Justified Review Archive

Reviews by Nathan Smith

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Walton Goggins, Patton Oswalt | Created by Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost

4×01 – “Hole in the Wall”

God bless us, Raylan Givens is back.

Last season of Justified was a spiraling taut pulp tale of corruption amongst gangsters, politicians and drug runners.  All these plot elements intertwined with a lockjaw precision, a reckless abandon that was still just restrained enough to be a mighty fine potboiler of a season. There were elements that I loved like Robert Quarles and the drug baron Limehouse. There were all these crackerjack elements that tied together, but it was big, it was a massive story. So, this year they changed us up, starting with a personal story out, starting with a dead skydiver (and that was a shocking set piece from the opening of the episode, and a rather gory one at that) and the drivers license of a man named Waldo Truth

I love that Raylan hasn’t both lost his ability to outmaneuver everyone in any given situation and his dry wit. His handling of the man that he has to bring in for the bounty was just smooth as butter. It still gives Raylan that endearing personality that we’ve come to love over the past four seasons, and still shows that he’s extremely efficient at his job. The young criminals that he dispatches were as inept as the proverbial hole in the wall that starts all of the bad business in the premiere. As a matter of fact, he dispatches everyone in the episode with nary a death among the bunch, which was a big problem considering the massive body count that he’s racked up over the years. Actually, the only casualties in his story the foot of a teenage girl and that is courtesy of Constable Bob. Raylan’s reference to “The Big Lebowski” had me in stitches. They also retained Raylan’s abilty to make women swoon, with the bail bondswoman, and his continued relationship with the bartender. There really wasn’t a mention of Winona but they at least acknowledged that he’s trying to pick up cash on the side for his unborn child. I also missed Art Mullen, he and Raylan have a banter that just rocks at every turn.

I love the addition of Patton Oswalt to Justified. His humor is always a great addition to any show, and he’s racking up quite the impressive resume as dramatic actor. Here, he essays a constable who has all this power and yet, remains the folly of others around. I felt the hurt of Bob when he realizes that Raylan kind of used him to get his car back, and Oswalt really makes the sting all the more prevalent. He may be inept but he’s got his ducks in a row just enough to prove valuable to our friendly marshal.

If Raylan is always the strong and upstanding knight, then Boyd Crowder has always been the knight globbed down in mud and crimson. He’s always been a character mired in shades of perpetual gray. I love the way his character has transitioned from over the top caricature to deeply affected soul. That’s a credit to Walton Goggins, really. Comparing him to his miles apart performance on the late, great epic “The Shield,” to this is just disjointed. Here, he’s spidery, a quiet storm on the horizon. It’s really quite a shame Emmy doesn’t recognize this. Last season, as he struggled with the second big baddie of season three Limehouse, he moved even further along into his position as crime boss; albeit a shaky crime boss in Kentucky. He gets a great introduction with his fire and brimstone performance to the dealer who has been usurping his money. The dynamite gag is a presto moment, showing that he’s showmanship all across the board. I also love the addition of Ron Eldard as his buddy from the past, and when Eldard shoots the dealer, Goggins reaction to said events are hysterical, as equally such is his deadpan response.

I can’t wait to see exactly how he aligns with the new presence in Kentucky, Preacher Billy. He runs the haphazard church out in the woods, a real old-school tent revival complete with snakes and the charmers who0 wrangle the. Joe Mazzello, he of “Jurassic Park,” and “Radio Flyer” fame, only has a brief monologue towards the episodes end, but it’s a good one. If the writers are building the ground for a showdown between Crowder and Billy, it will be a big battle. Maybe Crowder will see himself in this young upstart, or he’ll take it out on this kid for being noble like he once was. If that’s the case, it could be this big “There Will Be Blood” battle and that is something I can look forward to happily.

Ava, very briefly ties into the story of Boyd this week. She’s another character that has had a transition that I’ve been happy to see. She was once a good person and shockingly got caught into Boyd’s wake. Who would’ve thought that? Now, with her prime business watching over the girls like Ellen May is still going, other than a brief scene where they remind us that Ava killed Ellen’s pimp, it doesn’t have much in the episode. However, it will be interesting to see how Ellen’s plot ties into the church and into Boyd and Ava and so forth.

You know, Arlo Givens has always been a sneaky son of a gun, but he always had a foolishness to him that causes anyone watching to pass him off. Even last season, he seemed to be wandering and losing his mind. But, after he tried to kill Raylan, confusing him with the friendly state trooper that was always lending a hand, it seemed that Raylan’s capacity for caring about his dad had gone the way of the proverbial wind. But, even as Arlo has an old cantankerousness to him, he’s still capable of being scary, quite obviously. After Raylan questions him about the bag in the wall, and Arlo foolishly plodded into admitting that it was his, I had felt that same reliabilty about Arlo. At least until he cut the throat of the inqusitive prisoner with a makeshift toothbrush shiv. That was equal parts horrifying and horrifying. I’m excited to see just what all this means, why he had that bag in the wall, and why he would kill to keep it a secret. It’s a deep, dark well for sure.

I think that with this season, they’re toning it back. It would’ve been so easy to trot out an innumerable amount of guest stars for Raylan to quarrel with but they didn’t.  I really, really like the premiere and what I’m seeing thus far has got me going.

4×02 – “Where’s Waldo?”

It seems that Raylan Givens will never get the fair shake he deserves with women. Sure, he can shoot his way out with the best and worst of all the criminals he tangles with. He’s smooth as silk with getting criminals to ’fess up to crimes and sniffing them out when they don’t. A man with a wit as dry as a mesa, and a sardonic one at that should be able to charm the socks off of anyone. And yet, he still ain’t getting the fair shake. If you’ll remember, he did once sleep with Ava Crowder, and now she’s in cahoots with the man she once shot and left for dead, Boyd Crowder. He, then hooked up with his ex-wife and that led down a road of stolen money and near-death experiences.

