Justified 4.11: Decoy

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. jst_411_Decoy_0173_595_slogo

Last week, I predicted the Crowders and the Marshals would forge a temporary alliance to fight, or rather survive, the onslaught of their common foe: the Tonin crime family, as personified by Nick Augustine (Mike O’Malley). The logic was simple: Despite having Drew Thompon in custody, the Marshals’ game was far from over. As Raylan put it, “We’re standing in a field, we haven’t done shit.” They needed to find a way to get both themselves and their prize catch out of Harlan alive. That left Boyd and company in a similar position. The Crowders had two options: “We make a case to Theo, or we run.”

As I watched the opening scene of “Decoy” for the first time, the apparent inaccuracy of my prediction had me disappointed. Although he remained plenty bold in sticking to his demand for $500,000, it appeared Boyd was simply going to aid the Tonins in finding Drew, and as a matter of course, Raylan. I can’t say for certain, because the writers took great care in ensuring the details behind the Crowders doublecrossing the Tonins were not made explicit (yet). But folks, I’m almost positive my original prognosis was correct.

Looking back, Boyd’s inclusion of Raylan as one his plan’s necessary casualties should’ve been my first hint. But hindsight is 20/20, or so they say. Boyd will never kill Raylan, directly or otherwise, nor will Raylan kill him. And that’s not just because the writers would be nowhere without their two main characters. These are men who have known each other for a long time, and they play by different rules than most archenemies. They’re Harlan County’s version of Batman and the Joker. Their’s is the game that never ends. No matter who or what enters the fold, be it northern carpetbaggers or Black Pike Coal. Deep down inside, being a “robber” would be a lot less fun for Boyd if Raylan wasn’t the “cop” (and, once again, vice-versa).

We’ve talked a lot this season about the ways Harlan seeps into its residents’ very souls. Last week, Boyd spoke at length about why Raylan should have become a criminal along with he and Arlo. Because to Boyd, being from Harlan and being an outlaw are one and the same. One of the major elements of Raylan’s character, however, has been trying to escape Harlan, both geographically and emotionally (I’m referring specifically to the little Arlo in the demon costume that’s always sitting on his shoulder). But the roots are so deep they always tear him back. Still, the desire to get away is what makes him scoff at Boyd’s comment, as well as get a little sheepish when he had to explain that he knew about some roads that weren’t on the map. In terms of action and plot events, the secret alliance came about because both sides needed to overcome a foe greater than themselves. But the real reason the Marshals, or Raylan rather, would make a deal with Boyd Crowder is because they are both Harlan County, Kentucky to the motherfucking bone. We see it as Boyd leads Tonin’s men into Raylan’s trap (the eponymous decoy, or one of many, at least). In what has become the classic Raylan move, he lets them walk so he can (legally) shoot them some other day, Boyd included. As Boyd walks away, Raylan reminds him of promise he’d just made, that they’ll “do this again sometime.” Boyd’s response? “You can count on it, Raylan.” The game goes on.

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Justified 4.01: Hole in the Wall

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.


The Light from the TV Shows: Failed Pilots with All-Star Casts

As the new TV season rolls out, let’s take a look back at a few series that never actually made it on the air. Not that there aren’t plenty such series every single year, but sometimes you look back and wonder, “How could a show with all of these talented people not get on the schedule?” Not that we have an answer to that question, you understand, but at least we can all be mystified and annoyed together.

Next! (2001)

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Fred Armisen, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Nick Swardson
What you missed out on: After Bob Odenkirk and David Cross decided to put a bullet in their HBO sketch comedy series, “Mr. Show” (that’s right, it was their decision, not the network’s), the guys attempted to go their separate ways, with Odenkirk setting up shop at Fox with a pilot for a new sketch comedy series. If you think the above names are impressive, consider that several other “Mr. Show” alumni were in tow as well, including Jerry Minor, Jay Johnston, and Jill Talley, with Patton Oswalt also participating in some capacity or other. And, yes, if you’re wondering, Cross made an appearance in the pilot, too. So what happened? Apparently, Fox basically flipped a coin to decide which new sketch comedy series they’d add to their lineup, and “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” won the toss. Oh, what might’ve been…

North Hollywood (2001)

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, and Judge Reinhold as himself
What you missed out on: Judd Apatow has never been ashamed to admit that the only reason that this pilot ever came into existence is that Fox refused to let him cast Jason Segel as his lead in the short-lived but highly-regarded “Undeclared,” but you can’t say he didn’t do his best to surround Segel with top-notch talent. Segel, Amy Poehler, and Kevin Hart played roommates, with Segel a struggling actor, Hart a struggling actor/comedian, and Poehler serving as Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. There’s a more detailed look at the pilot here, but the long and the short of it is that, although Apatow admits that he really didn’t know if there was a decent series to be had in “North Hollywood,” he thinks the pilot’s pretty decent, but its tone didn’t match the sitcoms filling ABC’s lineup at the time, so they took a pass on it.

Saddle Rash (2002)

Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Sarah Silverman, Todd Barry, Mitch Hedberg
What you missed out on: Created by Loren Bouchard, best known to animation fans as one of the creative forces behind “Home Movies,” “Saddle Rash” seemed to have all the elements necessary for a successful Adult Swim series, so why didn’t it make it beyond the pilot stage? Was it that westerns weren’t exactly in vogue at the time? Was there some sort of stigma attached to the project because they brought in country artists to continued voice work (including Waylon Jennings as a very special guest in the pilot)? Whatever the case, the pilot got aired – no doubt mostly because Adult Swim has a tendency to air just about every pilot it orders, whether it actually ends up going to series or not – but that was the end of the trail for the series.

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