Justified 4.06 Foot Chase

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 praised last week’s episode, “Kin,” for returning to the formula most often employed when Justified is at its best: Boyd plus Raylan equals some captivating television. And while those two characters are the key ingredients, the same idea applies to the show in general—its greatest moments come from squeezing its wide array of colorful characters together and enjoying the results. All in all, “Kin” was going to be a hard act to follow, but I found this week’s offering especially disappointing because it quickly diverted away from that tried and true formula. “Foot Chase” seemed to set everyone off on their own individual adventures (and I do mean everyone). That’s not to say it wasn’t an exciting hour of television—as I’ve said repeatedly, if Boyd Crowder’s around count me in—but it certainly won’t be remembered as one of Justified’s best. 

With so many characters off doing their own thing, most of the episode’s dialogue can be divided into two groups: First, conversations between members of the main cast who we see interacting all the time, and second, between a single regular and various one-off or rarely recurring characters. The one exception to this, and perhaps as a result the episode’s strongest plot line, was Raylan and Shelby joining forces in the hunt for Drew Thompson.

Early on, Raylan speaks with some local cops on the scene at Josiah Cairn’s house, and he acts like his usual jerk self. When one of them asks if there’s any particular reason he’s treating them, and I quote, “like a couple of bleached assholes,” Raylan considers it for a moment and responds, “not particularly.” We discover later that the disdain likely stems from his lack of respect for Sheriff Shelby, although I doubt Raylan is self-aware enough to make that connection himself. When Shelby asks if the reason Raylan doesn’t trust him is that he thinks he’s in Boyd’s pocket, Raylan quips back, “I think Lynyrd Skynrd’s overrated; I know you’re in Boyd’s pocket.” Shelby admits that he used Boyd to get elected, but that is allegiance is and always has been to the law. It’s interesting reversal of perspective, given that Boyd would say it was in fact he that was using Shelby.

Of course, the audience knows Shelby is done being used, because we know the details of Ellen May’s disappearance. But understandably, words aren’t enough to change Raylan’s mind. So Shelby sets out to prove it to him by putting Boyd in cuffs and bringing him in for questioning. Boyd warns him of the dangers of this decision, saying, “Son, you are turning a corner you can’t walk back around.” I found two things about that line intriguing: There’s what it says about Boyd (and Walton Goggins’ performance) that he can call Shelby “son,” in spite of their actual ages, and not sound silly. Because that’s just the kind of respect Boyd Crowder commands. And there’s the fact that Shelby, who reminds us himself that he was a supermarket greeter not too long ago, is tenacious enough to turn that corner so forcefully.

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Justified 4.05: Kin

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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Almost every popular television drama has that character: the breakout, the one who isn’t the protagonist but becomes a fan favorite (and thus often a big part of the show’s advertising strategy). Boardwalk Empire has Richard Harrow, The Wire had Omar, The Walking Dead has Daryl Dixon, Sons of Anarchy has Chibbs, Breaking Bad has Jesse Pinkman, not to mention Mike Ehrmantraut. The list goes on. We often wish this character got more screentime, but understand that part of the draw is that we’re always left wanting more. That’s not the case in Justified (or Breaking Bad). Unlike those other shows, its story doesn’t follow one main character while the breakout badass ducks in and out. Instead, its version of the trope, Boyd Crowder, has become so vital that he’s every bit as much the protagonist as Raylan is (ok, he’s a deuteragonist if you really want to get technical about it, nerd). Pretty impressive considering Walton Goggins’ name wasn’t even in the opening credits until season two.

Those of you who know their Justified trivia know that Boyd was originally supposed to die from the bullet Raylan put in his stomach in the pilot episode, as he did in the Elmore Leonard short story on which it was based (“Fire in the Hole”). In fact, Goggins only agreed to be in the show to begin with as a favor to his friend Timothy Olyphant.  But after both creator Graham Yost and test audiences saw how electric the character (and the actor’s performance) was, it was decided Boyd would live to fight another day. The move was even approved by Leonard, who tends to get upset when adaptations of his work stray to far from the source material. It’s not unusual for this kind of character to have their death cancelled—Jesse Pinkman, for instance, was originally meant to die at the end of the first season of Breaking Bad.

