…a series of episodes reminding us all the importance of “sitting high in the fabled catbird seat.”
Do you mind if I cut right to the quick? Look, Justified is one of TV’s best shows (which is why, of the several dozen I watch on a weekly basis, I opted to cover it), but I think we can all agree that this season hasn’t been as tightly plotted as its earlier installments might have suggested. A great deal transpired in the back third here, but not all of it is working.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tackle this recap in a slightly different way than normal. Would that be okay with you? That’s a rhetorical question btw bc I’m totally going to do it anyway. Let’s wade through the four characters central to the ongoing narratives in this string of episodes: Raylan, Boyd, Darryl Crowe, and (ugh) Ava.
Well, what’re we waiting for? Those cigarette packs aren’t going to explode themselves! Right, Mr. Picker?
Raylan, or “Sad Mr. Angry Pants”
Man, this show loves putting US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens through the proverbial ringer, doesn’t it? And I’m not just talking about the downright cruel nicknames the flotsam and jetsam of Harlan County have been doling out behind his back: Officer Buzzkill, Pastor Raylan, and Mr. Insensitivity. Ouch, you guys! (#Sticks&Stones)
Seriously, though, where to begin? Let’s start with the obvious: Allison broke up with Raylan at the end of last week’s episode, and the breakup stuck. *Sad trombone noise* And even though she has taken herself out of Raylan’s orbit, she finds herself still very much caught within the gravitational field of Planet Crowe. I mean, Kendall’s dropping by her house like it ain’t no thang, spouting off romanticized nonsense about running away together. Um, gross?
But just because Raylan isn’t doing the horizontal mambo with Allison any more doesn’t mean he has stopped caring about her. In fact, he thinks the Crowes are going to go after her because they’re, ya know, nuts and stuff, so he brings it to Art’s attention. Mr. Mullen, if you recall, cannot move past his not-so-dormant rage toward Raylan for his involvement with Nicky Augustine’s murder, and so he dismissively agrees to take care of it himself…
…and ends up getting shot in the stomach several times in an effort to protect Allison.
If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Raylan doesn’t deal with his emotions very well. At his own admission, Art’s one of the people in the world he cares about, so homeboy wants to go all clandestine ninja warrior and start cracking heads. Hm. I must have missed that step of the grieving process.
Art–comatose but not dead–is the father Arlo never could be; Raylan would never admit that aloud, but now faced with his surrogate father’s possible mortality, it seems as clear to us as it is to him. That clarity comes into even crisper focus during Raylan’s car ride to the hospital with Art’s wife, wherein she condemns him for his absence. He should have been there. Where was he? she demands. It’s a great, deeply metaphorical conversation. As Raylan realizes the life of his father-figure remains in dire jeopardy, Mrs. Mullen’s words illuminate a second evident truth: his palpable absence from the life of his daughter in Florida could also yield catastrophic results. Ouch.
To compound Raylan’s grief, it seems as if Darryl sets up Kendall (the one Crowe for whom Raylan seemed to take a bit of a shine to in earlier episodes) to take the fall for Art’s shooting. Smelling a steaming poo pie, our favorite US Deputy Marshall tries to force Darryl into a confession; with the help of Vasquez, the Marshall’s office opts to try Kendall as an adult. Wendy, crushed, later admits to Raylan in heart-breaking fashion that she failed Kendall as a mother. We can see this, too, hits close to home for Raylan, failing spectacularly as a parent in his own right.
Talk about an express train to Bummersville! And what’s worse, his journey to track down Dewey Crowe lands him face-to-face with the rascaliest of rascals: Dickie Bennett. Yes, the same Dickie Bennett who strung up Raylan and treated him like a human piñata back in season two. It’s hard out there for a US Marshall. Still, what an amazing scene, particularly Bennett’s hilarious monologue, which I’ve painstakingly recreated below. You’re totes welcome, obvi.
All things told, I’m loving the Raylan angle to all of this, exposing his insecurities about familial responsibility and well-guarded vulnerability when it comes to those he cares bout. I’m looking forward to watching Raylan Givens handle all this come the finale!
Boyd, or “The Human Exploder”
Fun fact: drug cartels aren’t the biggest fans of partners who misplace massive drug shipments! (#TheMoreYouKnow) But, ever the most articulate of human cockroaches, Boyd’s not going to let a little international business feud keep him down. No way, Jose! Plus, he’s evidently been taking night classes at the Walter White Academy because kablooie, am I right?
Mr. Picker and Mr. Duffy, whose lives are also on the line, are none too pleased with Boyd’s case of the whoopsie-daisies. At their first of two sit-downs, Mr. Picker has a rather, shall we say, aggressive solution to their problem: decapitate Boyd and send his noggin first class express mail to the exotic climes of Meh-he-co. Well, gosh darn it, that course of action doesn’t sit well with Mr. Crowder or Mr. Picker, whose soft spot for Boyd is well documented.
We’ve been down this road before, but it was a hoot watching Boyd weasel his way out of this jam. In one of Justified‘s most gruesome deaths, Mr. Picker literally explodes when Boyd tosses him a rigged cigarette packet. Owie. Talk about a messy clean up! Poor Mikey. Dude’s picking up pieces of the late Mr. Picker well into the wee hours of the morn.
