At some point in “The Great Destroyer”, Daniel Holden undergoes a transformation. It’s not clear exactly where that happens or for that matter what motivated it, but somewhere around minute thirty Daniel bursts into the Holden-Talbot family living room, illuminated. Suddenly, the man who sleepwalked his way through the better part of two seasons buzzes about manically, inviting his family members to talk about vacations and chihuahuas before brusquely changing the subject to steak dinners. Sucking down a beer, he unleashes yet another non-sequitur as he looks to John Stern with conviction and declares — referencing the plea deal that’s recently been dropped in his lap — “Tell ‘em no more time. Zero. Not one day.” His family looks on, stunned.
In truth, it’s a bit uncomfortable to watch. Little has prepared us for this unexpected launch of Daniel 2.0 at the episode’s 2/3 mark, and rather than a surprising dramatic turn, the scene plays out like the document of an actor struggling desperately to justify his drastic change in mood and behavior.
At last episode’s close, Daniel was a man for whom truth and memory had grown profoundly unstable. Trey Willis’ fiendish head-games had effectively planted a seed of doubt that began to eat away at Daniel’s very sense of self. After Tawny picks him up from George’s Florida trailer park, where the fascinatingly despicable Trey had left him stranded the night before, he bluntly admits that he is not a “good person”, then later makes reference to the “despicable things” he’s done. It’s not surprising that when John Stern presents him with the prospect of a plea deal, he sits down to give it serious thought. If he is so unsure of his innocence, perhaps this would be the most graceful resolution he could hope for.
But then something changes. Was it Tawny’s exhortations to share the “good in him” with the world? Or was it Wendell Jelks accusing him of being “afraid to live” in the prison flashback? Either way, at this stage of the season Daniel’s sudden change of outlook is the dramatically correct course of events. It just seems that somewhere along the writer-director-actor chain of interpretation, the cause became a bit too diffuse and unclear.
Whether or not its fully justified, everything seems to be falling right in line as we pull into the home stretch of season two. The subtle thematic threads and personal frictions Rectify has been weaving throughout the las episodes are now spoken to the heavens as though in a Shakespearean soliloquy. Momma holden addresses Ted Sr. about her unfair treatment of him throughout the years. All is forgiven. Daniel confronts Tawny about forsaking him, admits his love for her. It can never be. Amantha is changing–or trying to at least–while Daniel obliquely reflects on the difficulty of “leaving the one thing you’ve ever known.”
All in all, “The Great Destroyer” feels very much like a functional episode–and it does its job. The dialogues are a bit drawn out, the decisions a bit precipitated, but in the grand scheme of things this can be forgiven. We are witnessing the Rectify team setting the table for the main course, and they’ve done a good enough job sowing doubt, uncertainty and expectation over the past few episodes that it will be a well-deserved meal, indeed.