Sundance Channel’s Rectify series. A prison mystic sets out on his travels.

I saw the first episode of this mindful little show earlier.

Touted as a new series brought to us “by the makers of Breaking Bad,” the show is immediately burdened by unspoken expectations. This might be both a blessing and a curse, for many simple-minded viewers might be unable to sieve out their expectations into an orderly and fair manner when considering “Rectify.” Having thus bolstered their expectations to unrealistic levels, they are likely to toss the baby out with the bathwater for the simple fact that Rectify does not involve speeding motor homes or meth-crazed capitalists.

Rectify must be viewed and perceived on its own terms.

The first episode (hour one of two) sets up many questions and plants various genesis’s of an enveloping multi-pronged plot involving Daniel Holden, a prisoner released from death row (having been reprieved from the lethal injection 5 times) after fresh DNA evidence exculpates him of the murder of a young girl (for the time being anyways, as a group of intent prosecutors and lawmen, unconvinced of his innocence, parlay their shared skepticism into a “movement” whose purported aim is to try Holden again). Many promising avenues of conflict are awakened in episode one.

Holden, who practiced Tibetan chanting during his 20-year-stay on death row, is released quietly into the world having apparently undergone a radical transformation into prison mystic.

Having been outside the consumerist, materialist electronic matrix for the last two decades of its hold on society, he is a throwback of sorts, spiritually and emotionally. Spared the ravages of social media and the fast-paced world of instant digital feedback, he appears utterly calm and mindful. But there is a lot going on that episode one suggests obliquely. And we wonder where Daniel Holden will lead us.

Will he embrace distracted and disconnected modernity, or will he maintain his path of penitentiary asceticism?

  • The fact that everyone depresses Holden is informative not only because it reveals Holden’s psychological state, but also because it alludes to his own feelings of superiority. Holden himself talks about inferiority/superiority complexes when he observes how women label men: “The trouble with girls is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they’ll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don’t like him, no matter how nice a guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they’ll say he’s conceited.” Whether or not Holden’s judgment is factual, he does seem to have a firm grasp on the idea that many people either feel inferior or superior to those around them. What Holden does not seem to realize is that by passing judgment on everything and everyone around him—from movies to girls to poor kids, and so on—and furthermore by feeling depressed when someone doesn’t have the things (i.e. money or authenticity) that Holden himself has, he is in fact positing that he is superior to these other people. Another consequence of Holden’s habit of bemoaning the actions of everyone around him, and reiterating how much everything depresses him, is that the things that truly depress him, such as Allie’s death, are hidden among the other negative opinions. In this way, Holden’s overtly cynical attitude is actually a form of protection as it prevents him from having to confront his emotions over his brother’s death.