2013, TV

Rectify (2013)

I have only watched the first season of the show. Why should become clear.


If you wanted to make a show about a wrongful conviction in the USA, you should probably pick a character who is representative of those people. The vast majority of people in the United States who are wrongfully convicted are people of colour and/or poor. They are not, normally, white and middle class. White, middle class people rarely get railroaded by the US justice system. They do, on occasion, but hardly ever. If this show wanted to make a statement, it would made Daniel and his family black, latinx, or poor, or both poor and not white.

The one thing the show does get right is Daniel is weird. (Well, he’s male. That’s the other thing.) That’s the one commonality Daniel has with all the victims of the numerous wrongful convictions I’ve heard of through listening to Undisclosed (and related podcasts, and movie and TV documentaries). If you’re not black, and you’re not poor, and you get railroaded by the US justice decision, then you’re likely really weird. (If you’re weird and poor or black and poor or black and weird, and you happen to get accused of a crime, good luck.)

Anyway, I think the show would be a lot more powerful if had a better grasp on your average wrongfully convicted American. But that’s not why I’m not going to continue watching the show.

The show is oddly low-stakes. I think this is actually kind of refreshing though I’m not sure I care enough given what I said above. Certainly in the first season, until episode 5, it felt like the stakes were extremely low: Daniel might be retried, he or his family might the victim of some minor violence.

But then episode 5 happens. And this is where the SPOILERs really come in. I have been trying to find out whether or not this “did he? didn’t he?” is a real thing the show is going to pursue. The moment he put Teddy in that chokehold, I wanted to check out. And this is why: every day, Americans are wrongfully accused by police of crimes they didn’t commit. Every year, many people are wrongfully convicted of minor to serious offences and this continues to happen because the police pretty much suck at the job of solving crimes. (There’s a lot of data to back this up.) The last thing any of these people need is a popular show suggesting that a man who got his conviction vacated due to newly discovered DNA evidence might have actually committed the crime. Now, maybe this is not a consistent theme of the show, but even just the suggestion of it I found quite offensive. I understand this man doesn’t know how to behave around people, but surely there is a way of suggesting that better than having him cut off the airway of his step-brother. I have ZERO interest in watching a show that wants to have the audience unsure of whether or not someone who was “wrongfully convicted” might have actually done it. That is the last thing that needs to be on TV.

Other stray things that don’t make sense that I’m just nitpicking because I decided to quit on the show:

  • Hal Halbrooke’s character says his assistance (or whoever) lost Daniel’s file after he’s already had his conviction vacated! Are we to believe that Daniel’s lawyer has never had any access to any of Daniel’s trial files and still somehow got the conviction vacated solely on DNA evidence? What world is this show happening in?
  • The diner lady works the night shift. She owns it but would she really work that long? This is the minorest of minor nitpicks, but I still thought it was a little weird.

I think the show was fine, prior to that one scene in episode 5. Maybe it’s fine going forward. I think it would have been a lot better if it had the courage to make the main character and his family less middle class and white but it also might be just totally fine going forward if it doesn’t keep suggesting he might have done it. But, frankly, I’m not interested in finding out any more.

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