A review of the "Rectify" season finale — and thoughts on season 3 as a whole — coming up just as soon as there's no kettle corn...

"Would you try and forgive yourself? You did the best you could, under the most unusual of circumstances." -Daniel

This season began with Daniel having 30 days to leave his hometown forever. With the episode order rolled back to 6, and with the leisurely pace at which Ray McKinnon and company have told the stories of Daniel, Amantha, Tawney, and everyone else, it was conceivable that we could have gone several seasons beyond this one before Daniel was faced with that deadline.

Instead, Daniel and Janet hit the road midway through the finale, and he winds up in his new home in Nashville at the end of it. And at the same time, Carl makes an impressive amount of progress in untangling the deaths of both Hannah Dean and George over the course of these six episodes, even if we know that Trey is telling the truth about George's suicide, and thus another man in this town is being arrested for a murder he didn't commit(*).

(*) Well, we don't know — in part because he doesn't really know — if Daniel actually killed Hannah. And, in fact, some elements of Chris's story (specifically the bit about Trey coming to him the next day to be sure they all stick to the same story so no one will believe Hannah) suggest that he could well have done it. Or Trey could have gone to see Chris as yet another way to point suspicion at Daniel.

Yet even with this uncharacteristically brisk plotting, "Rectify" season 3 never felt like it was rushing through what's always been most important to series: the ceaseless emotional fallout from Daniel's incarceration and release. Even if Jon manages to get Daniel completely exonerated, Daniel is still irrevocably changed from the boy who went into prison, and will always be, as he puts it, "outside the norm." He, Teddy, Amantha, and other members of the family are able to accept the current state of their lives — that their romantic bonds are perhaps irreparably damaged, but that their familial ones are still sturdy enough for at least a game of gin rummy and some inside jokes — and Daniel comes to a place designed to accept him for what he is, but the damage doesn't automatically heal itself.

And despite the compression and pruning that comes with going back to 6 episodes, the season didn't feel as if it was neglecting any major stories. There was more focus on the investigation, and the shaky state of Janet and Ted's marriage, and on Amantha trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, but if other character arcs were backburnered, it was for a reason. Where Daniel and Tawney left things at the end of last season, for instance, all but demanded that they stay away from each other this year, and as a result we got a much stronger sense of who Tawney was before she ever met Teddy or his stepbrother. And because they'd been physically separate, their encounter in the finale — which, due to the at times elastic nature of reality on "Rectify," could have been Tawney's dream or some kind of genuine spiritual encounter between the two of them — felt so much more powerful.

Far more than the previous two season finales, "The Source" felt like it could have functioned as the conclusion to the series (even though Sundance ordered a fourth season even before this one debuted). There are callbacks to smaller moments and characters from throughout these 22 episodes, including Daniel again staring at grass (albeit with a very different meaning) and Daniel offering to tell his mother about Kerwin. Storywise, Daniel is free, albeit in exile, the senator has been punished for his misdeeds by becoming a prisoner of his own body, and Trey is locked up, albeit not for one of the crimes he actually committed. But the show has already been renewed, and it feels like there's so much life left in these characters, regardless of what the legal status of Daniel, Trey, Chris, and others wind up being.

This remains a beautiful show, and one well aware of how Daniel's unique circumstances and odd demeanor puts a charge through even the most mundane circumstance, like Daniel and Janet trying to dance at the seafood restaurant (and it, like the kitchen remodel and many of Daniel's other brainstorms, not quite working out as planned) or Daniel playing catch with the little boy at the beach.

I have no idea how much longer McKinnon and company can tell Daniel's story, but I'm not the least bit tired of it.

What did everybody else think of both the finale and the season?

Alan-sepinwall-med
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com