Any good story will feature a character that struggles to grow and change despite the things that make us the way we are in the first place. What sets Justified apart, though, is how pointedly tough a time these characters have stepping out from the shadows of their own heritage. Early on in "The Hatchet Tour"—a decent enough episode following last week's jawbreaker, "Outlaw"—Raylan mentions a complicated family feud that originated with his late father, Arlo, and quickly escalated to the point where it involved not two, but four different families. Interestingly enough, the whole thing is resolved when Raylan's mother, who passed well before the show's timeframe, demands that everyone sit down and talk things through. If there's one thing we knew about Frances Givens, it's that she was all kinds of good in just about every way that Arlo wasn't. This makes it a bit more powerful when Raylan learns later that he, all this time, had gotten the story wrong in a pretty significant way. For who knows how many years, Raylan had gone around thinking that everything started because someone's dog had dumped on Arlo's lawn. Really, the whole situation went down because Arlo was responding to some seriously over-the-line shit-talking by making the offender do some literal shit-eating in enforcement of a bit of what Sheriff Shelby aptly calls "poetic justice." It's an interesting addition to the Arlo Givens mythology, for Raylan and the audience alike. "The Hatchet Tour" sees Raylan cruising through Harlan County with Former Sheriff Hunter Mosley in tow, to see if he can maybe turn Mosley upside down and shake Drew Thompson out of his pockets. Of course, all this happens much to Art's chagrin; the scene in which he just breathes fire all over the entire office is easily one of the season's best. Raylan screws a lot of people over just so he can settle this Drew Thompson affair, which started as a way to secure his fortune and career with the hopes of providing for his son and has now turned into something highly personal. He totally infuriates Art, really fucks over that poor Nelson guy, and completely disregards Tim when he calls Raylan up and tries to help out. Raylan Givens...is a total asshole. Now, we're not talking about a character on the level of Walter White (whom I'm like, actively excited to see meet his own demise), but Ray's the kind of dick who's quick to act in ways that really aren't cool for other folks just so he can get things done.
To a guy like Hunter, this makes Ray a lot like his daddy, which leads to Hunter's fear that Raylan will go ahead and execute him on the side of the road, a sentiment whose sincerity totally infuriates Ray. For the duration of the episode, Hunter resists his fate, until finally submitting to it at the end. All this after delivering a stirring (and apparently thinly coded) speech about "who we are" and it being "why we do what we do." Really, Hunter was trying to communicate something important to Shelby, but his words were also carefully chosen for Raylan, who spends the episode dealing with the distance between the respective influences of his father and his mother. More than once in "The Hatchet Tour," Raylan's actions echo Frances' as he encourages folks to settle down and talk things out. Of course, there's also the scene where he practically growls through gritted teeth, "In the words of Arlo Givens, 'I'm trying to knock some sense into you.'" The man truly has a troubled and abusive relationship with his past.
Eventually we find out that Sheriff Shelby was Drew Thompson all along, in a reveal that's still going to need a little bit of shoring up, but sits well with me for now. Mainly because of the fact that Shelby's already a great character, and is acted with flawless likability by Jim Beaver. So the chase is on.
Oh, and also...
• The Crowder subplot moves along nicely in this episode, too. "Drew Goddamn Thompson" is a line read like only Walton Goggins can deliver, and is one of the reasons why Boyd Crowder's one of my favorite characters on TV.
• Colton's scene at the church was great. I was literally waiting for him to spring out and grab her by the neck the entire time, but when it happened it wasn't any less shocking. Ron Eldard is excellent as Colton, and played the scene with the perfect animalistic, washed-out haze.
• I need a gif of Patton Oswalt firing that AK (?) like it's a firehose.