfully slow, yet utterly absorbing. These contradictions may be tough to handle, but they do create a TV show that feels startlingly unlike anything else that is currently airing.

Rectify, the story of a seemingly-innocent man released from prison after serving 19 years on Death Row for the murder of his high school girlfriend, is dramatic only in the strictest sense of the word. This is theatre drama more than TV drama. Rectify swaps painted scenery for beautiful on-location shots of rural Georgia, but still an overwhelming number of its scenes consist of two characters talking at length.

The result is a lot of speeches, a lot of philosophy, a lot of staring into the middle distance. Rectify’s dialogue is, too often, unwieldy, yet sometimes it is amazingly precise. When one character remarks, “It’s the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts the most,” it hits you in the stomach. That may be the show’s whole mantra, summed up in just 10 words.

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