So where am I going with all this? Here: As Boyd has slowly risen through the ranks from one-off to co-protagonist, the writers have generally woven him into the story pretty gracefully. He had his side adventures and independent activities, but the first three seasons each had a single decidedly main plot, and Boyd always played an important role in its events. That is, until this year, when they’ve had nary any interaction at all. Until this week.

Prior to “Kin,” the writers appeared to be floundering for both a reason and a method to keep Boyd around. Save an interaction here or there, you could’ve edited his and Raylan’s plotlines into two separate shows that happened to share a setting, assuming you already knew all the characters. It seemed the two were each along their respective merry ways, and despite Boyd having very little to do in what was meant to be “Raylan’s show,” he was simply too good a character to toss out the window for a reason as “trivial” as not having anything to do with the plot (not that I’m complaining, I’d watch a show that was only about Boyd). But Justified’s bread and butter was, is, and will always be the intersection of the two characters.Whether it’s Boyd versus Raylan or Boyd and Raylan forming a tenuous alliance to take down some common foe, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Boyd himself put it best (as usual) when he and Raylan found themselves locked in the hill people’s makeshift cell, “You wanna start a fight, Raylan? Nine times out of ten I’d be more than happy to accommodate. But right now I think we got more pressing concerns.” What made “Kin” such a special, exciting episode is that Boyd’s entrance into the rat race to find Drew Thompson delivered a return to that basic, ever-electric formula. We even got both versions of it: Boyd and Raylan have different reasons for wanting to find Thompson, but they work together against the aptly-named hill people.

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Justified 4.04: The Bird Has Flown

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.

Justified has always walked the fine line between serial and episodic storytelling. There are times when a full episode that doesn’t add to the season’s overarching plot can seem like filler, no matter how much awesome dialogue there is. But some of the show’s best episodes have come in a “crime of the week” package. How could you forget season one’s “Long in the Tooth,” in which guest star Alan Ruck played a cartel accountant turned dentist for the downtrodden? Justified’s fourth season has continued to walk the tightrope between those two formats.

In the two episodes prior to this week’s installment, the more serialized Waldo Truth mystery featured prominently while Raylan’s various episodic(ish) comings and goings made their presence known but, for the most part, blended into the background. The reverse was true in the premiere as well as “The Bird Has Flown,” in which a situation that’s been developing in bits and pieces over the last three weeks—the Raylan-Lindsey-Randall love triangle—was finally given center stage.

“The Bird Has Flown” is thematically linked by the ideas of choices and consequences, cause and effect. First of all, there’s the question at the center of every love triangle: which one will she choose? Until last week’s closing scene, it seemed pretty clear Lindsey wanted nothing to do with her ex-con ex-husband. Or it did up until Raylan returned home to find his place ransacked, anyway. After that things seemed just as clear: we (and Raylan) had only been led to believe Lindsey was interested in Raylan because it was part of her and Randall’s scam. But when we returned this week, all clarity had gone from the situation. You could say Lindsey made a series of choices throughout the episode as her loyalties wavered back and forth between Raylan and Randall. You could also say that all that wavering wasn’t a series of choices but her failure to make just one. Either way, you’d be right.

As it turned out, nobody—including Lindsey—knew who she would choose until Rachel’s beanbag shotgun entered the equation. She shoots Raylan once, to Randall’s delight, only to turn to her ex and unload once, twice, and after being greeted by an empty click on the third pull, she decides to turn the gun into a melee weapon. The answer was just as murky as the question. Lindsey didn’t pick A) Raylan or B) Randall, but C) none of the above (or perhaps D) me, myself, and I). Nonetheless, when she tells Raylan where the money is—although she’s actually referring to what they bought with the money—he smiles and says “I knew you liked me.” And when Randall asks how many times Lindsey shot him, Raylan replies, “a couple more times than she shot me.” That’s Raylan for you, no woman could ever dislike him, Lindsey was just too smart to risk the legal consequences of being around when he came to.

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Justified 4.03: Truth and Consequences

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.

“Truth and Consequences” has a more literal title than most episodes of Justified (sure, they packed in a pun, but that’s almost cheating when the character central to the season’s big mystery has a name like “Waldo Truth”). It begins with Boyd paying a visit to the Last Chance Holiness Church, still struggling to figure out what game the preacher and his sister are playing. He’s sure there’s a game, though, there has to be. Boyd would never go to all the trouble the St. Cyrs have if he wasn’t getting something out of it, so he can’t believe anyone else would either. So what’s the truth he’s not seeing?

