Rectify: Jacob's Ladder

"I'm going away for a while, to get better. Or different."

This was such a three-hanky episode. I don't mean that at all facetiously.

Sometimes I am so freaking clueless. I honestly hadn't thought about what had happened to Kerwin. Maybe I just wasn't emotionally ready to address it. Maybe my subconscious was going, hey, Kerwin is still in his cell and at some point soon, Daniel will go visit him. When Kerwin was taken away, I could not stop crying. I was especially moved by Kerwin's last words to Daniel. It was such an incredibly unselfish final gift for Kerwin to give his friend. Because I know you. Because I know you. Because I know you.

I don't believe in the death penalty, and of course, Daniel's situation as a convicted innocent is an obvious reason why. But Kerwin's situation is also a big reason why. What would it have hurt the world if Kerwin had lived out his life in a cell? What purpose did it serve to put him to death, other than to hurt the people who loved him? I honestly don't know if the execution of a killer helps the family of the victims; that is not a question I feel qualified to answer. But losing his only friend must have made Daniel feel like the world had come to an end, like he had even less to live for than the nothing he already had.

Getting beaten so badly at the cemetery (wow, symbolism alert) was almost an anticlimax after Kerwin's execution. It wasn't a surprise, because we certainly knew Daniel was in danger. It was more of a surprise that it hadn't happened before now, the way he spent so much of his time walking around town looking odd and preoccupied. Hanna's brother Bobby Dean is obviously incapable of believing anything other than the law enforcement conclusion that Daniel killed Hanna. Clearly, Daniel should have moved to Atlanta with his sister, instead of the other way around.

And I am again thinking of the title of this series. Nothing can make this right. Daniel is suffering now and will suffer forever because of Hanna's murder. And the state senator/former prosecutor still wants to put him back in prison. Even Tawney was weirded out and has backed off, thinking that pushing religion on Daniel was a mistake. And maybe it was.

I guess I have to address the other big plot point: Teddy and the coffee grounds. How hilarious that the previous episode was entitled "Drip, Drip," and this one began with fresh coffee dripping. Please tell me that Teddy didn't put that coffee back in the container?

The first time through the series, I sort of ignored Daniel attacking Teddy because I didn't want to think about why Daniel did something so awful. But I did think about it this time (you can't ignore a major plot point when you're reviewing something) and I can understand why being taunted the way Teddy taunted Daniel must have set him off in a way he would have reacted to such a thing in prison. I also considered that an unconscious Teddy on the floor would have been visible from the front windows of the tire store. Did Daniel decide to show Teddy what it was like to wake up humiliated, but did he balk when it came to leaving Teddy completely naked and exposed? Is that why Daniel covered Teddy's bare butt with what was available?

The first time I saw this episode, I was certain Teddy was one of the masked guys who beat up Daniel. I have since changed my mind. Teddy was just too calm and introspective, cleaning the coffee off his pants and letting Tawney think he'd had an "accident," spending other quiet moments with Tawney. If he'd been ready to take such serious revenge, I think he would have shown anger.

The construction of this episode was perfect. Hanna's mother preserving Hanna's room, while Daniel's mother decided to redo the kitchen. The recording of Daniel's confession explaining that he covered Hanna with wildflowers (Jacob's Ladder) as Teddy awoke covered with coffee grounds. The same sad music played over Kerwin's last words to Daniel, the beating in the cemetery, and Trey tossing George's body in the river. Daniel was beaten and "baptized" by Bobby Dean, a character I find impossible to hate despite what he did, and then Trey baptized himself in the river, washing himself clean of George's blood and whatever sin they both committed. The final scenes were a seriously injured Daniel being taken away in an ambulance, and flashback Daniel alone in his cell, lying down facing the wall, as Kerwin's cell was mopped.

The recording of Daniel's confession was particularly interesting because it sounded a lot like he was being led and manipulated. Amantha said that Daniel was not only stoned on mushrooms when he confessed, but that he was also experiencing survivor's guilt. I might consider the possibility that Daniel actually did kill Hanna, except that doesn't explain why Trey just put on a bandanna and got rid of George's body, does it?

Bits and pieces:

-- Daniel has been emotionally on the edge for too long. When Janet asked him to help her redo the kitchen, he burst into tears.

-- Daniel and Amantha went to a pecan grove they knew from their childhood, and the statue of the goat woman was there. Was that symbolic of evil being real?

