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 show up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.
It’s that time of year, Justified is back. And now with 100% more Patton Oswalt! But we’ll get to that potentially controversial decision in a moment. Let’s start with the man himself, Raylan Givens.
“Hole in the Wall” eased us back into the saddle with a “crime of the week” scenario. Raylan gets a call from a Nashville bail-bonds(wo)man, Sharon Edmunds, who he “had a drink” with at a law enforcement convention a while back. Sharon offers him three grand to haul in a bail-jumping murderer, Jody Adair (played by Chris Chalk, who you may recognize as Tom Walker from Homeland and Gary Cooper in The Newsroom).
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Adair plot was the ways in which the character mirrored Raylan. Both men do as they please with little thought of the consequences, rationalizing their actions with claims that their motivations are pure and that they’re essentially good people at heart. The only difference is which side of the law they’re on. Adair killed two heroin dealers in a robbery gone awry, but says they deserved it and that the world is well rid of them. Plus, he only did the job because he needed money to see his kids. Now think about why Raylan sneaks away to catch Adair while on Uncle Sam’s clock: he wants to begin squirreling away money for his kid. Sound familiar? Not to mention, you know, the show’s basic premise: that Raylan is a lawman who plays by his own rules but is “justified” in doing so.
The irony reaches its peak when Raylan chastises Adair for refusing to take responsibility for his actions. “You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” Once again, sound familiar? It seems we’ve never heard a character on Justified own up to what they’ve done or who they are. It’s always someone else’s fault. But Raylan lacks self-awareness to such a degree that he can tell Adair “you got no self-awareness” with a straight face.
Meanwhile, the seeds of a serial storyline were planted beginning with a flashback to 1983, when a parachutist fell out of the sky in front of the Givens house, a few bricks of cocaine in tow. Couple that with the episode’s ending: Arlo killing a man who overheard he and Raylan speak about the remnants of the incident, a driver’s license and bag stashed inside a wall, and it’s not difficult to tell what the season’s big mystery will be.
The beginnings of that mystery were expertly woven into the episode’s A-story through the recurring theme of fatherhood. Adair and Raylan, two men engaging in varying levels of wrong in order to do right by their kids, served as a contrast to Raylan’s own father, who’s put his own needs in front of his son’s for as long as we’ve known him. The question raised by that contrast, then, is whether there was ever a time when Arlo put his child (or his wives) first, before he was the selfish criminal we see today. It’s a question that will be answered as the truth about Waldo Truth, the man who fell to Earth (the parachutist, not Bowie), is uncovered. Was that flashback the moment Arlo Givens “broke bad?”
Now onto the man who will always keep me coming back to drink at the Justified well: Boyd Crowder. Soon after his appearance he laments to Ava that “no one ever said running a criminal enterprise would be this hard.” She responds that “they left that part out on career day.” The chemistry between Boyd and Ava continues to be tremendous thanks to both the phenomenal work of Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter and the writers who put all that sharp dialogue in their mouths.
Boyd’s issue in the premiere is a drop off in his oxy sales. One of his former pushers, Hiram, has seen the light at the “Last Chance Holiness Church” by the snake-handling Pentecostal preacher Bill St. Cyr. Hiram claims people aren’t getting high anymore because they’re finding Jesus in a tent in the woods, and tells Boyd that he has neither the shipment of oxy or the money from selling it. Hiram says he flushed that “poison” down the toilet. Boyd is unmoved by the conversion, and insists that Hiram has one night to get him his money.
All this allows for the introduction of the newest player for Boyd’s team, Colton Rose, an old Gulf War buddy. Boyd brings Colton along to Hiram’s as a tryout for Team Crowder. It turns out Hiram did have the money from the oxy sales, but lied to Boyd so that he could donate it to preacher Billy and the church. Once they’ve got the cash, Boyd tells Colton to “take care” of Hiram, which his friend takes to mean putting a bullet in his skull. Boyd claims he simply wanted Colton to untie the man, but I think Harlan’s criminal mastermind was intentionally ambiguous in using the phrase “take care.” He wanted to see what his old friend would do, and got exactly the result he wanted. For the moment, the Boyd vs. preacher Billy plot seems disparate from the main Raylan plot, but I’m sure everything will come together as the season wears on. Even if it doesn’t, Boyd’s doings are sure to entertain. He’s one of the most captivating characters on television today.
As for that other major introduction, Patton Oswalt as Constable Bob, so far, I’m a fan. Sure, he’s over the top, but so is the show’s source material (the crime fiction of Elmore Leonard). Justified has always managed to blend in humor without straying too far from its roots, and I trust that the writers will use Oswalt as more than just comic relief and ultimately better the show. I mean, come on, don’t try and tell me “Hole in the Wall” didn’t benefit from the inclusion of Constable Bob’s “go bag” and his “when this shit goes Road Warrior, I’m ready” line.
Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.
Tags: Arlo Givens, Ava Crowder, Billy St. Cyr, Boyd Crowder, Chris Chalk, Colton Rose, Constable Bob Sweeney, Elmore Leonard, Joelle Carter, Justified, Justified Blog, Nate Kreichman, Patton Oswalt, Raylan Givens, Raymond J. Barry, Ron Eldard, Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins