Justified S05E01: “A Murder of Crowes”

…an episode reminding us the importance of telling the difference between 300 and 300,000 dollars

I’m just going to come out and say it: Justified is one of the best series on television and certainly the most underrated.  After that terrific premiere, promising an outstanding string of episodes to follow, I’m salivating for what will come next.  And that has a great deal to do with one Harlan family coming to the narrative foreground: the Crowes.

For US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (I just love typing that), Dewey Crowe has been that piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his cowboy boot.  No matter how hard he tries, he can never quite scrape it—or him—off, as Dewey’s livelihood is very much a part of the criminal element of Harlan County with which Raylan clashes.  That opening court scene, with Dewey seeking reparations for his years of torment at Givens’s hand, treated long-time fans to the often-hilarious ways Raylan tormented this moron over the years. **

**My personal favorite, and the incident that seems to scar Dewey the most, involves an elaborate ruse that had him convinced Raylan had excised his kidneys and sold them on the black market.  Though as Raylan quips: “I’d like to point out he thought he had four kidneys.”  The show’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue (flying as fast and furious as the bullets) and deadpan humor were spot on here.

Needless to say, Dewey ended up clearing $300,000 in the settlement, quite a considerable mark-up from what he initially thought a $300 one.  This guy!

But it became quite clear early on that Dewey would function as a gateway into the rest of the colorful Crowe clan.  It seems that down in Florida, brothers Dilly, Danny, and Darryl (alliteration at its best) had a sweet thing going with a Cuban national named Machado and a corrupt Coast Guard officer named Simon Lee: the smuggling of illegal, cheap sugar.  Unfortunately, Lee wants out and Dilly (whom Raylan considers the dimmest of the bunch—yikes) can’t stand him mocking his stutter, so he shoots him, forcing Machado to finish the job.

This attracts the attention of the US Marshall’s office.  Raylan’s intimate knowledge of the Crowes makes him a perfect candidate for the job, so Art sends him on his way, pairing him with a traveling companion named Greg Sutter (David Koechner, delivering a great performance and never once saying “Whammy!”).  But before heading to the Sunshine State, Raylan visits Dewey at the local house of ill-repute, interrupting a bizarrely nude game of Marco Polo.  His hope is that Dewey can give him some information, but he refuses, so Raylan’s parting gift is plugging his above-ground pool with two bullets and walking away as it collapses in on itself, spraying jets of water.  Raylan is the COOLEST.

Down South, Dewey’s cousin Darryl (Michael Rapaport) is the self-appointed patriarch of the Crowe dynasty.  Apparently, his dying father’s request was for Darryl to step up and protect his family at all costs, a charge he’s taken to heart.  When Dilly and Machado show up with Lee’s corpse, it forces the eldest Crowe son to take steps in order to live up to his promise to dear old dad.  Through his paralegal sister Wendy (Alicia Witt***), Darryl brokers a deal and offers to pin everything on Machado to avoid bringing heat on the Crowes.

***An amazing roster of guest stars here, as well as Stephen Root, Matt Craven, and Max Perlich reprising their roles.  Speaking of which, Perlich’s sleazy Sammy Tonin had one of the most unceremonious deaths I’ve seen on this show, perfectly befitting such a sniveling character.

Needless to say, amidst double-crosses and fake-outs, Machado catches wind of the plan to turn him in and tries to flee for Cuba.  Raylan puts a few holes in his dinghy before adding a few more to Machado’s chest.  Life lesson: do not mess with Raylan Givens.  He will always win.  Also, Raylan hates inflatables?

Despite this compelling and labyrinthine plot, what really resonated with me in this episode was the way it treated the Crowes as more than just buffoonish criminals, which, of course, they are.  In many ways, this fifth season of Justified already feels reminiscent of the outstanding second season.  And, trust me, I mean that as the highest of compliments. Like the Bennetts, the Crowes are, if nothing else, tight-knit , a distorted vision of familial love gone criminally awry.  But everything Darryl does (including having Danny kill Dilly) is in service of keeping his family together.  Contrasting beautifully with this is Raylan; Winona and his daughter live in West Palm Beach and, as Sutter continues to remind him, they’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  Unlike Darryl, Raylan makes up every excuse he can to avoid his family, unable to accept his role as a father (the shrink in me would say it’s likely due to some lingering issues with his own not-so-dearly departed pops, but what do I know?).  There’s got to be a happy medium between devolving into criminal behavior and complete avoidance when it comes to our families and as the episode closes, perhaps Raylan’s found a temporary fix: Skype from the comfort of his office.  It’s a great scene to cap off an episode that is, in many ways, about the responsibilities to and insecurities caused by our families.

Speaking of family responsibility gone terribly wrong, how about Boyd Crowder?  When he’s not tracking down Canadian thugs in Detroit with Wynn Duffy****, he’s on the war-path to clear Ava of a pesky murder charge.  What a great fiancee!

**** The chronicles of these two road-tripping to Detroit is a great idea for a spin-off.  FX take note!

 This might surprise you, but reformed skin head and Harlan County drug kingpin Boyd Crowder does not do a great job controlling his emotions.  After failing to find a way to intimidate Judge Bishop, who’s been placed in charge of Ava’s case, he returns to the homestead of Lee Paxton, the arrogant upper-cruster who belittled Boyd’s “white trash” attempts to better himself earlier in the show’s run.  It turns out that making Boyd beg for assistance and then withdrawing the offer is great for a laugh but an even greater excuse for Boyd to bludgeon Paxton to death in his own living room! Win-win!  There are not enough superlatives in the world to hurl at Walton Goggin’s performance as Boyd.  He deserves all of the Emmys.

Justified’s dark, violent, funny, and biting take on the distortion of American families looks like it’ll be great fodder for this upcoming season.  And with Darryl headed north after catching wind of cousin Dewey’s settlement, the Crowes look to prove what we already know: we’re all stuck with the families we got.


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Raylan [on the Crowes]: “I just figured they’d all be locked up or dead by now.”

– Canadian Thug #1: “If you want, to keep it simple, we can add you and Mr. Eyebrows to the list.”

Boyd: “And I thought all Canadians were supposed to be nice.”

Canadian Thug #2: “Wrong Canadians.”

– Wynn Duffy: “We’re through doing business with you people.  The idea behind organized crime is that it’s supposed to be organized.”

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