“Until You’re Blue” starts out big. There are operatic string swells and dramatic timpani hits that seem to portend some great danger awaiting us just around the next scene transition. It’s an uncharacteristic turn for a show that, both musically and dramatically, has tended toward elegant, minimalist expression and very subtle emotions: a lone viola, a repetitive piano progression, a flare of sunlight.
Here, the camera swoops and pans, adopting dramatic angles and moving through evocative cuts. And indeed, “Until You’re Blue” is about big, operatic passions, bringing the show’s understated melodramatic inclinations to the fore as each respective subplot reaches its requisite unraveling with great pomp and circumstance.
It seems this whole time Rectify was carrying a monster inside, but rather than unleashing it in a torrent of emotion week after week, the writing team held fast, building the tension up in a steady crescendo until unleashing the mighty force of its orchestra in a wrenching climax. Perhaps nowhere is this more effective than in the show’s 9-minute set piece that finds Tawny and Ted Jr. having it out once and for all. Over nine episodes their relationship has been a penetrating study of interpersonal dynamics, in which we see that silence can been more violent than blows and smiles can betray deep pain and confusion. And now it has all been said.
Filmed with a shaky, handheld camera, it’s clear that the director wanted nothing more than to behold two actors laying themselves bare for the world to see. There are no dollies, no beautiful compositions or poignant light flares. Instead, the camera timidly follows the character’s every movement, as if ashamed to bear witness such a devastatingly intimate encounter. This is all acting, and it is one of the most masterfully executed scenes I have seen on television.
Yet, for all the episode’s high emotion, “Until You’re Blue” also returns to the contemplative, existential aesthetic that had been diluted over the last season as Rectify struggled to find its new identity. The recurring visual motif of doors and windows that so defined the series’ early episodes are here back as a defining stylistic trope. Much like Daniel’s death-row cell, they are isolating compartments that underscore the profound solitude and isolation of each individual despite their apparent proximity. At one moment or another, each character is seen this way by DP Paul M. Sommers’ sensitive eye, whether it is Momma Holden glimpsed through a crack in the door, Daniel and Amantha viewed at a distance with a violently angled dollar-store window frame between them, or Ted and Ted Jr. struggling with their anguished consciences as a physical and metaphorical tire store wall separates one from the other.
And now Daniel has been offered a way out of a potentially damning trial, with the caveat that he cannot return to the state of Georgia. The painful irony of Rectify is that after sixteen episodes exploring the grotesque, petty world of the small town American South, we know that Daniel cannot leave. He is bound to his home, for better or for worse.