By the title of this episode of Justified, you should be able to guess that there’s more shooting than usual. Yet as is also usual, this show is a lot more than just its body count.
While Raylan is trying to figure out where Winona ran off to after she left him last week, lots of people are being shot (which is kind of typical for Kentucky). He’s advised not to keep going after her, but we all know Raylan is too stubborn to listen. Instead, he goes looking for the money from the bank robbery she swiped last season, and when he finds it missing, he knows what’s up. He asks Art for time off, but instead finds out about a shooting that took place at his Aunt Helen’s property, now his father’s Oxycontin clinic. There is never a slow day in Harlan County.
Driving down to investigate, Raylan isn’t happy that his father told the state troopers (there’s Tom Bergen again!) to direct all their questions to “his son, the U.S. Marshal.” He does not have time or energy to deal with his father’s issues, and yet here again he has no choice. The look on his face as he leaves the house…oh, I would not want to be on the other side of that. He hunts down his father and takes him to task (“You want to die in prison, Arlo? Just say the word and I’ll help make it happen”), but gets another slap in the face when Arlo mentions Boyd’s name.
Meanwhile, Boyd and Ava are dealing with the shooting, and pay a visit to Ellstin Limehouse. “How come you know so much about me when I know so little about you?” Boyd asks him. Limehouse demonstrates that he knows a lot about everyone, and that Boyd is not exactly low-profile either. Boyd wants Limehouse to confirm that Quarles and his people are behind the incident before he retaliates, and is not entirely sure Limehouse wasn’t involved besides. Simultaneously, Quarles is pushing Wynn Duffy to find Raylan’s weak spots in case he needs to know them. Oh, and he’s still got some poor guy bound and gagged in the bedroom. I was kind of hoping we were past that creepy happening.
As Ava tells Boyd that there’s a witness to the shooting, a stone-faced Raylan shows up to confront Boyd at his bar. He is not happy about having his family name attached to any of Boyd’s doings and tells him that their next such conversation will not end with him finding Jesus in a hospital bed. This not-so-friendly chat sends Raylan to Ava, so that they can both talk to said witness, a prostitute we met last season. Just as she’s about to spill, her pimp/boss crashes the party, so Raylan not-so-subtly threatens him with a flash of his badge and gun. On their way out, he punches the guy in the face for good measure.
All this activity has sent Quarles’ people into a panic and they’re trying to scatter when he rolls up on their trailer. His attempt to question the punk that the witness identified turns very quickly into an all-out brawl while the trailer is being towed. It’s one of Justified‘s more unique fight scenes, which ends with Raylan’s suspect running off and the guy driving the tow vehicle dead as an accidentally discharged bullet clipped him in the neck. Never let it be said actions on this show do not have consequences.
Duffy shows up on Quarles’ front porch to brief him on all the new developments. He indirectly accuses Quarles of having Boyd’s clinic hit, and actually sort of stands up for Raylan when Quarles suggests that he might be in Boyd’s back pocket. Unfortunately for us, Duffy tells the crazy person that Arlo is part of Boyd’s team, which you know is going to come back to haunt everyone. It’s too important for it not to. Yet surprisingly, it’s not Quarles who’s behind the whole thing: it’s one of Limehouse’s people, who was hoping to see both sides destroy themselves. Well, that’s a legitimate surprise and an interesting third option.
At the episode’s end, Raylan finally finds his ex-wife at her sister’s house. Just as Raylan is threatening to go in and get her, Winona finally rears her head and tells him to behave. He goes off on her about having run off with the evidence money and the abrupt end of their relationship; she explains that he’s still a trouble magnet and that’s not conducive to child rearing. It’s the same thing we’ve heard about since the show started: she wants him to change, and she can tell that he has no real interest in doing so. The interesting point here is that she tells him she didn’t take the money, so who did? That’d be Charlie, the guy who runs the evidence room and is now in Texas. He’s even got his midlife crisis convertible. Raylan is just going to get drunk with Art, because we need more scenes between them.
There are quite a few things I like about this episode, and I’m just going to take them in chronological order. Firstly, I’m thrilled to see Tim Gutterson back, even if only for a scene; I am of the opinion that Jacob Pitts is quite underrated, and not used near enough this season. He has fantastic chemistry with Timothy Olyphant and the show just isn’t the same without that Tim/Raylan banter. Likewise, I appreciate the scenes between Olyphant and Nick Searcy, because it really does feel like they’re old friends and they have a unique bond together that Raylan doesn’t have with anyone else on the show. (In fact, I am of the belief that the trio of Marshals – Pitts, Erica Tazel and Searcy – could not get much better.)
I also have an appreciation for how this episode is structured. What turned out to be true was completely different from what we were led to believe, but those answers make sense. There’s nothing I loathe more than a show that throws in a last-minute plot twist just for the sake of having one, and you realize that it has nothing to do with anything that came before. It’s completely plausible how this episode of Justified turned out, and at the same time, you can’t fault the audience for thinking the way we did. The show knew what we (and the characters) would expect, and played on that.
And honestly, its third option was a welcome one. Over three seasons, like the character of Raylan Givens himself, Justified has sometimes been defined by its body count, and the fact that violence is a part of its narrative. That is a completely valid part of its world, but sometimes I feel like it leads to the show getting short shrift. Some people don’t necessarily look past that. Yes, we got more dead bodies this week, but the bulk of the episode was about how these characters react to that and how it doesn’t have to be the only choice. Limehouse’s speech near the episode’s end was proof of that – that while violence is part of this culture, that does not mean these characters all actively engage in it, or even condone it. To think otherwise would be to unfairly simplify this complex and rich series.
There’s so much more going on here, anyway. Ae Winona and Raylan really done, or are we just going to see them back together in a few episodes? In the interest of not repeating ground already covered last season, let’s hope they stay split, or at least that it’s a long and believable road back. Although I don’t care for their relationship, I don’t want the two characters to fall into the cycle of the same material over and over again. Plus, Winona has a valid point; Raylan’s life does not lend itself to fatherhood, and they both know that. That is something that really interests me.
And another thing: as much as I love Neal McDonough, Quarles has begun to veer from interesting for me, to downright uncomfortable to watch. I assume that is the point, and I still think that his inevitable downfall will be fantastic, but I hope I don’t have to sit through much more of his odd proclivities. They just stick in the imagination in an uneasy way. Compared to him, Mags Bennett seems downright cuddly. But this is Justified: it’s not pretty, it’s not easy, and that’s what makes it so fantastic each week, because like its hero, it’s not afraid of anything.