Picking up where ‘The Spoil’ left off, this week’s Justified delivers on last week’s promises, while giving us one heck of a one-shot ride at the same time. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Everyone’s getting ready for Mags Bennett’s big get-together, including Loretta (the underrated Kaitlyn Dever), who wonders if her absent father’s asked about her, and if she can talk to him next time he calls. No, that’s not awkward at all. Mags deflects the questions without missing a beat, but the cute-yet-slightly-creepy moment is interrupted by Coover (who else?). He leaves as quickly as he arrived, but not before he overhears Mags telling Loretta that she has “no excuse” for him, and referring to her as “a dream come true.” It goes without saying that our resident not-so-smart dude with a tendency toward aggression (remember, he beat up a hungover Raylan last week) doesn’t take that well.
The party gets underway, but Doyle Bennett isn’t happy to see Boyd and Ava (and Joelle Carter looks amazing) arrive. “Your mama needs to hear what I got to say,” Boyd tells him, which gets Doyle to relent. Not long after that, Raylan turns up, still in charge of Black Pike exec Carol Johnson (Rebecca Creskoff), who’s still scheming. She also manhandles a guy who tries to put his hands on her. Meanwhile, Raylan is not fond of a twenty-one-year-old who’s trying to chat up Loretta. Things might look fun, but everyone’s still as two-faced as ever.
Carol approaches Mags, warning her that if they don’t make a deal, the mining company will take what it wants and her family will leave empty-handed. Mags is unbothered by her threat. Before Carol goes inside the house to continue their discussion, she gives a very confused Raylan a kiss “for luck.” Uh…yeah. When Carol gets inside, Boyd is there, too, still so calm that it looks near apathy. Carol proposes a cash buyout to Mags, who tells her she ought to “sit your bony ass down and listen to my counteroffer while there are still pieces of you big enough to find.” What a great sentence. Said counteroffer is triple what Carol is offering, plus a four percent stake in the company that owns Black Pike.
Boyd tells Carol that the situation isn’t about coal. Mags explains to Carol (and us) that Boyd figured it out: it’s really about a road that will need to be built – one that goes through several properties yet to be secured, including that belonging to Raylan’s dad and his Aunt Helen. Carol is clearly blindsided by this, but when she calls her people, they easily give Mags what she wants, which raises Carol’s suspicions. She confronts Mags about how she’s selling out her people, but Mags believe they’ll survive long after the company has gone. Carol is all too happy to get out of there, much to Raylan’s bewilderment. Mags, meanwhile, wants to know how Boyd convinced Arlo, but Boyd is mum except to call the elder Givens “practical.” Methinks it’s probably something ominous, but it usually is on this show.
Raylan takes Carol back to her hotel so she can pack and leave town, happy to move on to whatever his next case may be. She bluntly offers to sleep with him. Really, the only way she could get any more blunt is if she started taking her clothes off. In the car, after not sleeping with him, she does reveal that she paid someone to set off last week’s firecrackers.
Mags tells Loretta that “things is gonna be different” as the party concludes, obviously pleased with herself. We even get to hear Margo Martindale sing, which is pretty cool. But when Loretta goes to help Coover move some kegs, she gets a very bad feeling and quickly splits, before freaking out. It’s not hard to guess why. She turns up later that night to see him, and the two seem to have a perfectly nice chat, but when he passes out, she starts snooping around, finding her father’s watch. In tears, she calls Raylan for help – so of course he turns the car immediately around. At least Carol is understanding of that.
An enraged Coover takes his anger out on Loretta, over Dickie’s protestations. And when Dickie says that Mags favors Loretta over him, Coover attacks him, too, rendering him unconscious. Loretta runs for her life while she has the opportunity. The opportunity is short-lived.
Raylan finds Dickie, wakes him up and threatens to finish the job if he doesn’t talk. “Lemme go after him. I can take care of this, Raylan,” Dickie pleads before cracking and telling Raylan where to go. You have to hand it to the guy on some level: he may be a complete punk otherwise, but the man loves his brother.
With that, Raylan sets out for a local mine shaft, in the vicinity of which he finds Loretta’s unconscious body and Coover, who’s more than happy to beat him senseless for a second time. As the two struggle, their attention is distracted by Loretta, who pleads for Coover to stop. It’s too late for him, though, as Raylan shoots him to save Loretta, and then he falls to his death down the mine, where he ends up beside Walt McCready’s corpse. Irony in action.
Raylan comforts a distraught Loretta. Doyle has to break the news to his mother, who rolls up on the mine shaft the following morning when the place is a crime scene. We learn that Loretta has been sent away, and Mags does not take that well. She pleads with Raylan to let her speak with Loretta, but he remains firm that she’s gone and will stay gone. A line is clearly drawn between them in that moment.
“Brother’s Keeper” is a solid episode, one that pays off all the setup of “The Spoil” by finally revealing Mags’ grand plan (and just in time, too, as we have only four episodes left) while also giving us a great stand-alone plot. Not only that, but it’s a stand-alone plot that very clearly changes things up for the remainder of the season. I certainly didn’t see Coover’s death coming, and things don’t get more personal than that.
What really makes it work are great performances all the way around. First and foremost, from Brad William Henke and Kaitlyn Dever. I’m sad to see Henke go (although at least we can still see him in his recurring role on The Chicago Code); he created a character that might not have been the smartest but in his demise, was utterly sympathetic. Anyone who has siblings has probably felt the way that Coover did at one point or another in their lives, which lends a certain empathy to his reaction even if it’s vastly out of control. Kaitlyn Dever is simply a cut above any of the child actors that I’ve seen in a long time. She was called upon to run the emotional gamut in this episode and she certainly did. Both of them made you feel for their characters, which is one of the best things an actor can do in my book.
Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies also are great in this episode. As twisted as the Bennett family are, it’s hard not to see Mags’ desire to do well by Loretta, and how she sees in the girl what she hasn’t had in her own family. And who didn’t feel for Dickie, pleading for Raylan to let him handle the situation, knowing that his brother would likely end up dead?
A lot of shows have episodes that they claim to be “game-changers” or “must-see” and most of the time, those words are hollow. But I don’t think there’s any denying that this week’s Justified definitely shook up an already interesting season. While the beginning was outstanding, the end has the possibility to be even better – and that’s just the way I like my television.