The first season of this powerful cinematic drama about a man struggling to find his place in a normal world came to a close last night. After 5 episodes, we are not much closer to learning whether or not this man was rightfully taken out of his normal world 19 years ago. But a few more pieces of the puzzle fell into place (and I mean just a few).
Excellent performances, especially from Aden Young (Daniel), Abigail Spencer (Amantha), and J. Smith-Cameron (Janet, Daniel’s Mother), continued in the finale. Daniel provided some insight into how, on the outside, he tries to prepare for the unpredictable, and how any deviation from his expectations cause him confusion and stress. As he stated, the simple act of a door opening is a lot for him to take in. Aden Young delivered this scene perfectly, as he describes the calming effect the mundane has on Daniel. Daniel goes on to have a very hopeful and ‘normal’ moment in a bookstore.
The opening of the episode, the graphic visual of Ted Jr. and the coffee – was a shocking yet perfect way for Daniel to deal with Ted Jr., making his statement (in the boldest way possible) without [physically] harming him. His statement was that just because he is calm, he has a bite that is worse than his bark… and that Ted Jr. had better put a stop to the way he is treating Daniel.
Closer to the end of the episode, Daniel’s story takes a dark turn as the victim’s brother and his buddies send Daniel a message in violent terms. This was not at all surprising and, though fear and tension about an event like this had been building, this dramatic, painful to watch development is one of the reasons this installment felt like “Episode 5” rather than a series finale.
“Jacob’s Ladder” played out as the end of Act II in terms of a traditional dramatic arc. There are no rules as to what should or not should occur in a finale, however since the season was so short, and Season 2 is not to air until 2014, I am a bit disappointed that more was not revealed in this finale.
That is not to say that there are not some interesting developments in “Jacob’s Ladder.”
We see an emotional moment between Daniel and his mother, as they cry together, but from a distance, demonstrating the conflicting feelings in their relationship. Daniel’s mother can’t ask him to leave, even though she knows it is the safest thing for everyone. Daniel also buys gifts for Amantha and Tawney, another possible sign that he is getting closer to normalcy. And we learn that Daniel was on mushrooms the night Hanna was killed.
I have a final question for readers of this review. Daniel describes “The saddest man” as one who does not cry for anyone. In the closing scene’s flashback, after Daniel’s friend Kerwin in the adjacent cell is taken away, Daniel does not seem to by crying. Is he the saddest man? We Daniel taking about himself in the earlier flashback? Or are the creators just trying to depict Daniel as empty and lonely now that his friend is gone?
We will have to wait nearly a year for more “Rectify,” however this series has constructed such great tension and characters that I’ll have no problem jumping right back in next spring. Not only just a great drama with deep characters, this series has near-mastered longform ‘serial cinema,’ and it should serve as a prime example of this art form to other aspiring filmmakers, writers, and television producers.