Now that much of the Justified‘s encumbering characters have been shaved away (Lee Paxton, Mooney, Mara), season five has been able to focus on more engaging aspects of the story. And while the writers have always been great at juggling multiple storylines, this season feels the most disjointed so far. Particularly on Raylan’s side of town, where this week seemed to be a disconnected one-off story. I guess Raylan needed something to do while Boyd and the Crowes headed south of the border. We’re now seven episodes deep and it’s still blurry how all these plots are going to collide. More on the entertaining as hell “Raw Deal” after the break.
So far this season Raylan’s story has been mainly about our favorite marshal’s guilt over what he’s done. He feels no remorse over his implicitness in Nicky Augustine’s execution, hell no. But there are some pangs of guilt hitting him by leaving Tim, Rachel, and (especially) Art out of the loop. This season has also focused on his dark side. During his confrontation with Hot Rod, he talks about how he could shoot his entire crew and his badge would make it legal. And when he’s alone with Picker, he reminds him that the only reason he’s in a position to blackmail him is “because of the things I do.” At this point, he’s basically using his badge to shield himself from the corruption he’s delivered throughout five seasons.
That’s why it was almost a breath of fresh air to see Raylan bumble through the hacker fiasco in “Raw Deal.” One way to interpret Justified is as a comedy about the world’s worst U.S. marshal, who just happens to be quick on the draw. Tonight’s episode left behind the current menace surrounding Raylan and revisited more of that lighthearted territory. Taxed with taking in a computer wiz who pilfered funds from a backgammon website run by Monroe, Raylan encounters a clever, one-legged twerp who manages to slip through his fingers while giving him the finger. The look on Raylan’s face as he watched T.C. Fleming reattach his leg and trot off was priceless. Then Fleming drains Raylan’s bank account and sends him to Kemp’s hotel room to do his dirty work. Raylan literally bumbled his way through most of this episode, making it a nice break from the season’s doom and gloom vibe that’s been surrounding him.
What Art is going to do exactly about the Augustine revelation still hasn’t been discussed yet between the two (besides a punch in the eye). Raylan’s corruption has now bled into Art’s office, making him complicit in the execution. The two quarrel at the end of “Raw Deal,” but despite the venom in that scene, there’s still nothing being addressed directly. Whenever it is, the fallout is going to be huge, so it’s probably wise to reserve it until the end of the season, or even delay it for the sixth and final season. And now Raylan is asking for the help of Wendy Crowe to help him nail Darryl. Art sees the Crowes as a waste of time, they’re not an issue for the marshal service. I’m sure he’s thrilled about all the time Raylan is blowing on them. And I’m sure the Crowes are the real reason Raylan wants to go down to Florida, not to visit his daughter and Winona.
“Raw Deal” advanced Ava’s prison plot into the most interesting territory yet. By having her locked up on her own, without any protection, it’s really showing what kind of character she is. In short, she’s a Crowder. Fellow inmate Penny gives her an in with the religious drug smuggler Heavenly Mother, but the idea of having to bang a guard to let a little dope trickle in doesn’t sit well with her. Instead she gains some control for herself by blowing Heavenly Mother’s operation apart, leaving the prison drug pipeline in her own hands. Never underestimate a Crowder.
Boyd’s a bit preoccupied at the moment, so hopefully Ava has a plan B in mind for getting her incarcerated hands on some dope. He’s made some sketchy alliances lately in the Crowes, Duffy, and the Mexican Cartel, but none of his partners could’ve anticipated cousin Johnny outbidding him. Despite sharing the same crafty bloodline as Boyd and getting his hands on Hot Rod’s resources, it doesn’t end well for Johnny. As Boyd explains, Johnny isn’t a leader or a follower, so there’s no place for him in Boyd’s world. The final conversation they shared on Mr. Yoon’s front porch was a little bittersweet. They reminisced about an old flame, but what it really showed was their clashing motivations. Boyd wants money, power, and Ava before he meets his inevitable death, which he’s made peace with. Johnny, on the other hand, was driven by revenge. But Boyd’s plans to get rid of his loose ends in the U.S. are ruined by those damn Crowes.
I have a feeling that “Raw Deal” is the last episode before Raylan and Boyd’s paths start to connect. With Raylan now focusing his attention on getting Daryl, this is sure to lead him into Boyd’s current state of affairs. I really hope so, at least.
• Some people interpreted Ava’s haircut last week as a sign of her giving up hope. But in a lot of revenge films (particularly the rape/revenge genre), women cut their hair short to signify their transformation from hopeless to aggressor. After the haircut comes the revenge.
• “God no. The technology to reply to a post is decades away.” – score one for Chris, the marshal’s resident computer nerd.
• In case you missed what T.C.’s blog post said: “Jack-booted U.S. Marshall came for me today, barged in without a warrant. And yeah I made him my BITCH. Come at me, asswipe!”
• So who this friendly-sounding Uncle Jack is that Kendal calls. Whoever he is and whatever Kendal reaches out to him about, Daryl probably won’t approve. Here’s hoping little man knows to clear his call history.
• I watched the shootout scene a few times, and it’s clear that Danny and Daryl nod to each other right before mowing down the three Memphis guys. Despite pledging allegiance to Boyd, they’re still wildcards in all of this. While previous crooks that tried to muscle their way into Harlan seriously underestimated the local redneck lowlife population, the Crowes seem right at home.
• The movie on in Kemp’s hotel room was The Big Heat, a classic Fritz Lang noir in which a cop goes rogue to take down the gangsters who killed his wife and daughter. Could this possibly be foreshadowing the fate of Winona and Raylan’s daughter? That would be almost too dark for Justified, I think.
Body Count: 4