But, with Lindsey Salazar, the bartender whose bar Raylan lives above, it seems that he could’ve gotten something out of it, something better. Something he deserves. And yet — nope. She’s got a past, like most of us do, and her past hits harder than a cinder-block. It’s in the form of her brute of an ex-husband Randall Kusik. See, Kusik, he’s just a bag of meat. He’s clearly not someone who gives a spit about anyone, and judging by the way he casually dismisses Raylan as if he were a fly, he feels even less concern for someone in an authoritative figure. And, even as he’s confronted by two men with guns, he takes them down without breaking a sweat. He’s as intimidating as someone who speaks with their fists can be. Clearly, he’s concocting something and as fishy as it can be, it is bound to spell bad news for our marshal and the paramour who tends bar below his home. I like a little personal strife mixed in with my overall story arcs. Like, I mentioned last week, it’s insular this season.

This comes at a pretty bad time for Raylan, in general. He’s still trying to tie together all the pieces of this mysterious bag in the wall and this fellow named Waldo Truth. Now, the scene where they happen upon the family Truth, it was quite the scene. It balanced between tense and funny. The eldest son blazing up in front of the Marshals was hilarious, as well as Timothy Olyphant’s deadpan reactions to the kid giving him the finger. It also gives us some closure on the element of who Waldo Truth is (he’s the dead pancake we met in the season premiere’s cold open), but it opens all of the other doors on the where and why. I also loved seeing Art Mullen come back into the fold after an absence last week. Nick Searcy has a delicious deadpan alongside Olyphant, and the scene where they all chatter in the cruiser waiting for the kid to pick up the check is fast and funny. Even, Gutterson gets in jibes alongside the older gents. I love the sense of humor the show has. It’s not a merciless one, just dry as a cracker. And to see Art defend his job, as if he loved, which he does — while simultaneously rattling off the reasons why it stinks to be in his loafers at this time. That’s why I loved him going out on the doorkicker of a case. He’s but useful in his age. Searcy always gets a nice showcase, and this moment was damn funny. Hell, it’s crackerjack writing.

Learning that the fellow that Arlo Givens sent to the fjords was Dixie Mafia meant that we were bound to see more of Wynn Duffy, and boy there was no disappointment there. His “standoff scene” if you will, carried on that same sense of urgency and humor in the aforementioned Truth family interrogation. Duffy is a scary guy, but he’s always toe to toe with Raylan in the money talks, B.S walks arena. Jere Burns is always fantastic and a welcome presence.

I love the hellfire and brimstone showdown between Boyd and Preacher Billy. With Billy converting Ellen May, and trying to cut the swath of drugs out of Harlan County, Boyd’s getting antsy. Even, Boyd’s man in the seat Shelby (hey, Jim Beaver!) can’t do squat but tell him that Billy and his church are all about the money. Of course, they are. There isn’t much bombast on this front, yet. It’s going to be a big battle, I’m certain but it will be a thunderstorm, not yet a hurricane. I don’t like the weak link chain that they’re going to utilize with Billy and his sister. It could cause a beautiful strife. That’s my hope. Because I like the idea of the mountains of men squabbling. Boyd has long but given up the sermonizing but he can roll right back in with his sliver-tongued speechifying. Man, this element has gotten my story bones revved up and ready to roll. But, patience can be a good thing, if the deck being played is good one.

I love a good mystery and this season is feeling more and more like a novel. Characters swoop in and out, but whether they have plans insidious or no, remains to be seen.

4×03 – “Truth and Consequences”

‘Truth and Consequences’ is a great example of the more novelistic approach that Justified is taking this season. Hell, it’s like reading a greasy, grimy fifty cent paperback. Sure, there’s the overarching plot that starts the season, and has continued on through these episodes but there’s a lot of character moments going on with all the different mini-plots as well. The slower pacing allows for characters to really show out who they are, and dammit a solid pulp mystery is always welcome. In other seasons, the characters would bounce around in each others’ stories, chartering the path of the plot. but now, everyone got their own supper to sing about if you will. Hell, I’m not even certain that Boyd and Raylan have spoken a word to each other this season. This isn’t a bad thing at all.

I love the quiet, yet thunderous approach the writers have brought to Boyd’s storyline involving the snake handling zealots at Pastor Billy’s church. I’m happy they moved right through Boyd’s attempt to bribe Billy’s sister into getting her brother to move his church out of Harlan. That would’ve been too easy, and it would’ve been a story that’s just been done so many times. I love that they fought back when Boyd sent his own gunslinger out there to show them just who they’re dealing with. I felt squeamish at the scene where the snakes attacks the blond hitman. That was just too damned realistic for me, and it was an especially gruesome sight afterwards when they pulled the decapitated snake’s head out of the fellow’s cheek.

But, Boyd, bombastic salesman that he is, gets right up and fights back against Billy, by making him handle a snake that has its venom versus the ones that Billy’s sister has milked the venom out of. It doesn’t seem like a thrilling piece of plot by any means, but it’s the way its handled. This is all about the characters. Boyd is clearly upset, that not only is this man taking his buying customers away, he’s still believing in something Boyd stopped chasing a long, long time ago. Now, the bigger plot that we had in the Boyd portion of things was Johnny conspiring with Wynn Duffy (hey, it’s Wynn Duffy!) to kill Boyd. Now, they don’t dig into it too much, but it’s great to see that they’re building these little stories, and creating a world outside of Raylan’s life.

