Justified 4.08: Outlaw

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear following a new episode of Justified. It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects of the series up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.

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I criticized last week’s episode of Justified because it didn’t seem to bring us much closer to solving the season’s big mystery. It gave Raylan an unrelated one (alright, two) off storyline while Boyd inched towards finding Drew Thompson. Well, “Outlaw,” appears to be the writers’ forcing a collective foot in my mouth. It all but came out and said that the hard-working and dedicated Sheriff of Harlan County, Shelby Parlow, is in fact the man we’ve been looking for all along. And there he was, right under our noses.

For those that didn’t catch the hints, they came mostly during Shelby’s conversation with Ellen May about reinventing one’s self, starting over. He came home to find her digging through his ex-wife’s things, namely a necklace depicting St. Christopher, “patron saint of travelers, sailors, pilots, and bachelors.” Pilots, folks. Ellen May also happened to be wearing that ex-wife’s clothes, and remarked that they made her feel like a different person while also reminding her who she truly is. Shelby’s response? “Must’ve been a year after I first joined the sheriff’s department that I could put on my uniform without feeling like I was wearing a costume.” Now who would feel more like a fraud in a police uniform than an ex-criminal? He also says that “if you pretend to be something long enough, it’s not pretending.” In other words, at this point, he really is Shelby Parlow.

Only there’s a reason they did all that without coming out and saying it. And maybe that’s because the writers just want us to think that Shelby is Drew, just so they can pull the rug out from under us later on. Nobody greeted Shelby by saying “Hello, Drew.” I’m sure there will be a scene like that next week, whether or not it’ll be Shelby standing there when the camera flips around and fades to black remains to be seen. A couple things are holding me back from being positive Shelby’s our man. First of all, his would-be ex-wife, Eve Munro, tells Raylan she hasn’t seen Drew in 30 years, while Shelby tells Ellen May his wife left him 25 years ago. Secondly, look at all these people working so hard to protect Drew from being found out: They’re giving up deals to be moved to cushy prisons, not to mention risking (and often losing) their lives. At this point, if Shelby is Drew, what kind of power does he hold that people are willing to do so much for him? It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s the last remaining piece of the puzzle.

Yet despite what I said last week about the downsides of the show dragging its feet with the main storyline, with all the other stuff that happened this week, the theoretical revelation of Drew Thompson’s identity almost seems like a sidenote. Because “Outlaw” gave us some great stuff.First of all, someone died. Not just some meaningless character who arrived on screen just in time to leave it, which is the style of most of the deaths in Justified. No, this was a real, major character: Arlo Givens. One of this season’s big themes has been Raylan’s preparations for fatherhood. Of course, Raylan’s relationship with his own father plays a large part in what he believes it means to be a father. If nothing else, Raylan’s got one play in his book: do the opposite of what Arlo did. But in spite of what a mean son-of-a-bitch Arlo was, fathers and sons are fathers and sons, so our badass marshal actually shed a tear! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Justified 4.07: Money Trap

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear following a new episode of Justified. It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects of the series up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.

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During the first scene of “Money Trap,” Art tells Raylan he doesn’t have high hopes about the Marshals finding Drew Thompson. What he may as well have said was that he doesn’t have high hopes they’ll find him for another another five or six episodes. When a show builds a season around a mystery, the audience knows damn well it won’t be solved until the end of the season. What separates good shows that follow this formula from bad ones is whether the audience remains entertained by the characters’ various adventures as they inch closer to their final goal as well as intrigued by each ensuing thickening of the overarching plot. As I discussed last week, Justified’s rich dialogue and colorful characters generally ensure the former is taken care of. But I have to admit the idea that saying they’re “inching” towards solving the mystery is a bit of an overstatement. “Money Trap” didn’t seem to bring us much closer to finding Drew Thompson, and the longer it takes the less inclined I am to give a damn.

