Even the best Justified villain has to fall. And with only five episodes left in the show’s third season, this is the beginning of what should be a fantastic end.
We start at the end of another long day for Raylan (does he even have short days?), as he contemplates what to do with the gun that killed his ex-wife’s second husband. He stashes it in his apartment and then decides to inspect the ceiling.
The next morning, he’s summoned into Art’s office. Art wants to know what Raylan has on Quarles “right now that you can prove.” After the resulting silence, he tells Raylan that until Quarles runs afoul of federal law enforcement, Raylan needs to take a step back. I don’t think that line has ever worked on Raylan Givens once.
Meanwhile, a trio of drug-addicted, gun-toting prostitutes attempts to commit a robbery that ends with one of them dead. This is why you don’t attempt to pretend you’re tough when you’re clearly not. You will end up with a bullet in the stomach, getting disposed of by your colleague. Then your pimp will kill another one of you. The third one – Ella Mae, who just cannot catch a break this season – barely escapes with her life.
Raylan, possibly already drunk in the middle of the day, kisses Ava when she shows up to ask for another favor. They have a discussion about her relationship with Boyd. “You do know what Boyd is, right?” he says. He needs to shut his mouth, considering that he had a chance with Ava and blew it by taking up with his ex-wife. I love Raylan as much as anyone, but he’s no catch in the dating department, either.
Ava tells Raylan that Boyd can help him get to Quarles, which immediately perks Raylan up. He visits Boyd in jail, where Boyd catches him up to speed and asks him to find the man who committed the crime for which Boyd currently stands accused: Tanner Dodd. Raylan sells this information to Art with a smile and gets back on course.
Meanwhile, Limehouse and Quarles meet to further their new partnership, and Ella Mae turns up at the bar begging for Ava’s help.
Ava takes Ella Mae in, gets her a change of clothes and offers her the couch. Johnny wants her to turn Ella Mae back over to Delroy, who will most certainly kill her. Ava calls Delroy and agrees to hand over Ella Mae for a pricey two thousand dollars.
If you said, “Well, that doesn’t sound like Ava,” you’d be right. When Delroy shows up to make the exchange, she gives him a shotgun blast instead.
When Raylan starts looking for Tanner, he gets a little more than he bargained for, in the form of Tanner’s slightly crazed mom. She makes little sense and is profoundly unhelpful, going so far as to call him and tell him he’s a wanted man. This news then promptly makes its way back to Limehouse, who suggests that Tanner tie up his loose ends before he hits the road.
This is how Tanner ends up standing on a land mine, and pointing a gun at his friend, Limehouse’s right-hand man. His friend promptly takes the bag of money from him and leaves him on top of the mine. Tanner promptly calls the state troopers for help, and Tom Bergen (is this guy the only state trooper in the area?) calls Raylan. But hey, we get Conor O’Farrell, he of every crime show ever, as an ATF bomb dude.
Raylan takes advantage of the situation by using it to squeeze Tanner for everything he knows. Unfortunately for him, Tanner drops his gun, hits the mine and it arms itself. He blows up a few moments later.
At the neighborhood VFW post, it’s time for a debate between the two candidates for county sheriff, which turns into an insult-fest. Boyd crashes the debate, which is typical Boyd. Walton Goggins is a great showman and the scene lets him put on a wonderful show. Boyd sticks it to Sheriff Napier in very public fashion.
Afterward, at the bar, he finds out from Ava what happened to Delroy. He isn’t necessarily thrilled with her decision, but he respects it. Ava tells him that in Delroy’s absence, the prostitutes will need someone else to look out for them, and she volunteers for the job.
Later that night Limehouse’s minion shows up at Tanner’s mother’s house and hands her the money. She knows that means her son isn’t coming back, possibly because Raylan is sitting in her living room. What he’s overheard leads him to Limehouse, whom he asks about Quarles. “I’m either going to put him in prison or in the ground,” Raylan vows, and he expects Limehouse’s help to do it. Limehouse unwisely brings up Raylan’s mother instead. These two are clearly on opposite sides, at least for the time being.
“Loose Ends” points out yet another something neat about Justified: it doesn’t just create memorable characters, but characters that are almost larger than life. As played by Timothy Olyphant, Raylan has a huge reputation and every ounce of it is believable. Even though Quarles is hardly in this episode, his presence is still very much felt (and check out my interview with Neal McDonough for more on where Quarles is headed). And we’ve got Walton Goggins preaching to the choir with another great speech for Boyd.
There’s not too much time left in season three (can you believe it already?) so it’s wise that this episode starts to conclude some of the things going on, such as dispatching of Tanner and Delroy. The subplots and minor characters of this show are great, but as we head down the home stretch, we have to devote more time to the major arc and the leads. That’s just how the story goes.
So far, the third season of Justified is shaping up to be just as good as the previous two, and I can’t wait to see this last chapter pick up steam and go out with what I presume will be at least one bang. For the past two years, Justified has been the best drama on the air and it can easily make that happen a third time.