by Billie Doux
Honestly, I appreciate the need for cliffhangers. But sometimes I absolutely hate them. This was one of those times.
This episode included all of the ongoing plot lines we've been seeing so far, but dialed up to eleven. Daniel again endured Senator Foulkes making him confess to murder, just like he did twenty years ago. But this time the outcome was reversed, since he did it in order to stay free. What a travesty. And what an incredibly powerful performance by Aden Young. I get it, though. I really do. Daniel just wanted it to be over, and leaving it in the hands of a jury would have been rolling the dice, even with the odds in Daniel's favor. Any option that did not involve more time in prison had to look like a win.
In the debrief, Daniel finally told the entire story. He had been stoned on mushrooms, and Hanna laughed at him when he couldn't perform sexually. He went off and got lost in the woods. When he returned to the scene, Hanna was having sex with George, Trey and Christopher. (Christopher?) They watched him watching them. When Daniel returned to Hanna, she was dead; he gathered wildflowers and covered her with them, and sat with her until the sun came up and the sheriff found them.
For me, Daniel's genuine confession was all in the sentence, "She was sixteen. I had given her mushrooms." Hanna didn't know what she was doing, and she had sex with three young men, one of whom killed her, deliberately or accidentally. Of course Daniel would feel responsible for her death. It also explained why he let Foulkes bully him into a confession -- not once, but twice.
At this point in the episode, I was thinking Daniel wouldn't be able to go through with it, that he and Jon would walk out. I wanted them to walk out, to make a jury hear all of this, because everything Daniel said during the debrief had the ring of truth -- right up until the end, when he forced himself to say that he'd strangled Hanna. He said it as flatly and dispassionately as he could, nothing at all like the earlier emotional stream of words. Daniel had felt compelled to tell the whole truth before he lied. If experienced law enforcement people like Jon Stern and D.A. Person and Sheriff Daggett believed that confession of murder, I'd be very much surprised.
Of course, Senator Foulkes believed what he wanted to believe. He had too much of his career invested in Daniel's guilt to be swayed by the truth, even when it was right in front of his eyes.
Much of the earlier part of the episode involved another sort of confession. After a lovely night of solace and companionship but no sex, Daniel told Tawney the truth about what he did to Teddy and expressed genuine regret, dismissing Teddy's goading, hurtful words and taking the entire blame on himself. (Later in the episode, Daniel confessed the truth to Ted Senior, as well.)
The Daniel/Tawney scene in the motel room was gentle, sweet and full of truth, an encapsulation of what a romantic relationship should be and could possibly be between these two. In an interesting parallel, they talked about the fact that they are both planning to leave Paulie, and that neither has a destination in mind. Of course, it would be lovely if they left for some sort of future together, but it's probably too soon for that.
There are lots of scenes in front of doors in this series. Tawney packed and said her goodbyes to Teddy just inside their front door. Teddy again showed that there is a decent human being inside of him when he slipped money into Tawney's handbag and told her that she could always come to him for help. And then Tawney inadvertently blew it by saying she was sorry about what Daniel did to Teddy. Which of course made Teddy conclude that she had slept with Daniel at the motel. Which of course meant that Teddy's manhood was instantly involved, and he had to press charges against Daniel.
The question is, did Teddy get to Sheriff Daggett in time to screw up Daniel's plea deal? Did Daniel go through that painful confession for freaking nothing? The last shot in this second season finale was Daniel framed by a rectangle of light, waiting for the judge, a callback to Daniel framed by the window in his cell, waiting for death. If that's not an omen, what is?
This episode centered around Daniel, with the rest of the family adjacent to his ultimate decision. Amantha and Jared couldn't stand the idea of Daniel confessing, no matter the reason. I'm not quite sure why that anger translated into Jared breaking into the Dean house in order to fondle Hanna's stuffed animals. Fortunately, Bobby didn't take offense and beat him nearly to death.
Amantha's anger was more understandable; she'd spent twenty years of her life in a constant effort to free Daniel, but she didn't just want him out of prison -- she wanted exoneration. She wanted to erase the past, for life to once again be the way it was when she was twelve. I thought the flashback to her playing Hangman with Daniel on the dirty window in the visitation room was genuinely funny as well as appropriate, because Amantha did indeed pit herself against the system in a serious game of reality Hangman. She won that game, even if it didn't turn out the way she expected.
Bits and pieces:
-- Sheriff Daggett went to Florida and searched George's trailer, looked at surveillance tapes of Daniel and Trey, and sent off the business card Trey licked for DNA analysis. All that, and his face during Daniel's debrief, made it look like the Sheriff might be coming around to believing in Daniel's innocence. Too late.
-- Janet told Ted Senior that the store had a good month. Maybe Teddy 's rims weren't a bad decision after all.
-- Janet still doesn't know about what Daniel did to Teddy.
-- Daniel mentioned the possibility of moving to Mobile, Alabama. I lived near the Gulf for a year after grad school. It was lovely. Really hot, but lovely.
-- The episode began with the beauty of early morning, and Daniel and Tawney talking about the properties of sunlight.
-- Some boys playing near the river found George's body. At last. And, a bit more water imagery, Tawney got her car washed right before she left town.
-- Most of the music in this episode was slow and mournful, sad and reflective. It got urgent and discordant when Daniel had to lie, and ended with classical music as all of the story bits came together at the end.
Daniel: "I used to dream about the morning sunlight. I'd run my hand through it in my dream. Like this."
Tawney: "And now it's real."
Daniel: "It is. I should be filled with joy."
Daniel: "You can't always get what you want."
Amantha: "I don't know what I want. I only know what I wanted."
D.A. Person: "What did you do then?"
Daniel: "I watched the trees falling and then I went down there. She was dead."
D.A. Person: "That's it? Went down there and she was dead?"
Daniel: "She was all bent up. You see, it's the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly."
An excellent, infuriating season finale. Four out of four rectangles of light,
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.