Half-jokingly, Boyd questions Cassie’s claims that she was merely “putting her brother to sleep,” implying the two are sexually involved and that the sibling act is merely part of their scheme (either that or it’s incest, after all, it’s Kentucky). But that isn’t it, and to his surprise, it isn’t that Cassie uses her brother’s faith and charisma to extort local criminals, either. Cassie turns down Boyd’s “donation,” insisting that what he’s smelling isn’t a con but the fact that “unlike the rest of these sorry souls, we’re not afraid of you.” Boyd quips back, “In that case, ma’am, I think we’ve misjudged each other,” words that turn out prophetic.

Having tried the carrot, Boyd decides to try the stick—sending his henchmen in to intimidate the St. Cyrs—which results in the one who isn’t Colton (apparently his name is Jimmy) being bitten to death by snakes, or so it seems. Given the severity of his injuries, Jimmy should’ve died hours before he got medical help. And just like that, a lightbulb goes off in Boyd’s head. So he heads back to the Last Chance Holiness with another gift, only this time, “it’s not to the church, it’s to the congregation. And it ain’t money, it’s knowledge.”

The main characters aren’t the only ones dealing with truths and consequences this week. Billy St. Cyr’s faith (and hubris) is cemented by the fact that he and his followers continue to survive snakebites without medical assistance. Seeing it as proof of divine intervention, he fearlessly handles snakes as a testament to his omnipotent and benevolent God. As it turns out, however, Boyd was right. There was a scheme afoot, and Cassie had the wool pulled over the eyes of her brother and his congregation both. She’d been “milking” the snakes of their venom to ensure their bites wouldn’t be fatal.

Ever the true believer, Billy insists on handling Boyd’s “gift” nonetheless, though his sister begs him not to. Having gotten what he came for, Boyd too tries to talk him out of it, saying, “You know what, son? I once stood where you’re standing now, mistaking my own hubris for God’s touch. That ain’t religion, son, that’s self-glorification. Best you leave this thing alone.” After that, things go about as you’d expect. Billy is bitten and, given his conviction, I’m willing to bet he’ll die as a result. The preacher was presented with the truth, refused to recognize it, and now he’ll face the consequences. For now, it seems the St. Cyrs weren’t out to get the Crowders. They were nothing but true believers in a place with no room for such. Boyd did what he did not because they were affecting his business interests, but to come to terms with the man he was, the man he saw reflected in Billy St. Cyr’s face.

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Justified 4.02: Where’s Waldo

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.

The second episode of Justified’s fourth season didn’t offer much in the way of action. You probably could’ve watched it with a blindfold on and not missed out on much. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining, however. In fact, quite the opposite. There’s little on television more entertaining than a trademark Boyd Crowder speech, and his verbal battle with preacher Billy will likely be remembered as one of the best scenes in the series’ history. It was also a reminder that Walton Goggins is one of the past decade’s best character actors. While he’s finally getting rewarded with roles in big-time movies like Lincoln and Django Unchained, between Shane Vendrell and Boyd Crowder, how he hasn’t won a single Best Supporting Actor Emmy (and has only one nomination) remains a mystery to me.

Leading up to that confrontation, Billy and the Crowders poke and prod at each other from afar, mostly using Ellen May as a conduit. It starts when the easily convinced hooker shows up to tell Ava about her conversion, quoting “Palms number 62.” Ava is quick to ensure the fear of Crowder outweighs the fear of God by reminding Ellen Mae that she was the one who “saved her soul.” So Ellen Mae mopes back to the Last Chance Holiness, only to be converted yet again.

Up to that point, Boyd remained casually detached from the situation. He’s got more pressing concerns, namely finding someone to blame for the decline of his oxy sales. Cousin Johnny, determined to ensure that someone not be him, is quick to point the finger at Billy and his church. Boyd meets the idea with skepticism, however, noting that people in Harlan County “party Friday and Saturday and get saved on Sunday.” He doesn’t think one more church is going to change that, and declines Ava’s suggestion that they go see what all the hubbub’s about, stating that he “doesn’t like churches” (no doubt because of the way his own stint as an evangelist ended). But Billy gets Boyd’s attention by sending a group of hymn-singing children into his whorehouse, scaring away customers.