We got a little more milage out the main mystery of the season in: The Case of Drew Thompson and the Walled Up Panamanian Money. We learned just exactly why Drew Thompson would’ve faked his death (he saw a pretty prominent Detroit gangster, Theo Tonin, kill an official) and we learned that the people that Tonin sent are quite the sick bunch. This story is full of layers, there’s the Detroit angle, and the mere fact that Raylan’s father has ties into somewhere makes this another personal story for everyone. Including Art Mullen it seems. Maybe if he’s keen on retiring, he’s got a very vested interest in this case because hey, it could be the last one. He’s so whipsmart and funny, I’m glad that I get see Nick Searcy popping wise to his marshals. I like that we can still find much of the humor in this plot, and Olyphant and Jacob Pitts have a crackerjack rapport (thorwing in Nick Searcy on this) that I could watch them shoot the breeze for forty-five minutes. But, no we still get to watch them solve a decades old murder-mystery too. That’s just fantastic, no? And it seems that the writers are also letting Tim and Rachel out to interact with the rest of the group, and Rachel’s even got some heat on a case that doesn’t invlove Raylan. It’s continuing this theme of opening up I so enjoy.

Justified always works when Raylan is pitted against someone who is either is equal in wits, or just someone that quite handy with a pistol. But, with Randall Kulik, he’s got something worse than both. The thing that makes it humanizing and real, is that Kulik isn’t some crime empresario or drug baron, he’s just a man consumed by his own viciousness. And as always, it makes matters worse that Kulik is a brute hurricane of fists. It’s that Kulik is a man driven by vengeance. He’s a wall of rage, and right now Raylan is number one with a bullet on his hit list. The thing about this sub-plot is that it’s just as damned compelling as the main arcing story. The scene between Olyphant and Baker in the boxing gym at the open of the episode was a tense battle of words. It was light, and yet there was a deep run of menace throughout the conversation. The dialogue where Kulik measures Raylan up, and let’s him know that when he beats Raylan down, it’s like a dog marking his territory. That’s some sinister doings, folks.

I’m still all the more glad that they let Raylan give his standby “leave town by six” speech, you can’t help but think just how badass Raylan can be when he wants to be. The bigger thing they revealed about Lindsay’s relationship with her ex-husband is their past as cons. Now, as the episode ends we find that Raylan has been taken for all he’s worth, and his apartment has been tossed with Lindsay nowhere in sight. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that Kulik is behind it, but to see the real danger that this roughneck could impose to Raylan, without firing a bullet even, is quite the big thrill.

4×04 – “This Bird Has Flown”

‘This Bird Has Flown’ did a fantastic balancing act between two of the very personal stories rising up from all the plot strands this season. It nudged past the church storyline, although there is the briefest of mentions to it in a short scene and some choice dialogue snippets. No, this episode focused on the meat and potatoes of hero and anti-hero, and all the struggles they have in their professional and personal lives respectively. Even further than that, they did it without either Boyd or Raylan intersecting with each other. And even stronger, there was hardly any mention of Drew Thompson or the bag in the wall, save for the scene with Jim Beaver.

I wasn’t quite sure how they would handle Lindsay’s disappearance at the end of last week’s episode. It either would’ve taken two tacks, she was taken by force or left on her own accord. And they chose the latter, making Lindsay out to  be exactly what she laid out to Raylan, just the eye-candy to help further Kusik’s batcrazy gig to start managing a cockfighting ring. I love Raylan’s dogged determination to find and track this very scary guy down. It was a little terrifying that Raylan could even approach this guy with a shotgun (even one loaded with beanbag rounds) and still feel like he’s outmatched. And part of that is that Kusik’s got good banter to match Raylan’s and the mere fact that he’s just damned intimidating.

The squabble between Kusik and Givens, and the beating that poor clerk took was pretty unsettling on its own accord. But, if they’re wrapping it up, at least they did it as cleanly as possible. It’s kind of sad that Raylan doesn’t get his happiness, Lindsay absconds away leaving him hurt and down and out. When he collapses onto that bed, I felt his agony. I’m also happy they’re giving face time to Raylan’s colleagues because he’s always off on his own, and without someone to match up with him, its no fun not getting to see Timothy Olyphant give his good banter. And it’s kind of nice to see Rachel rock back with the wand and smack the chicken farmer down, maybe they’re giving her a darker edge, she’s always been no nonsense. I especially liked her giving him a non-lethal weapon is answering the many questions about Raylan’s pretty high body count. I hope they continue to partner him up because it’s just so much more fun, no?

The potatoes of the episode, if you will dealt with Boyd and all the things that have decided to lay on his doorstep. There was equality in how they easily handled the church storyline, and the storyline of Ellen May, the lost soul without a flock. Sure, it’s always easy to drag Boyd into any menacing storyline with the heroin business or Wynn Duffy trying to surface back in the fold or any number of scary stuff. I’m going to be very let down if this is where they end things with the church. First, they kill off Pastor Billy, off-screen no less, the one character that could’ve really caused hurt to Boyd and his business. Everything flitted down to everything, like cells or DNA strands, it all linked to each other strongly.

It was interesting to see how they vetted Cassie, Billy’s sister by having Shelby practically come right out and get her to ‘fess up that she knows nothing. That one scene where he asks her the questions at Boyd’s behest really hints at some very interesting things if they so choose to go there. First, therein lies the possibility that Cassie and her church will seek violent vengeance towards Boyd, and the mere fact that Shelby is getting fed up with taking Boyd’s orders. And that tantalizing morsel of seeing Shelby do research on Drew Thompson is just tasty. That is a nice hook in the plot. If these things that I’m reading come to fruition, then this could make for some powerful things to come, and still manage to keep the storyline as personal as possible.

They wisely personalized the plot, dealing with Ava’s murder of Delroy. Ellen May’s pimp and the fear that the girl may have divulged the aforementioned murder to the church putting them in danger. I like that anytime this story popped up on screen, I felt uneasy and tense. This is a good thing, and frankly something I haven’t felt in a long time in television. And equally more so when Ellen is being carted away to her new home in Alabama. There was an almost rattling feeling when she rode with Colt to the new place, and dammit if that phone call wasn’t the most nerve shredding thing ever. But, they didn’t skew my expectations fantastically by having Ellen May fly the coop at episode’s end. I absolutely expected her to bolt after Colt left her to pump the gas, it would’ve been more unpredictable to have him kill her. But, that leaves a lot to go on from here. It gives it much more danger.

