With our reluctant hero, Daniel Holden, still laid-out, comatose in an Atlanta hospital, perhaps Rectify‘s second episode of the season, “Sleeping Giants,” isn’t the subtlest of metaphors for the arc of this particular episode. But then again, with pages’ worth of on-the-nose dialogue and a handful of narratively convenient but improbable situations, subtlety isn’t exactly episode two’s strong point. Be that as it may, with Daniel’s personal struggle to adapt to life outside of prison temporarily out of the way, “Sleeping Giants” methodically revisits the numerous plot-threads introduced over the past seven episodes in what seems more like an extension of last week’s season premiere, “Running With the Bull,” than an independent episode in its own right.
Indeed, in these first two episodes of the second season, the story of Daniel has taken a backseat to what appears to be an increasingly ensemble-like structure that strives to explore the impact of Daniel’s release on both family and community, while still fleshing out our understanding of Daniel’s time in prison through flashbacks and dreams.
“Sleeping Giants” kicks off with one of those memories, showing us a depressed and unhinged Daniel tearing apart his cell with a fury that we could only vaguely glimpse behind the thousand-yard-gaze that characterized actor Aden Young’s interpretation throughout the first season. The few scenes of Daniel’s past sprinkled throughout the episode suggest a downward spiral of depression and nihilism as he processes the loss of his recently-executed best friend and death-row neighbor, Kerwin; showing us the depth of suffering that underlies his fragile exterior.
In the present, tension is palpable as the Holden-Talbot family continues to deal with the uncertainty of Daniel’s fate. In one subplot, Ted and Ted Jr. subtextually duke it out in a father-son power struggle over the future of the tire business, in another, lawyer John Stern declares his love for Amantha while visiting a client out of state. Half-brother Jared Talbot once again joins the plot with a dose of teenage angst, while Tawny, in effort to break through Ted Jr.’s increasing emotional distance, admits to having had feelings for Daniel.
Meantime, Sheriff Dagget’s dogged search for justice bears fruit as a witness to Daniel’s beating finger Bobby Dean as the culprit, ultimately leading to his arrest. And to keep up the intrigue, the mysterious case of the suicide/cover-up at the hands of Trey Willis continues being, well, mysterious.
Yes, it seems Rectify has a lot of narrative balls in the air, so to speak, and the show runs the risk of becoming convoluted as the season progresses, but in truth Sleeping Giants belongs entirely to actor Clayne Crawford’s Ted Jr., who flexes his dramatic muscles and gives a level of subtlety and pathos to a character that was once nothing more than an easily vilified antagonist. While without a doubt the emotional core so present in the season premiere isn’t nearly as appreciable in episode two, the episode’s closing image of Ted Jr. quietly processing the news of Daniel’s awakening, unable to respond to Tawny’s overtures, is a veritable blow to the emotional gut that leaves the fate of their relationship in doubt.
And now, after two episodes planting the seeds of what promises to be a dramatically dizzying second season, the giant has awoken.