On Dec. 14, TV said goodbye to one of its best shows with the series finale of “Rectify.” Running at an extra long 90 minutes, in an episode written and directed by creator Ray McKinnon, the SundanceTV series tied everything up in the only way it really could, by not really tying anything up.
Instead of concrete answers, and revelations about every character’s fate — as some may have wanted — “Rectify” merely set each character in the series, both in and outside of the central Holden family, on a new path. We don’t know everything that’s waiting for them down those roads, but for once — as the episode’s final Terrence Malick-esque dream sequence illustrated — they’re routes that allow Daniel, Amantha, Janet, Ted, Teddy, Jared, Jon, and Tawney to be hopeful, for the first time in a long, long time.
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“All I’m Sayin” isn’t necessarily a perfect episode — perhaps not even the best episode of the final season. There are some unnecessary scenes, that feel like they’re meant only for extra padding (Daniel’s short, awkward conversation with his boss), but “All I’m Sayin” succeeds because it manages to do what “Rectify” has always done best, by looking to the past for answers to the future.
Opening with a flashback to moments before the series’ first episode, as Janet and Amantha prepare for Daniel to leave prison and come home, their conversation about trying to enjoy just a moment of hope is the perfect kickstart to a finale dedicated to finally allowing yourself to feel hopeful. The stark, slightly desaturated colors of the flashback juxtapose perfectly with the warm, golden light palette of the present day scenes — an extra reminder of how far these characters have really come over the course of the past four seasons.
If there’s one thing that “All I’m Sayin” does perfectly, it’s using every scene to connect back to the central theme of the episode. Even the flashback to Daniel in prison with Kerwin – the first we’ve gotten in a long enough time that it was almost jarring when it appeared initially – shows the two characters fantasizing about enjoying their lives together outside of death row. Time traveling through New York City, and seeing the sights, “All I’m Sayin” isn’t about showing the characters’ happy futures, but argues that just the idea of having a hopeful future is victory enough.
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So Daniel is still in Nashville, finally starting to enjoy life with his housemates on a regular, daily basis, while he waits to finally be able to return home and visit his family, “just because I want to,” he tells Jon. Back in Paulie, it seems like every other member of the Holden family is finally starting to find their footing again, for some it’ll be the first time since Daniel was released from prison, and for others, it’ll be the first time since he was first incarcerated.
As Amantha says, mournfully in the first half of the episode, nothing will ever rectify the suffering they’ve all experienced, but as that long-awaited press conference also proves, the Holden family may finally be on their way to moving on and leaving that part of their lives in behind them. If that isn’t a triumph worth celebrating too, then we don’t know what is.
Sam Shepard once said that endings are the worst part of a story, and that if you had to include one, then to the best thing to do is to find some way to make it a beginning instead. With “All I’m Sayin,” “Rectify” really doesn’t offer much answers for what lies in store for Daniel Holden, and those around him, but it doesn’t need to either.
This is a series that never conformed or bent to traditional storytelling norms, often choosing to focus more on the small, basic changes and aspects of our lives, and trust that they offer just as much dramatic weight as stories of meth dealers or mob leaders do. So as Daniel Holden stood next to Chloe and her child, the physical embodiment of a better future, allowing himself to soak up the warmth of the sun shining down on him, we felt the kind of emotional punch that not many other shows are able to deliver in their final moments. But then again, that should probably have been expected. After all, there has never been a show like “Rectify” before, and there likely never will be again.