4×05 – “Kin”

The stakes seem much higher in ‘Kin’ and frankly, that’s because seemingly everyone has their particular irons in the fire, both on the side of the law and those not, in finding Drew Thompson. It was fast paced as all get out, and even left room for a cliffhanger, which this season seems to want to deal out in droves. Whereas last week focused primarily on the women of the show, Lindsay and Ellen May, this episode brings us right back into the heart of the thing, the real reason for the season if you will. And there are some scary folks out there hunting Thompson down, and the tangling that Raylan is going to have with these people is going to flat out entertaining.

At least, there’s motion on the reason as to why Theo Tonin wants Drew Thompson, not dead but found. We had briefly learned back in ‘Truth and Consequences that Tonin had a past with Thompson but then it was only doled out in snippets. Here we find out had that they have quite the history together, in that Thompson absconded with his drugs and put a bullet in Theo’s eye. It could’ve been off-putting to see Mike O’Malley as the gangster Tonin sent. We learn his name is Nicky Augustino, and I hope he sticks around. It’s always the unlikliest actors that can send shivers up your spine but Mike O’Malley definitely did that trick. But in that brief scene in Wynn Duffy’s camper, he makes quite the impression. The interesting part is that the FBI had lost the Thompson case due to the crooked shenanigans of the FBI agent a few weeks ago. And equally unsettling was that Stephen Tobolowsky’s returning agent was also in on the take, how far we’ll never know because O’Malley blows his brains out quite shockingly. And Jere Burns’ reaction to the shooting? Priceless. A takeaway? It’s probably not wise to mess with a Detroit gangster.

The episode was very personal for Raylan in a way that it’s been all season thus far. They balanced his personal and professional elements rather well in this episode actually. Hell, they even mix the two up in a way that works best. There was a nice scene with Winona (long absent from the show since last season) at the doctor’s appointment for the baby. It’s nice that they’ve not only reminded us that even if he and Winona are apart, he does his damndest to provide for his child. As if there were any other reasons not to love Raylan more.  The best thing the writers have done is to not forget Ray lan’s contempt for his father. He just doesn’t care for him at all, and not in the way that you just shake your head at certain members of your family. Nope, he doesn’t care for his father because he’s a screw-up and even when Arlo shows up and says that he’ll give Drew Thompson up in lieu of his freedom. It’s just so in character, and great that Raylan pools it over and decides to find Drew on his own and let his father rot. And it’s always nice to see Tim being put along with Raylan. Clearly at this point the writers are trying to put Rachel and Tim at the side of Raylan, because it was a little much to think that Raylan was the only one doing cases in the office.

His journey takes him in a roundabout way back to the beginning, if you will. We get to see more of Constable Bob (hey, it’s Patton Oswalt!) briefly, and judging by his conversation, he’s running away. But this leads Raylan to the scumbag stepdad of the girl who broke the wall open and started this whole mess. The stepdad, Josiah leads Raylan up to the hill people, and frankly, this is where is all starts clicking. It was a nice appearance from Gerald McRaney and he really slides into this role of an old dog (his words, not mine). Raylan’s always prided himself in trying to integrate with the people of Harlan County, but it is nice to see him stuck in the mud without a chance in hell. His chatter trying to get the hill people to kowtow and let him go is very funny. The colorful folks of the hill were fun, and while the information ultimately leads nowhere, we still haven’t found Drew — it at least allowed for a scene with Boyd and Raylan, and it only took five episodes to do so. It’s a great scene between Goggins and Olyphant, and the two work so well together, it’s just crackerjack. Goggins’ line, “I don’t like this plan, Raylan!” as he’s being dragged out of the box they’re put in. It’s nice to just see Raylan get a quiet moment with a family member, albeit a distant one who isn’t aiming to kill or screw him over.

And Raylan being a man of his word, travels back down to Josiah and finds his house arrest collar, and his severed foot. They’re doing a damn fine job of knocking these cliffhangers out. The cliffhanger from last week involving Ellen May’s diappearance was handled just fantastic. Colt’s frantic rush to find her, and landing on the doorstep of the sheriff. He’s just as whipsmart as the others, ferretting out the search tactics from Tim. The fact that you get thrust back into it worked well, and that all the cards aren’t played from the get-go works too. I thought that Shelby might be working to take Boyd down, and this affirms it after we find out he’s now housing Ellen May. That’s an interesting turn of events, folks. In addition, and it’s a small one but the fact that Boyd first got Arlo’s attorney to get a deal and then pull the deal out with the lure of money was a sneaky and small thing but very convincing all the same. How can you not love Boyd?

4×06 – “Foot Chase”

Early in the episode, Art Mullen throwing out his patented sarcastic puns, cheerily drops a famous quote from another detective, albiet one from long ago. “The game is afoot,” he coyly pops off to Raylan, who could be seen as a rougher, tougher backwoods Sherlock Holmes, but never has a statement, even one in jest carried this much weight. Almost all of ‘Foot Chase’ is spent hunting for a man very near death from a forced amputation, and finding this fellow is very important because he may have all the information in the world about the most hunted man in Harlan, the mysterious Drew Thompson.

It’s great to see someone paired up with Raylan, and seeing Jim Beaver’s Shelby paired up with him works quite well. There is an air of distrust between the two man, and it’s reasonable because Boyd got Shelby in the seat he’s in now. But because Shelby’s itching to take Boyd down, Raylan relents and teams up with him, and dammit seeing Jim Beaver and Timothy Olyphant shoot the breeze could’ve worked as a whole episode but at least they’ve got their ticking clock element of finding Josiah before he dies. Beaver’s story about shooting the guy who robbed the liquor store works because Beaver sells it so well, in any other hands the story would’ve sunk but his drawl sells that moment so well. We learn that Arlo sold out Josiah to save his hide, and while there is a small thrill thinking that Josiah could in fact be Drew Thompson, he isn’t but dammit, it was some gripping stuff.