Boyd then decides to assist the Marshall’s office in the takedown of Darryl Crowe as a means of evading Mr. Yoon’s goons (#HilariousBandName), who continue to close in with each passing hour. Also, they want to go all Buffalo Bill and use his skin as a coat or something, so yeah. Things are tense right now.** So tense, in fact, that he even agrees to wear a wire in an attempt to record Darryl confessing to Art’s attempted murder! Aww! Isn’t that sweet of him?
**Poor Jimmy. Looks like his last phone call on earth will be to Boyd Crowder. Scintillating conversationalist though Boyd is, I can understand Jimmy’s disappointment: being a Crowder underling must just suck big time.
I’m looking forward to Boyd out-stmarting Mr. Yoon’s goons in the finale, but I do admit we need to have Boyd do more than that. He’s a richly complex character, and I’d like to see the other facets of his personality developed in next year’s final season, particularly now that he ostensibly no longer has Ava to ground him.
The Crowe Clan, or “Bad Luck and No Brains”
The Crowes are dropping like flies these days, aren’t they? Kendall’s in juvie on an attempted murder charge he likely did not commit; Dewie’s*** in jail after admitting on tape (thanks Boyd!) that he not only wants heroin to sell for a profit but also that he plugged Wade Messer full of holes. I sincerely hope someone on the inside can give him a crash course in rudimentary linguistics and explain the difference between “anus” and “onus.” That had me hysterical. But back to misfortune! Danny Crowe fell on his own knife and stabbed himself in the throat! Classic Danny! Hell, even Chelsea the pooch kicked it. Someone send the surviving Crowes a bountiful cheese and wine basket because families, am I right?
***The finish line for Dewey Crowe seems a far cry from where he started out the season: claiming a settlement, buying pool, and generally living it up. His destination seemed inevitable though, what with his mush for brains. My two favorite Dewey moments were when he let his car full of heroin coast down a hill, and the old lady interrupting him siphoning her gas. Apparently, she has a different understanding of what comprises a warm meal: shotgun shells! Watching her chase him off his property and cursing at him had to be a highlight for us because it felt like the lowest of lows for Mr. Crowe.
And then there were two: Wendy and Darryl.
Homegirl seems like a shell of her former self now that Kendall’s seemingly taken the fall for Darryl. Those damn Seminole Indian blood oaths really put the youngest Crowe into a bit of a pickle, wouldn’t you say? I almost don’t want Danny to get his comeuppance yet so we can have a little bit more of him next year. Michael Rappaport has been crushing it as Darryl this year.
Wendy finds herself in a pit of despair, having been knocked around literally by Darryl and metaphorically by her realization that she is #WorldsWorstMom. Pop that on a coffee mug! Alicia Witt is a fine performer, but I’m not sure the show has done enough to make me care about her plight here because Wendy is sort of the worst? However, her last minute act of defiance–refusing to do Darryl’s dirty work of obtaining Boyd’s hidden heroin–portends possible involvement next week in bringing her brother down. I wouldn’t mind that one little bit!
Just don’t kill off Darryl! That’s all I ask. He’s too amazing.
Ava, or “Queen Sh*t of ***k Mountain”
For me, the amount of time we’re spending on Ava’s plot line is really a problem for Justified. Not only is it so obviously disconnected from the rest of the serialized narrative, but it also happens to be a real yawner.
Ava kills Judith. Ava pulls a Lady MacBeth and scrubs out the blood. Ava fills the power vacuum. Some female inmates give her the gift of ice cream as thanks because limited resources. Ava electioneers in the prison yard for the role of Judith’s replacement. Some non-ice-cream-donating prisoners dislike Ava’s style of governance and plot to take her down. Penny gets stabbed (aw, poor Penny). Ava wants out of prison but missed her chance to help Raylan find Danny because prison has hardened her.
Just kill her off already, please.
This show’s main asset has been its almost unparalleled ability to weave a complex, intertwined narrative with efficiency and ruthless narrative momentum. In my estimation, Ava’s plot single-handedly undermines this strength. I haven’t cared all season, and the longer this goes on, the less I care. Her ascent to the apex of the prison drug trade? Shrug. And how cliche can we get in allowing her stint in the big house to strip away Ava’s old self?
Ugh. Justified can do so much better than this. I’m not angry, just disappointed.
I’m looking forward to the season finale, and I am enjoying it overall, but can’t we all agree that this season hasn’t been quite up to the standards of two, three, or four? I’m sorry, but someone’s got to tell the cold, harsh truth. But don’t worry: I still love you, Justified.
Chit Chat Around Harlan
– Raylan: “That’s a lot of confidence for a man who wears shorts with combat boots.”
– Art: “If I were to admit hitting [Raylan], could you call it child abuse and take custody of him for me?”
Allison: “I like you.”
– Duffy: “Alberto was it? Alberto, I’m not one to niggle over management styles, but let’s say you would let me know you were coming, I could have preserved some proof for you. A head, say. Or a set of teeth.”
– Raylan: “I’d quit speaking in the third person.”
Dewey: “Third person? Who? Him? What’re you talking about, Raylan?”
– Dickie Bennett: “Go to a Gas N Gulp or whatever and get yourself a map of Kentucky. Follow Route 9 southbound all the way down with your finger; follow it way, way down until you’re pointing right at your asshole. Then what you’re gonna do is take your hand and just go ahead and cram it right up inside. You gotta make sure, Raylan, that you do it in a way so that the rest of you just keeps on following your hand right up your ass, right up inside all that shit that you’re so full of, Raylan. And then what you’re gonna do is *whistling noise* just wink out of existence forever.”