Gifts come packaged in all different ways. Some are boxed up and sent by mail from online auctioneer to winning bidder. Others arrive in the form of unexpected visits from old friends long estranged. Sometimes, simply helping someone wrap and stow their belongings for a long journey can be a gesture of incredible openness and warmth. The act of unburdening, however, is a complicated blessing. Just ask Daniel, whose season-one baptism ultimately triggers an act of violence against Teddy not unlike how Daniel describes being subdued by Wendall and four other inmates in the prison shower. In the final scene of “Happy Unburdening,” as Daniel listens back to his own account of that traumatic gang rape, he undergoes a different kind of baptism, a total immersion rather than absolution. As D.A. Person, ex-Sheriff Pickens and Sheriff Daggett go about the procedural task of assessing his legal guilt, Daniel finally travels back to the precise moment when his innocence was lost.
It’s worth mentioning that the aforementioned fateful episode that spanned Daniel’s sleepless night with the “goat man,” his attempts at spiritual rescue and stunning aggression, was titled “Drip, Drip.” Here we are, all these years later, with Daniel recounting for his PTSD therapist how “blessed drops” from a spigot above fell into his open eye during that horrific sexual assault, continuing until they overwhelmed his senses. It’s the first time Daniel denied reality, which became his way to cope. But it’s holding him back from happiness and has made his experiences outside of prison — from the surreal goat-man misadventure to the state-supervised simulacrum of freedom — that much harder to process. “Happy Unburdening” is as much a bookend to “Drip, Drip” as it is evidence that Amantha, Teddy, Janet, Ted, Jared, Bobby, and Pickens are inching forward.
That comes hardest for Amantha, who condemned an entire town for the undue hell mandated on her brother and isn’t quick to trust what she sees when everyone from Bobby to her old friend Jenny seeks her out to either confess their own measure of guilt or free her from holding onto grievances. Bobby’s request that they meet at the roller-skating rink might have hinted at little else besides how childish Bobby still is, forever stuck at 12 years old, even as he brutalized Daniel with the brutality of a grown man. It was also bizarre, as so much of Amantha’s journey since returning home has been. Jenny’s likely not the only one who nearly fainted to discover she’s working at Thrifty Town and dating Billy Harris. It’s doubtful she and Jenny will pick up from where they left off, or that Amantha will start believing in redemption anytime soon, but their encounter may well have been the second chance she’d been waiting for since deciding to stay in Paulie.
Teddy — and Clayne Crawford’s performance — continues to be this farewell season’s greatest revelation, Daniel’s potential exoneration notwithstanding. His soon-to-be ex-wife, Tawney, is explicit about the path God has chosen for her to “wash feet” for a humanitarian organization, but Teddy’s own awakening has had more to do with learning how messy life gets when you live the way others see you. He’s able to confide in his father about breaking away from the tire business and his marriage, and encourage Tawney with total compassion that an image of her doing good for those less fortunate is vivid enough that he “can see it so clearly I can actually see it.” It’s not quite a wrap for Teddy’s story line, nor will we get to find out how he starts over, but he is at once his own man and empowered by the support of his family, Tawny included.
He could always cash in on his little brother’s knack for selling knickknacks on eBay. No one among Teddy, Janet, Ted, and Amantha may have ever really understood what Jared wanted or needed, but he’s become an unlikely point of passage for everyone’s unburdening. He can separate himself from Furbys, flour sifters, and his mother’s well-ridden bicycle without sentiment, an advantage of his relative removal from Daniel’s case that allows him to look ahead and envision an un-muddied, undefined future. Amantha digs at him for being so eagerly at the service of Janet’s present attention, but she’s also terrified of his determination to clean the slate. Rectify may not conclude with Jared riding off into the dawn like Claire on Six Feet Under, but he has a fighting chance of rewriting the Talbot-Holden narrative for generations after “it all changes,” as Teddy might say.
Chloe is Rectify’s most Six Feet Under–like character, an evolved Brenda Chenowith with a more constructive handle on damage. She’s so careful with Daniel from the time they meet, and from their flirtation at her art sale onward, almost no one else is in the room when they’re together. It is totally intimate, and it’s no wonder Daniel makes her swoon when he declares, “I’m mad for you.” This time, our point of view is from within a box, one encasing Chloe’s record player, as she gives a great gift to Daniel — a dance to Harry Nilsson’s cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” Doing so unlocks Daniel’s romantic side, the one he constantly tamps down in deference to the punishing reality of his court-appointed lifestyle.
What Daniel doesn’t know is that he may soon be unbound and unburdened by the law, thanks to Pickens’s startling admission that Chris Nelms’s father, Roger, may have orchestrated Daniel’s framing to protect his and his son’s reputation. Daniel could be free to make his own Claire-esque departure into the great wide open with Chloe, to Ohio or wherever. But what solace will being pardoned in the official sense provide him when he’s at last beginning to heal? How will it affect his memory of that night with Trey at George Melton’s place when he finds out that Trey may have been his initial protector? Whether Jon, the D.A. or anyone else likes it or not, the reality created by Roland Foulkes and others more than two decades ago might be the one they have to live with — and that Daniel needs to accept. After all, everything he learned about how to truly live is starting to pay off.
Apart From All That:
- Tawney wants to wash feet in a manner of speaking, while Janet can literally scrub Ted’s back. To each their own.
- Ted is suddenly this show’s hardest character to read.
- Too many incredible bits of dialogue to rehash, but how about Daniel describing the rag as tasting “of soap and chlorine and me”?
- Did Teddy kind of give his dad a backhanded compliment about doing the best he could?
- We may never know what Judy wrote to Janet.
- Might there be deleted scenes of Teddy’s recovery and Daniel and Chloe’s reconciliation?
- No, Teddy, Tawney is definitely not Melvin.
- Just when you underestimate Tawney, she asks Teddy, “Do you think I’m daft?”
- The pizza in Paulie can’t be much better than the fettuccine.