Because the writers never loose any threads, we learn that Arlo’s lawyer hired these goons to capture the old man, and as inept as they were, the real vicious creep really nailed the heebie-jeebies element in those garage scenes. Olyphant’s deadpan reaction when the guy tries to burn him with the makeshift flamethrower is such a laugh out loud moment considering the grimness at hand. And we got another great scene between Boyd and Raylan in Shelby’s office and even though the two men are always at odds, they have an underlying banter that really shows you their past well. Olyphant popping off to Goggins when learning that he may have had something to do with Ellen May’s disapperance is pretty funny, “Oh, I liked Ellen May.” The three men in that scene just mesh so very tightly with each other. The scenes with the men holding Josiah hostage are quite grim, that amputated leg alone warranted some sick glances and man is the blowtorch for cauterizing scene just unsettling.

It’s nice to see Tim Gutterson getting much more face time as well. He’s usually saddled up with Raylan as the smartass sidekick, but here they’re giving him some  storytelling meat to chew on, and it’s all the better for it. He’s getting more of a past here with helping out his drug addicted Army buddy and right now things seem cool but there’s a sense of danger in the scenes in the drug dealer’s apartment. Also worth mentioning is Michael Stoyonov from “Blossom” as the aforementioned drug dealer, he was straight up unrecognizable and it took a moment to see who he was. There has to be hope that this story continues for Tim, because all this season has been spent opening up the world around Raylan and shouldn’t we especially get to know those who stand just as tall in his shadow.

There was always a concurrent running through the show that Art had feared that Tim had some sort of PTSD and for now, we see those fears are unfounded. But Colton, Boyd’s right hand man is very clearly a case of that PTSD fear. He had an ease at killing people as we’d seen in the premiere, and with him not killing Ellen May and her subsquent disappearance, has caused him to get more than rattled. He’s heroin addicted and clearly on edge, as we see him threatening a guy at the VA. the way this is leading, Tim and Colt’s road are bound to merge. We see him battering around that poor call girl and seems rather at ease pummeling that poor innocent guy who took the blame for his abuse. Ron Eldard is great at selling the frayed persona of Colton, but we don’t know hm as much yet, it would be nice to get a peek behind his curtain of madness.

Boyd and Ava’s storyline still continued the hunt for Drew Thompson but they’re approaching in a less amped up manner. They know Drew had rubbed elbows with the higher class, and are sneaking into a soiree to see if they can find him. At least there was a callback to the furry fanatic in the premiere, Arnold and with Ava applying the right pressure, she gets herself and Boyd in. This part of the episode is structured mainly around Ava, because Boyd spends time dealing with Raylan and Shelby and it’s nice to see her strike out on her own. But the real emotional core only hits at the end of the episode. Boyd takes Ava out to a field and shows her his idea of the future. A future of a house, and marriage. It would be crazy to think that Ava would find herself attached to this man, a man she once shot to kill, but the speech that Goggins gives her makes you see just exactly why she would be enamored with him. His idea that he could make a name for his family, that his name wouldn’t be associated with crumbum drug dealers is noble and heartbreaking. And maybe there’s some idea of bliss for someone in the world of Harlan County, it’s just not the white knight this time around.

4×07 – “Money Trap”

‘Money Trap’ was a strange sort of episode, bouncing back and forth between strange scenes of comedy and flat-out scenes of menace and suffice to say, it’s an odd duck in that sense. It was still an enjoyable episode in every way balancing the overarching Drew Thompson storyline with bits of plot left over from earlier in the season, namely the premiere. But the tone during most of the proceedings was just off ever so slightly. Regardless of all things, it still felt like an episode of “Justified,” and gave us a good chase plotline, even it felt a touch off.

There wasn’t much movement on the Drew Thompson front, other than the mention of his name. Boyd and Ava finally reach the high class party (which is less “Eyes Wide Shut,” and more cocktails and savoire faire) but it starts to strand things out on Boyd’s front. The men who pull all the strings in Harlan County are threatening to take all of Boyd’s entrerprises away unless he kills a man for them. This is intriguing because we know that Boyd’s using his unsavory side projects for a further purpose, to provide for Ava in the long run, to give her a better life. And whether Boyd chooses this path remains to be seen but the strength of this show is giving Walton Goggins that splendid grey area to play as Boyd and while we’ve seen him kill without remorse, he’s trying to find some path away from all of the blood and keeps finding himself awash in it.

There was appropriate tension in the scene with Johnny and Colton, after Johnny finds out that not only did Colton beat Teri and blame it on someone else, he didn’t in fact kill Ellen May. This drives it into higher gear because this opens everything up into a higher gear for all sorts of trouble down the road for everyone in the Crowder camp. It’s a small plot point but one that nonetheless drives everything into much more thrilling places. Because all the fear this season is coming from a more personal place, the deeper touch is that all the players are finding the darkness within themselves. The furthering apart of the groups that were so tightly knit and the inside forces driving them all apart in ways that Mags Bennett or Robert Quarles could never have done. It’s the theme of self-destruction.

The main problem with the aforementioned tone was in the Raylan “A” plot this week, revolving around the collar that he had hell trying to nab in the season premiere. The fellow escapes custody killing Raylan’s former fling and her partner and heading out on the lam with his stoner filmmaker buddy. It’s intriguing because of the thriller aspect of it, the whole chase stuff, Raylan’s flirting with Jody’s exes friend and so on, but the tone is unsettling. Jody and his buddy are played for laughs at times and yet, they’re not supposed to be. His buddy Kenny is goofy enough sure, but Jody is a cold-blooded killer. He murders two people in the cold-opening and yet is played slapsticky throughout. Usually the villains are played with humor and that’s fine, but in this instance it feels cartoony. For instance, the video that gets played for Raylan with Jody and the basketball should’ve been menacing, after all Jody IS threatening Raylan but it’s just done all wrong. If you’re trying to send shivers, don’t cheese it up. It’s the only part of the episode that felt off overall.