Neither Boyd nor Raylan made much headway in the hunt for Drew Thompson this week. In the aforementioned opening scene, Art tells Raylan that their only leads are Arlo and former Harlan County Sheriff Hunter Moseley, both of whom happen to reside in a local penitentiary. Isn’t that convenient? Raylan is none too eager to visit his father, so when a local cop informs him his old pal Jody Adair (Chris Chalk) is on the loose, he’s happy to take a turn down distraction avenue. Raylan even admits it, saying some people “do as much as they can to avoid [their fathers].” He’s never met the woman he says it to (Adair’s ex-wife’s house sitter), yet even she immediately understands the implication, replying, “you just showed your cards.”

You’ll recall the fugitive Jody Adair as the subject of the season premiere’s crime-of-the-week plotline. This week we found out he murdered bail-bondsman Sharon Edmunds and her associate after a filmmaker friend named Kenneth (Michael Gladis) helped him escape their custody. Things happen as they often do in Justified: Raylan saves girl from criminal, criminal escapes by jumping out a window, Raylan finds criminal, Raylan shoots criminal, Raylan gets laid. It’s entertaining, but in the end that’s really all that can be said in its defense. It has exactly zero relation to the Drew Thompson mystery. Still, if you’re going to have a major character’s subplot amount to nothing but distraction, it might as well be an entertaining distraction.

It’s only at the very end of the episode, after the criminals are dead and the sex has been had, that Raylan finally gets around to visiting Arlo. He does exactly what Art suggested to him, stuffing a file to make it look like the Marshals have a lot more evidence on Drew than they do. But Arlo tells Raylan to shove it, even after finding out the “son he never had,” Boyd, has been employed by Theo Tonin to search for Drew. The last thing Raylan wants to do is delay Arlo’s execution, which is only days away, but he’s forced to play the only card he’s got: offering his daddy a deal. The Marshals know Drew’s alive and that he’s in Harlan, so they’re willing to commute Arlo’s sentence to life imprisonment and move him to a “country club jail” if he’ll just point them in the right direction. Arlo’s got no interest in that either, so Raylan leaves. But not before saying he’s “gonna be glad when [he] hears the news” that Arlo’s been executed. Even still Arlo appears unconcerned. The episode ends with him walking down the prison halls with a look on his face that could be construed as a smile. Men like Arlo are never happy to die, so he’s sure to have another trick up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Ava attended a swingers party at the home of another former sheriff of Harlan County, Tillman Napier. While the undertaking was ostensibly related to the main plot—they were going to “pull them old horndogs off their women, find their history in Harlan, and see which one of them could be Drew,” as Ava put it—in truth, they took distraction avenue the whole way to the swanky neighborhood of Clover Hill.

Boyd doesn’t get any closer to finding Drew this week than Raylan. He thinks there’s a chance that two or three of the rich folk at Napier’s party might be Thompson. But in the end all he’s really left with is a few more trails to sniff. The more important development of the night is Boyd finding out he’s not as high on the criminal foodchain as he likes to think. A few of the other men at the party “ask” him to kill a man named Frank Browning, and react with near disbelief when Boyd inquires as to what he’d get in return. “I think you’re missing the point,” one man responds, “your daddy got the point. Crowders do what we say.” Another interjects, “Let me be crystal clear: Kill Frank Browning or we’ll destroy you.” Men like Boyd and Arlo don’t take kindly to threats. The fact is Boyd would likely have killed the man with a smile on his face, for the right price, but being told to do one thing might just make him inclined to do another. The problem is Boyd’s got a whole lot of enemies right now, some that he isn’t even aware of yet, it might not be in his best interest to make any new ones, especially among such powerful men.

One last thing: the jig is up for Colton. Johnny finds out from Teri that Colton’s been “tweaking” and it was him who put the beating on her, not to mention that he never killed Ellen May. Teri doesn’t need to say much before Johnny’s able to put things together. Perhaps he’s smarter than we give him credit for, and much more of a danger to Boyd than we think.

Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

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