-- Trey used a bandanna to cover his face while handling George's body. Bobby Dean and his buddies also used bandannas to hide their identities.

-- Kerwin told Daniel the same thing three times, a reminder of Peter and Christ. Hey, we can go into a lot of Biblical references with Daniel in the lion's den and the writing on the wall, too.

-- In the flashbacks, Daniel finally broke his silence with Jelks and told him he was the saddest man he'd ever known because he couldn't cry for anyone. Jelks was affected, although of course he pretended he wasn't.

-- Hanna's gravestone gave her death date as April 14, 1994. Amantha was twelve when Daniel went to prison. I had assumed she was younger than he is, but nice to know. And Daniel had no idea his sister and his lawyer were sleeping together. Maybe he still subconsciously thinks of her as twelve.

-- The book store was open, and Daniel bantered with Chet, the man who worked there. Possibly a new friend?

-- Miss Person's office was made of white cinder blocks, just like the death row cells. They probably filmed both in the same place.

-- Ted Senior offered to be Daniel's sounding board. Unfortunately, it was right after what Daniel did to Teddy. Bad timing there.

-- The blown up mailbox was obvious foreshadowing. I loved Amantha screaming at the sheriff that she would arrest him. Gotta love Amantha's nerve.


Janet: "Jump the gun?"
Amantha: "Don't I always?"
Janet: "No. You usually face the gun, Amantha. You always have, ever since you were a child."

Daniel: "When everything is out of the ordinary, it can be too much sometimes, you know?"

Daniel: "We're a leaky family."

Daniel: "You're elusive, Chet."
Chet: "That's an under appreciated skill."
Daniel: "So it can be developed?"
Chet: "I think so. Probably helps to have a little bit of a knack for it first."

Chet: "My friends think I'm a 'sad-aholic'."
Daniel: "Don't get help."
Chet: "I just like to have something to balance out the farce, you know?"
Daniel: "I think farcing may be sadder."
Chet: "God, you're right. It's all sad."
Daniel: "And farcical."

Kerwin: "I know you didn't do it."
Daniel: "How do you know?"
Kerwin: "Because I know you. Because I know you. Because I know you."

Four out of four ceramic mechanics in Christmas wrapping,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


Jess Lynde said...

You aren’t kidding about that ending. The first time I saw this episode, I sobbed so brokenly when they took Kerwin away. And I sobbed again watching it this second time. A man that murdered a small child, and this is the end he met, and it was devastating. It’s just impossible with the portrait they’ve given us of these two men to not see their humanity and the significance of their friendship, despite the terrible things they may have done. Watching them say goodbye hurt. And the beauty of that gift of grace that Kerwin tried to give Daniel just made it hurt all the more.

Your question about whether the execution of a killer helps the family of the victims is interesting. This show certainly tries to explore that question in some respects. In the interview with Hanna’s mom she asked why Daniel wasn’t dead yet, and we see here how broken Mrs. Dean and Bobby Dean remain having lost Hanna. Would they be able to move on and let the pain of the past go, if the person they believed was responsible was no longer living? Or would the grief and loss continue to consume them? Like you, these are questions I’m not qualified to answer. But they are worth considering, and I really love that this series encourages us to do so.

Similarly, I like that the series forces us to consider Daniel’s behavior towards Teddy. It’s definitely hard to confront the issue, because we feel sympathy for Daniel and can understand why he might do such a thing after seeing some of his experiences. But that doesn’t excuse what he did. It was an entirely inappropriate response, and a violation that has clearly deeply shaken Teddy. I like the way the series continues to deal with the fallout going forward.

It was interesting to see Teddy and Tawney find their way back to a quiet understanding with each other in the wake of their encounters with Daniel. That’s probably not the right way to phrase it, but I thought their scene eating the ice cream in bed together was a good one. It was nice to see her opening up to him a bit and him being so supportive in response.

I wondered if the statue looking so overgrown when Daniel and Amantha saw it meant that him being there with the goat man wasn’t real. Because it didn’t look overgrown when Daniel was there in the last episode. More mysteries.

Great thoughts on this first season, Billie. It's been wonderful revisiting it with you.

Billie Doux said...

It's been wonderful revisiting it with you too, Jess. You write detailed, in depth comments that always make me think about the whole episode a third or fourth time and often make me see it a different way.