However, all the Art stuff and scenes with Raylan flirting with the bizarrely named Jackie Nevada clicked very well and had the correct humor the show is known for even if they never resolve the issue with whether or not Jackie returned the money or how it all panned out. It gives us a better idea of what kind of woman Raylan attracts, the kind that loves the guns and the surefire cowboy attitude. Because if there’s one thing that Olyphant has, it’s charisma with everyone from antagonists to protagonists — the man just oozes it.

Now, the end of the episode with Raylan and Arlo’s meet up at the prison (the first one since the premiere) was appropriately tense and humorous as it should be. Part of it, is that both actors Olyphant and Barry play things close to the vest, like their characters would, that makes it all the more believable. They feel like father and son, mostly in the stark hatred they have for each other. Raylan knows how to turn the screws just enough to make Arlo squirm and Arlo, despite his cantankerous flusteredness, knows just enough how to squirm out of it. And Raylan putting the helpful bit down that not only is Theo Tonin after Drew Thompson and whomever may know where he is, he’s got Boyd Crowder on the payroll and that gets at Arlo well enough. The interplay is what sells the ominous feel of the final scene and leaves you wanting more.

4×08 – “Outlaw”

In ‘Outlaw,’ we really see the stakes that can be raised in this seemingly fruitless hunt for Drew Thompson. In a way, it’s like watching the chess pieces move around and around, although it isn’t as boring as you would think it to be. In fact, it’s all about the vicious cunning that all criminals and lawman possess in Harlan County. It made for a damn tense episode and a great mark for how this season’s being handled, while keeping the personal slant that this season has been inundating on the viewer.

Anything involving Boyd Crowder this week was expertly done. Again, it’s that motif of showing just how smart the criminals can be despite the aura of low-rent conniver they can give off. The way that Boyd places the Clover Hill men in his pocket is staggeringly well-done. Putting Tonin’s hitman on Frank and Sam, eliminating his debt to the three others clicked well and didn’t feel contrived. The role of the hitman was essayed quite well, he had an almost Terminator-esque quality to him. But, Boyd playing cunning throughout the whole episode works well because of how Walton Goggins sells it. Not only in the way he first manipulates Duffy into getting the hitman to eliminate the two fellows (plus one to grow on) on his enemies list, but in how he turns tables over on Wynn and becomes someone of value to Tonin’s man, Nicky (which is still a great showcase for Mike O’ Malley). Boyd’s always been played as the snake charmer in the room and even as he assuredly tries to talk Frank into paying him off so he won’t kill him, it works because of Goggins’ surefire attitude. The man’s a damn fine actor, he’s always been. The scene where he’s getting pulled away by Tonin’s hitman also featured the laugh out loud line to end all lines when he tells Raylan that despite all their differences, he’s still invited to his and Ava’s wedding. Even more, the final scene where is essentially reverses the deal on the Clover Hill gang is brilliant because of how it didn’t show all the cards until it was good and ready. And his declaration that he’s the outlaw rings so true. Boyd may be on the other side of the law, but he’s not a villain.

But, it’s also great plotting for Johnny in all of this as well. First, there’s his coy play to ferret out whether or not Colt didn’t kill Ellen May. it was obvious that it wasn’t Ellen May from the get-go because a) Shelby as a sheriff wouldn’t allow for silly dealings to go down like that and b) Ellen May isn’t clever enough to pull off such a trade-off. But all of that still led to some great scenes with a desperately unhinged Ron Eldard and this swollen feeling of suspense that permeated all his screentime this week. It was unnerving from top to bottom. And this particular subplot racked up quite the body count, although this episode had a high body count, probably the highest in one episode for “Justified.” Not to mention that Colt kills Tim’s old Army buddy in his violent path to procure his hush money in lieu of his big secret getting spilled. On the second front with Johnny, it leads to great stuff with him becoming Duffy’s right hand man in the search for Drew. This betrayal is also done particularly well, it’s been a slow burn but seems to be getting hotter and hotter. This collapse between himself and Boyd is mining in the right direction. Colt’s plot indirectly led to a nice, short and sweet scene between Ellen May and Shelby, him trying to glean information about Ava and Boyd’s dealings and her just trying to look at herself in a whole new light. Ellen May’s always been played as dumb and naive but here it didn’t allow for her character to be portrayed as a dolt.

Raylan didn’t appear in this episode all that much, but still made an impact as deep as it could go. His relationship with his father has been a tumultous one, we’ve seen just how deep this canyon has run between them – Raylan has never trusted his father and Arlo’s never given him a reason to trust him and so on. But, when Arlo shot him in his haze last season, that cemented their differences and landed Arlo in prison for killing a cop. But, when Arlo was stabbed by the sheriff that Raylan put in prison, it wasn’t unexpected; it was practically foreshadowed in the last episode. But, as Arlo lay on his deathbed and Raylan tries to prod the info out of him about whom Drew Thompson is, the greatest thing the writers did was to not allow Arlo to betray who he is and give up the name as a last ditch effort to redeem himself in Raylan’s eyes. That would’ve been too much. And Arlo dies which doesn’t come as a surprise, although the events leading up to it was a surprise. The best part of it all is that they allowed OIyphant to still emotionally detach himself from this man, his father. Raylan’s always hated his father and it’s always been played for a sense of humor, he’s had an unstable sense of detachment to his dad. It was quite nice to see him shed tears for the man he claims he hated and clearly didn’t even want to take a single day off in his manhunt to grieve irregardless for his death. The final shot of Raylan over his father’s dead body was quite nice, even it if was rushed as a little tag at the end of the episode. It didn’t allow for a betrayal of both of the characters while allowing that briefest of moments where we see behind the veil of whom Raylan Givens is.

