Sundance TV's first foray into original, scripted programming started last year with the premiere of the brilliant drama Rectify . For those who are unfamiliar with the series — and that may be quite a few of you as the show is still succeeding on a small scale — the series follows Daniel Holden, a man who has been recently released from Death Row after 19 years when evidence shows that he may not have been completely responsible for the murder of his high school girlfriend. The series is a beautiful look at a man gaining his life back at a cost but the thing that attracted me to the show were the wonderfully diverse women characters. Only problem is, now the women of Rectify are starting to fall into the shadows of the men to whom they cater.
The women of the show include Daniel's mother Janet and his sister Amantha, the realest, biggest support and champion of Daniel ever since his legal troubles began. Then there's Daniel new step sister-in-law, Tawney, the wife of Teddy Jr, Daniel's new step-brother. Tawney is extremely devout and even persuades Daniel after his release to get baptized. All of these women are brilliantly portrayed by their actresses, with Abigail Spencer as the real standout as Amantha.
But the women's portrayals are not what's bothersome. The problem is that for the most part, these women have disappeared into the men they support and no longer stand up for themselves as individuals. Let's take a deeper look at the progression we've seen from these women so far and how the writers could better handle their futures.
Daniel's Mother Janet
Janet is one of those mothers who, after a tragedy or conflict, does her best not to talk about the issues and instead, bury them deep. Janet does this throughout Daniel's ordeal by trying to move on with her life without any mention of her son. And when Daniel gets beaten by local townsfolk, she stays with him for quite a while at the hospital, she seems a little distant from the situation.
It's time for Janet to start to show some emotion and passion either for or against her son. This is a mother who had to watch her child taken away to be nearly executed. We need to start seeing how that actually made her feel, instead of a facade.
Daniel's Sister Amantha
Amantha life has become consumed by Daniel. She worked to get Daniel released and she stayed by his bedside for hours when he was attacked. Amantha doesn't even look outside of Daniel's case to finally open herself up to love, she starts to fall for Daniel's lawyer Jon. While the two are kindred spirits, the amount of effort she puts into Daniel's well-being at the expense of her own is unhealthy and quite frightening.
Hopefully, she is able to find a life outside of her brother's case and his subsquent problems. She has spent so much time ignoring herself that she must feel somewhat empty. Her romance with Jon is something but again, it came out of helping Daniel. Perhaps that's not the most appropriate way to start a relationship.
Daniel's Step Sister-In-Law Tawney
Tawney is one of the most complicated characters on a show filled with complicated characters. She is new to the family and new to Daniel's life. The fact that she is a deeply devout Christian starts her relationship with Daniel, much in the way a missionary behaves towards someone they want to save. She just wants to help Daniel find light and move past his dark times, but this becomes something much more as it is obvious Daniel and Tawney start to develop feelings for each other. These feelings come from a place of quiet desperation, as she does not receive the love, support, or notice from her husband Teddy Jr. — he's too busy trying to cement his place as a leader in this new, larger family.
Tawney is on the verge of showing some true strength. She's already revealed her feelings for Daniel to Teddy Jr., who blatantly hates Daniel, and she's starting to doubt many of the black and white ideals she used to believe so clearly.
What we all have to keep remembering is that the series has only progressed a week, it just feels like it's been longer because the pacing is quite slow and deliberate. And while Rectify is a beautiful show and the characters are written beautifully, the problem is that there needs to be more character development for these women, especially when some of the male characters have changed so much since Episode 1.
An easy fix would be adding other characters' flashbacks to Daniel's of his time on Death Row. We simply want to see these brilliantly introduced women start to find their voices and move past being just Daniel's relatives. Considering how great this show is, it seems unlikely that Rectify would continue without fleshing out these characters.