Though Sheriff Shelby insists Billy’s history of moving from one destitute small town to the next suggests he’s nothing more than your run-of-the-mill pulpiteer, Boyd reads a different story between the lines: The St. Cyrs (Billy and his sister, Cassie) keep their tent tied down just as long as it takes to bring enough addicts, whores, drunks, gamblers and other characters of ill repute into the fold. When the leaders of the local criminal element notice their revenue streams drying up, Billy and Cassie make a simple proposition: Pay up and we’ll be on our way. It remains to be seen what the St. Cyrs’ motivations really are. It seems more likely that a drop-off in oxy sales could have more to do with Dixie Mafia heroin dealers “accidentally” moving into Crowder turf, and that Boyd’s giving the St. Cyrs all that credit because that’s the way he would run that hustle. It’s just too early to tell, the possibilities are endless.

Anyway, all this leads to that ultimate showdown of the orators. The preacher vs. the ex-preacher, the sinner vs. the saint. The two trade bible verses, and Billy talks a lot about helping the wicked to see the light. Boyd turns that around though, pointing out the hubris inherent in the preacher’s willingness to pass judgment on those he does not know. Then he goes on the offensive, calling Billy a “false prophet” and begging the congregation to “test the spirits!” He says Billy goes from town to town, taking people’s hard-earned money and giving them nothing but empty promises in return. Billy’s counter is a surprising one, he says the church will no longer pass out collection plates, a smile never leaving his face. The same cannot be said for Cassie.

At first glance it appears Boyd has to chalk up a rare tally in the loss column. But, when Colton says, “that didn’t go so well,” Boyd responds, “Actually, Colton, I think we got exactly what we came here for.” See, Boyd’s always playing the game on a few different levels, using his bravado to mask his cunning. Boyd wasn’t in that tent on a search and destroy mission, but to gather intelligence. And not just about Billy, but the full extent of the problem, the individual members of the congregation, and everything he can exploit or use to his advantage. Most importantly, he learned that while Billy’s the one behind the pulpit, the charismatic face of Last Chance Holiness, Cassie’s running the show from behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Raylan and company take the first steps towards unraveling the season’s big mystery, going in search of Waldo Truth, the name on the driver’s license found in the Panamanian diplomatic bag in Arlo’s wall. That included another fantastic scene in which Raylan, Tim, and Art get into a standoff with the Truths, an entire family of Dickie Bennetts. The Truths, of course, fail to see the irony in their gun-toting, “go ahead and shoot,” intensely anti-”gov’ment” attitude, all in an effort to protect the “draw” delivered to them from said “gov’ment.”

In contrast to the hotheaded younger Truths, however, is their matriarch, who calmly invites the Marshals in to sort things out. Eventually, “Waldo” returns home, but not really, as we soon discover. The man is an impostor, posing as Waldo Truth so that the family could continue to receive his benefit check. While Raylan’s ready to haul in every last one of them, Art decides to let them go once the information they offer helps him connect a few dots between their current predicament and an intriguing case from his early days as a Marshal. It’s now certain the man who fell out of the sky with all that cocaine was the real Waldo Truth, who disappeared with a pilot named Drew Thompson decades ago.

The episode brought some connection between the previously disparate Boyd and Raylan/Waldo Truth storylines with the return of Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy, who arrives in Harlan to deal with the dealer who wandered into Boyd’s turf. Duffy, who’s apparently been made a little colder by the time he spent with Robert Quarles, promptly shoots the dealer in the head. Boyd attempts to seize an opportunity by offering to partner up with Duffy in bringing heroin to Harlan County. Duffy turns him down saying, “I don’t even trust the way you just now said I could trust you.” But, before he leaving, he asks Boyd what he knows about Arlo offing a Dixie Mafia soldier, which, at the moment, is nothing. Boyd’s now a dog with a scent, he’d probably want to know what Arlo’s deal is just to know, but now he’s got the added incentive of proving he’d make a good partner to Duffy. Now we’ll get to watch as both Boyd and Raylan uncover the clues of the big mystery separately and on opposite sides of the law. That’s good news for us viewers, because we’ll get to see it all.

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

  

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