4×09 – “The Hatchet Tour”

“In the words of Arlo Givens, ‘I’m trying to knock some goddamn sense into you.’”

Those words spoken by Raylan quoting his recently, but not so dearly departed father speaks loudly about what tack Raylan Givens uses in his course as a US Marshal. It’s evident in Raylan’s youth that he clearly had two dividing lines in his parental guidance, his mother who we’ve never seen; was more of a high road mentality and Arlo was the kind of person who’d just as soon give someone a shit sandwich to right the wrongs against his wife. And that makes sense from what we know about Arlo, and the fact that no one even attempts to sugarcoat Arlo even after his death. Even Hunter Mosely, the man who killed Arlo, speaks highly of him because he’s a man who believes in honor. That ties in with what Raylan is and dammit, not only is it nice to see that Raylan finds more in common with the man he’s loathed all these years, he might find a way to just respect him even after he’s dead.

It was quite clear that Raylan wasn’t going to let anything go about Arlo’s death and on that same tangent, he wasn’t going to kill Hunter because as he, and everyone else said throughout the episode, it would be career suicide. Still, it’s fun to see Raylan just let his hair down so to speak and cut through all the BS in his search for whom had placed the hit on his dear old father. It’s also funny to see how Art reacted to Raylan’s going rogue in holding Hunter hostage so to speak. Seeing Art go ballistic is pretty fun and gives Nick Searcy an opportunity to do something fun with the role other than laconic, which admittedly he does well. There was a quite funny (and actually the episode overall was consistently funny) stopover at Wynn’s coach for some good old fashioned sussing, and it’s especially noteworthy to show some sympathy from Wynn to Raylan upon learning about Arlo’s death especially given their past which hasn’t been always on the level. But it was still a laugh out loud scene, like Raylan kicking a shackled Hunter to the ground in the chair, and Wynn’s outburst in the middle of Raylan’s speech admitting that he had a Yorkie. But after all roads lead to Gerald and Lee’s cabin, complete with Patton Oswalt shooting an automatic machine gun, and that was possibly the coolest geek culture moment of all time. But, it’s kind of funny that Constable Bob of all people leads Raylan to figure out whom Drew Thompson really is.

‘The Hatchet Tour’ was the calm before the storm it seems. All this wait before this point has just been that, waiting for all the players to find Drew Thompson or The Most Sought After Man in Harlan County, and the mere fact that he was right under everyone’s noses just makes sense. It’s also great that it wasn’t just someone shoehorned in earlier in the season like Lee Paxton or Gerald Johns. Nope, it’s Shelby, the kind and wizened former mine manager turned sheriff. And it makes total sense about who we know as Shelby is today. It gives it an air of unpredictability and strengthens this season’s resolve to be a mystery rather than Raylan versus the bad guy of the season and so forth. Shelby’s been a good person and we’ve gotten to know him much more this season than before but the mere fact that he’s been kicking around on the show since season two makes the revelation all the more easy to swallow, and it ups the ante on a season full of higher stakes.

The episode was a great showcase for Tim as well, because all throughout the series, he’s been relegated to sharpshooter/wisecracking deputy Marshal. But as of late, they been dropping him in more and more and gave him the meatiest storyline all involving Colton killing his ex-war buddy. Hell, he opens the episode investigating the death of his buddy and Blossom’s brother. There was some actual tension in the scenes where it wasn’t clear whether or not Tim or Colton were going to die in that scene in the church tent, it puts the viewer in a state of unease all throughout. It was handled quite smoothly and at least shows that the stuff outside of Raylan isn’t going to just sink down in the depths of terrible plotting. The best part is, it all ties in cohesively with Ava and Boyd’s attempt to get free of all their dealings. The scenes with Boyd and Ava looking at a nice house in the Clover Hills was so great, it felt like a win to see them smile and dream of a house that they can finally afford after all their drugs and dirty business. It never seem possible to think that Boyd and Ava would make a charming couple over anyone in Harlan County, but it’s just the opposite of anyone’s prediction. But when Cassie shows up asking about Ellen May, it starts to blur the happy homestead mirage and leave their future in a state of uncertainty, and the scene with Walton Goggins and Ron Eldard in the bar’s office, with Boyd trying to vet Colt about whether or not he killed Ellen May was another tense standout, and it was done so taut and refined by just amping up the silence tenfold.

4×10 – “Get Drew”

‘Get Drew’ effectively continued propelling the plot and the revelations that were brought forth in ‘The Hatchet Tour.’ If anything, it’s starting to feel like a movie in the way that the story is beginning to feel like it’s in its own continuum, rather than an episode ending in one spot and then picking up days later. No, they leave you in the immediacy of the reveal and the immediacy of the search beginning, and giving you a sense of how the show has moved from the who of Drew Thompson is and now the how to find him before he gets dead. It’s actually balanced quite well throughout, going between Drew/Shelby, Raylan and the Marshals and finally Boyd and the Dixie Mafia, and most of all of it, just interlocks quite nicely, if it isn’t just a little bit contrived.

All of the stuff involving Drew and Ellen May had a stark and resonating emotion to it. A lot of the emotion comes from just how damn good Jim Beaver is now that we know who he really is, and there isn’t any camouflaging to be done for the viewer. The scenes with Drew in the car leaving his life and Ellen behind fostered a sense of disquiet that resonated beautifully. It’s startling because we’d known him for two plus seasons now as quiet sheriff Shelby, but the arc of revealing him as Drew is still well-earned. The relationship between Ellen and Drew has been so strong and when they are first separated, it’s easy to feel heartbreak. Plain and simple, it was heartbreaking because you have this man who turned a new leaf over and is protecting this girl and the past is coming up on him faster than a bullet train and he has no choice but to separate from her. But, at least he gives up one good outburst of “Balls!” for the longtime “Supernatural” viewer. His scene in the field trying to goad Colt into shooting him was just damn awesome too and another in a line of showstopping performances for Beaver. The reason it’s amazing is because you see the Shelby facade drop, and Drew comes to the front and center.

