One episode deep into the final season of Justified and the story is already thick with deep-fried Kentucky misfits and intrigue. While “Fate’s Right Hand” kicked things off with a bit of a mournful tone, “Cash Game” was a full-on blast, giving the series an adrenaline shot of the ol’ Elmore Leonard spirit that I personally felt the previous season was missing. The show hasn’t felt this focused for a while, and it truly kicks ass to see Graham Yost and co. running full steam ahead once again.
One of the key moments tonight was when Boyd asked Raylan, “Does it change you?” – referring to the birth of baby Willa. Has Raylan changed? Judging from his current absenteeism in Willa’s life and his tendency to still heavy-hand suspects (shovel to the face?), I’d say it’s a wee bit early to make that call. But Boyd asking him the question will probably give him plenty to think about. On top of asking Raylan the hard-hitting question, Boyd made some possibly dire decisions this episode. He attempts to blackmail Calhoun Schreier, the real estate schlub whose ledger and deeds were ripped off in the bank job. Schreier’s been skimming millions from the “bad guys” he’s been buying up property for. The “bad guys” are Ty Walker and his boss, Avery Markham. Seeing Sam Elliott without a mustache really screwed with my head, but there’s no doubt he’s going to be a major villainous badass to contend with. His line, “Both eyes maybe, that would be a good start” was downright chilling — especially delivered in Elliott’s cool, mesquite barbeque voice. So now Boyd is attempting to blackmail the man who’s stealing from them. He’s desperate to get out of Katherine Hale and Duffy’s pocket and get the hell outta Harlan, but he may have unknowingly stepped over the line by elbowing in on Markham’s business.
In the end, Ava figures out a possible clue as to why the deeds are so valuable. “One of those deeds is not like the other,” she tells Boyd, who’s happy as a pig in shit over the Pizza Portal revelation. As we find out later from Raylan, the restaurant used to be a bank. Now Markham and his Tigerhawk Security crew own the building, which they’re using as headquarters. Joelle Carter is killing it so far this season. Her take after she had to lie about where she was with the deeds was harrowing. Ava still seems to be a wildcard. She’s afraid of Boyd and it may have been Raylan’s dismissal of the deeds that led her to tell him about the pizza joint. For now, it’s still unclear whose side she’s on (besides her own, of course). Speaking of Tigerhawk Security, what a ragtag bunch of veterans those guys are. This episode we met Sean and Choo-Choo (Duke Davis Roberts) – a hulk of a man who got his nickname because “When I hit ya it comes hard and fast, like a choo-choo train.” He’s already one of my favorite Justified characters ever. They couldn’t have done a better job fleshing him out even if Dutch had created Choo-Choo himself. Choo-Choo explaining in his monotone voice how if he killed Raylan he’d have to kill everyone in every car that passed was amazing. He’s already a wealth of humor and I really hope he sticks around the whole season. What’s the significance of the bank? Has Raylan changed? Will Boyd and Ava drink fine bourbon “to the corners?” Come back next week as we talk episode 3, “Noblesse Oblige.”
Episode Rating: ★★★★
(Editor’s note: You may have noticed our rating system has changed — click the above link to get the details.)
• Ty Walker showed himself to be one ruthless S.O.B. First by wiping his nose on that poor old woman’s clean laundry then by returning later with Sean to murder her and her husband. Loving Garret Dillahunt’s turn on the series so far. His silver tongued threats are up their with Boyd’s.
• Earl putting Dewey’s gator teeth necklace on the bar’s taxidermy squirrel has got to come back and bite him in the ass. Raylan could recognize that redneck jewelry a mile away.
• Tim had some killer lines this episode, my favorite being “I was worried that was some random internet baby.”
• I can’t wait until someone “rides the train.”