Not every show can just have crazy shit go down on a constant basis. I love me some 24, but only before I start thinking about how much stuff actually happens to Jack Bauer in a single day of his life. In a single hour of his life. And about how at the end of every single hour, there’s always a really gnarly cliffhanger of some sort. Every. Single. Hour. But that was always OK, because that was the world that 24 lived in, and you kind of had no choice but to agree to live there with it for a little bit every time you sat down to watch the show. Justified, on the other hand, makes an effort to take place in a world that’s a little more close to the one that you and I live in, at least in terms of narrative plausibility. Sure, the show has picked a very special part of its world to examine by setting itself in Harlan County, but it’s not a place where we find ourselves wondering what the hell is going on too often (unless you stop paying attention). All this being said, I’ve definitely found myself thinking about the relatively slow pace this season has utilized so far. By no means has this season been boring or bad, but it’s not necessarily been action-packed, by any stretch of the imagination. Without its moments of action and tension, this show would be something else entirely, but these moments have been relatively few and far between during its fourth season. Of course, all this makes a lot of sense at the very beginning of this episode, when we learn that it’s only been about a week since the season premiere. This might just be my fault. I’ve never really paid such strict attention to how Justified spools out its narrative, as the timeframe has never been such a concern. Even now, it really isn’t. Rather, this just speaks to how great Yost and his team are. Learning this brought me that much further into the world of the show, and made me realize that the last six days have definitely been a busy six days...but not implausibly so.
In fact, we learn that Jody has been spending those six days nursing a gunshot wound he sustained from Raylan’s old friend in a very restrained shootout during the episode’s excellent cold open. I’m glad we get to spend another episode with Jody, and I couldn’t be more thrilled at Southern Kinsey’s “filmmaker.” I have to say, though, that Jody really flipped for the sake of this episode. In the season premiere, I really could have sworn the guy was half-decent. In fact, the AV Club did a great job of pointing out that Jody was something of a parallel to Raylan in the premiere: doing what he thought was the right thing, regardless of any consequences or higher authority that might tell him otherwise. Now, he seems more of an Arlo analogue: killing people to get what he wants and engaging in a mad dash for some hidden cash. It’s clear that this was all done for the sake of the episode’s storyline, and I liked the way everything turned out enough to forgive what I think might have been a bit of slightly lazy writing. Still, the look of surprise on Jody’s face during that wonderfully quick and brutal shootout in the bar was perfect. When Raylan said he’d only be five minutes, he meant it.
The episode is bookended by Raylan’s relationship with his father: first, Art tells him to go see the old man so they can get information about the mysterious Drew Thompson, and then Raylan actually does so. The depictions of the ties that bind are always part of what makes Justified as strong a show as it is, and Raylan’s complicated relationship with Arlo is brought front and center during the episode’s closing bit. The scene is weighed to the ground by two strong-as-steel performances on the parts of both Raymond Barry and Timothy Olyphant. When Raylan tells Arlo that he’ll be glad to hear of his father’s death, the line lands with all the weight it should have.
On the other side of the law, we get a lot of the Crowder clan this week, and are left to continue wondering what’s going on with Pastor Billy and his sister. We all know that Justified wouldn’t waste a great character or actor like this, so the mere fact that he’s been excluded from the last couple of episodes is enough to make things kind of tense at least on my end. What we do know, however, is that apparently Clover Hill has a lot more to do with Harlan than we’d ever been lead to believe. Now, I don’t know if this counts as too-convenient retconning, or the peeling back of yet another layer. It’s true that there’s almost always someone else pulling the strings in Harlan County; you almost get the feeling that the location itself wouldn’t exist were it not for the charity of other places.
At any rate, Ava and Boyd hit up a hoity-toity swingers party where Ava doesn’t really do anything but Boyd learns that the Crowders have enjoyed their long-held criminal reign in Harlan County because Clover Hill has been letting them. The phrase “Crowders do what we say” was laced with exactly the right amount of family history. This show is good at remembering its themes, and knowing exactly where to put them. I could really give two shits about Frank Browning — I know that he’s just going to be something for Boyd to do so that we can fill out an entire season of television, much like this week’s business with Jody — but what interests me is the wrinkle this throws in Boyd’s plan. He was confident that his idea would help him find Thompson for Tonin, but instead he’s found himself in yet another powerful group’s pocket, having little other choice but to do their bidding.
Funny thing is, Boyd isn’t the first of this show’s two male protagonists to have completely misjudged a situation this season.
Oh, and also...
• Not much Tim this week, but his response to Ferguson’s surprise that Raylan said “Happy birthday” was hilarious.
• “Jackie Nevada,” it turns out, is a character from Raylan, the post-Justified Givens novel written by Elmore Leonard. Not sure if name is the only similarity to the character we met this week, but god damn is it a great name. Also, “The man’s name is actually Reno Nevada?”
• I love that both Tillman and the hostess gave very, very different “Rules #1” to Ava and Boyd at the swingers’ party.
• I REALLY love the credits that went at the end of Jody’s movie.
• Ah -- the slow build to Johnny realizing what’s going on with Colton, combined with the earlier business that he had with Duffy makes for some amazing plotting. Nice moves, Justified.