Last week’s “Alive Day” examined the motivations currently driving Justified’s stable of colorful characters. This week, in the highly emotional “The Hunt,” the show shakes up all the motivations we thought we knew like a game of Yahtzee, leaving us to wonder what everyone’s next step will be. The episode’s title refers to a handful of things: the literal hunt Boyd takes Ava on, his hunt for the truth, the manhunt for Walker, and, in a sense, Winona’s hunt for Raylan, the father. The episode’s driving theme, however, was loyalty – a very flimsy concept for most of these characters.
Raylan’s loyalty has always been a see-saw. For the past five seasons, it’s mainly leaned towards his badge (which he has a tendency to hide behind). Whether it’s to spite his abusive, criminal father and all of his kind, or because he has a genuine sense of Wild West justice, he consistently places his duty above his relationships. This episode was the game changer in that regard. Willa in his arms was like a moral barometer (with a heart murmur) testing what he really gives a damn about. The most alarming part of it all was when an exhausted Winona told him, “You can be with me and still be you.” She no longer minds the uncertainty of whether Raylan is coming home at the end of the day or not, just as long as there is that chance. There is certainly a chance of the series ending with Raylan ridding Harlan of its snakes and retiring down in Florida. That wouldn’t be uncharacteristic of an Elmore Leonard story. As Raylan said, it’s a 49/51 shot, but who knows in what favor.
Up in Bulletville (which I don’t think we’ve visited since the Season 1 finale), Boyd’s “unknown unknown” became a big fat known. This episode featured some of the best work ever by Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter, who shared a devastating confession scene in the woods. Ava finally gets to let out all of the hurt, all of the betrayal she’s been concealing from Boyd since she got out of prison. But he doesn’t care that she’s a snitch, he cares whether she’s sleeping with Raylan or not. “I didn’t do anything with Raylan. It’s you, it’s always been you,” is her gut-punch of a reply. Boyd exhibits what seems like genuine remorse and vows his loyalty to her, though the loaded clip switcheroo and that look he throws her at the end sure are carrying a lot of weight.
Markham puts Seabass’ loyalty to the test. He’s a merc, so it’s fairly easy to do if you have the cash. “It’s not about the money,” Seabass says, until there’s enough money on the table, that is. Still, he does have that soldier mentality of no man left behind. It didn’t seem like Seabass was too loyal to Choo-choo, he tolerated him more than anything. But with Walker it’s different. He’s a rogue element now with the marshals on his tail and no help coming from Markham. Garret Dillahunt has been excellent so far and his scene this week with the two frat boys was funny, uncomfortable, and pretty damn intense. He walked verbal circles around those kids but when he can’t rely on his wit, his soldier skills come in handy, too. He’s not going down without a fight, and there’s a good chance he’s not going to take Markham’s betrayal too kindly.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
• Sick Wallace Shawn burn, Winona.
• There is no 1212 Main Street in Orlando. Walker, you sly devil.
• Justified has always been violent, but never too graphic (exploding Picker aside). That bullet removal bit in the bathroom has got to be the nastiest scene of the series, right?
• Sadly missed Duffy and Katherine this episode, but the scene in the mine with Jeff Fahey was great. He pushed Boyd’s man down the hole, but when he gave the speech to Carl about “showing some respect” for men who gave their life in the mine, there was some real emotion behind it. It’s obvious he’s sacrificed and watched other men sacrifice under the earth.