Aside from the cold open, Boyd has no dealings with Raylan but more importantly, he begins his furtive search for Drew just the same as everyone else. The thing about his search versus how everyone elses is handled is that it all thrives on chance. Because, we didn’t know Ava was going to be out at Noble’s Holler with Limehouse, and it just so happens that Ellen May liked to run away to Limehouse’s when she was getting abused by her former pimp, Delroy. It just seemed too easy, almost contrived just so they could get Boyd, Ava, Ellen and Drew all under one single roof. But, the terror of whether Ellen would rat out Ava for the murder of Delroy was eased when she actually meets with her face to face at Limehouse’s. But it feels as if they needed to get Drew out of there to let Boyd give him over to the mob, and to let Ellen stay with Limehouse and create strife in the Ava murder plot. It was nice to see Goggins’ reaction to the revelation of Arlo’s death and how they slowed it down just to let that reaction sink in, because it’s been so go-go-go these last few weeks.

The first minutes of the episode are very thrilling as everyone on the Marshals side scramble to find Drew, from Raylan and Rachel bantering on the side of the road at the checkpoint to Art essaying the thoughts of all the viewers in that Drew Thompson is kind of a badass (and when you really read the litany of things that Drew really has done out loud in a row like that, it is kind of awesome). But for an episode about the Marshal’s racing to find Drew, Raylan, Tim and Rachel kind of take a backseat to all the proceedings. The scenes in which Raylan and the gang appear are still effective. The scene where they meet Johnny and cut a deal with him to give him a better out than he would get being the Dixie Mafia’s lackey or a second in command to Boyd. And it’s actually exciting to see Johnny working with the Marshals, because it’s something that doesn’t seem so out of left field like when he was working with Duffy. And to see him show up at the very last minute to rescue Drew from Nicky and the inevitable torture and death at the hands of the Detroit mob.  Now, the bigger fear is getting Drew out alive with every single soul gunning for them.

4×11 – “Decoy”

‘Decoy’ is an amalgamation of every single great Western/action thriller that ever existed. It’s reminiscent of “The Gauntlet” or “Rio Bravo.” Plain and simple, it’s lean effective thriller and so fast paced, that by the end of the hour, you get whiplash. It’s a breathless continuation of the events set up in ‘Get Drew,’ and gives the events of ‘Decoy’ the feel of those aforementioned films. And it even allowed for time to throw in some of the little long running arcs of the season. Overall, the episode is broken into neat portions that propel everything forward very crisply.

By far the standout portions involved Tim and Art stranded on the highway by Colton and Nicky’s henchman’s trap. It’s chock full of many great character beats from Tim’s PTSD coming in handy to notice that three broken down cars in a row is bad, bad news. That’s the great thing about what Tim used to be, he would get dragged out for some military purpose, like sniping a target. But, they’ve begun to fatten up the character this season and started that by giving him a brief plot alongside the main story and giving him an in by sidling him with ex-military soldier Colton. So, it’s fitting that the two men are put together in the more taut half of the episode. And their conversation on the phone, Tim BS-ing to Colton about writing a “book” about the situation they find themselves in, and Colton being smug about cooked he thinks the Marshal’s geese are. Because really, they are in a situation befitting screwed. They’re trapped between two cars that may or may not have explosives in them, and he’s got them pinned down with a sniper. Colton may be a loose cannon (and he does kill Augustine’s henchman after all is said and done) but he’s smart and tactical and putting him against Tim is great planning. Plus, you get to see Art throw a molotov cocktail at a car, and casually throw off a reference to that failed Metallica/Guns N’ Roses concert riot in the early 90′s.  It’s a great subplot because it takes your mind off of the Drew chase for just a little bit and yet isn’t a complete sidestep from all of the proceedings beforehand.

They amped up the suspense in Boyd’s part quite suitably as well. Because he’s been running around tooting his horn about hwo he’s the guy who gets it done, remember his speech to the Clover Hill boys in ‘Outlaw?’ Yeah, he’s been a little deflated here. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him on the other side of a bloody pummel. And yes, Nicky he is quite the wordsmith. The more important tangent in this siege with Nicky is that he reveals that Johnny has been working against Boyd and Ava to make a better place for himself. And that’s just great that she manages to get the upperhand on Nicky, with whiskey and a lighter. That Ava is resillent as hell. But Boyd and Raylan have the best banter throughout their scenes. Their “standoff” outside the principal’s office (and what does it say about Raylan that he does hole up in the principal’s office) that really sets the fire on the episode.

All of Raylan’s portions of the episode are lean and simple. He’s just trying to get Drew Thompson out of Harlan alive. That’s it, and it still manages to be just as gripping as the other half. Because we’re still pulling through the revelation of Shelby being Drew and it’s great that despite the fact that we know who he is, he’s still tight-lipped about how he did his stuff. He’s like a magician refusing to pony up the how. All the proceedings with Drew and Raylan feel apocalyptic, from the shadowy shots of Raylan’s mother’s house as both men converse about Arlo and why he ended up with the Panamanian bag in the wall or the bombed out high school where they make their final stand. It feels like it could end grim for all parties but it doesn’t because of the actions of Constable Bob. And poor Bob, it looked a little bad news for him, getting pummeled by the appropriately douchey named, Yolo. But, never discount Bob because he may have been clumsy in his earlier outings but he stands him ground from the beating while naming out every possible Drew in the book. And even manages to throw in a little bit of badassery on Patton Oswalt’s end stabbing Yolo in a geyser of blood. Isn’t that always spectacular?

It had to be Bob who came up with the clever gambit of getting Drew out on the 5:30 coal train. But, they leave things ambiguous with whether or not Drew and Rachel get away on that train. It ends on the right note in the middle of the chase. It’s really one of the best episodes of the seasons, in a season full of outstanding episodes.

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