I love Justified. I love Justified so hard. Yes, there is the odd placeholder episode. Yes, there are smatterings of cheesy “reveals.” But when you get down to it, there is nary another show on television that is consistently exciting to watch, or that strikes the perfect, watchable balance between action and character development. That actually gets the plot moving week by week. That rewards fans of the show with little nuggets from seasons past, making the Harlan County crime universe a fully realized place where characters aren’t simply written off but are always lurking somewhere, acting behind the scenes. Oh yeah, and it has probably the most cleverly written dialogue on television, too.
This week’s episode, “Get Drew,” (which Art delicately rephrases during the episode as “Let’s find the whore!”) is no exception to Justified’s standard of excellence. Pardon my language, but a lot of shit went down, and it was all good shit. True, there could have been more Raylan Givens, but the episode moved with such a rapid, rewarding pace, that it makes sense that everyone needed to get a little screen time. Raylan figured out that Shelby had Ellen May because of a pair of panties. Shelby/Drew Thompson and Ellen May fled to Limehouse (!) in Noble’s Holler. Boyd bribed him and had to choose… but Ellen May turned on Ava. Johnny gave up the Detroit mafia drop off to Raylan and the Marshals. Now Detroit is pissed. Whew. No one is safe… though it’s looking likely that Ava, Johnny, and Colton are all probably going down in some way. And the Marshals had better hold on to Shelby – Raylan has a baby on the way and needs a promotion!
Also, is there a better way to start an episode of Justified than with witty banter between Raylan and Boyd? Not really. We get that here as Boyd playfully suggests to Raylan that he should have followed Arlo’s path of being an outlaw, “You should have been on the other side, with me and your daddy. You’d still be able to shoot people and be an asshole. Your two favorite activities! Except you would be a rich asshole.” Perfection. Ever-present with the humor and wonderful chemistry between Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins is the ongoing theme of fathers and sons – and the fine line between outlaw and hero.
The relationship between Shelby and Ellen May is also quite refreshing, in that it’s non-sexual. Ellen May is finally touched that someone is looking out for her and is devastated when Shelby hands her a wad of cash and goes on his own way. Seeing a stray dog in the street reminds him of the poor, dim former prostitute and he goes back to retrieve her. Ellen May is not without any ideas in her head, as she has an idea of where to hide – wait for it – with meat cleaver wieldin’, pig slaughterin’ Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) from last season. Yes, the “cut to Limehouse” might be cheesy. But… it’s Limehouse! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Justified didn’t forget about him – he’s still kickin’ and still hoarding cash.
Williamson really serves it as Limehouse in this guest spot. He wipes pig’s blood off his giant knife with casual abandon, and he smiles menacingly with those jacked up teeth. It’s exciting that he came back, because his rather interesting character was somewhat marred by his association with the worst Justified “big bad” in history, Detroit pederast Quarles (Neil McDonough), even though Limehouse did save the day eventually by hacking off Quarles’ arm. Again, Justified worked well this season because it mainly stuck to Harlan County’s homegrown criminals rather than bringing in too much of Detroit. And Mike O’Malley? You’re cool in my book.
The standout moment in this episode for me was when Johnny betrayed Boyd to Raylan because all of the hatred and resentment finally bubbling over. Since Boyd figured out that Shelby was with Ellen May at Limehouse’s, Johnny became completely disenfranchised with Wynn Duffy, so telling Raylan Shelby’s location was really his only play left against his cousin. David Meunier’s impeccable, seething delivery of his anti-Boyd monologue was absolutely staggering – he conjured up some lingering feelings for Ava and the fact that he feels that he should have been running things. He was Bo’s right hand man the entire time Boyd was blowing up stuff and preaching in the woods. The struggle between the Crowders is nearly Shakespearean, with Johnny the Iago to Boyd’s Othello. And Johnny succeeds – the Marshals get Shelby first, intercepting the Detroit helicopter drop off. Boyd will most definitely get suspicious, unless Johnny can successfully blame Colton for tipping off Raylan.
There was also a great little scene between Colton and Shelby as Colton had him in handcuffs awaiting the helicopter. Shelby has Colton pegged. While bulky and lumbering – physically menacing – Colton is a scared little boy, scarred by Kuwait and dependent on heroin to get through the day. Shelby dares him to pull the trigger, and Colton puts on a big show, claiming that Shelby will get punished far worse. Colton’s bravado here, however, masks that he’s unable to shoot Shelby, and Ron Eldard truly gives a layered performance as his furtive eyes are masked by his aggressive tone and faux dangerous actions.
Colton’s got to know that he’s a dead man, so it’s somewhat surprising that he is even trying to prove himself to Boyd, rather than shooting up in his car. Again, it would be a lot more rewarding if Tim kills him instead of Boyd, as it’s somewhat been alluded to for a few episodes now. Unless there’s a Tim/Colton spin-off show. Which I would totally watch. But since there isn’t one… a tragic soldier vs. soldier face-off would do just fine.
Danger lurks everywhere! Not just for Johnny, but for Colton (Boyd has to kill him, right?) and now Ava, who publicly betrayed Ellen May at Noble’s Holler. Ellen May spits in Ava’s face – the blind hero worship officially over. Given the many obvious clues, I have been guessing all season that Ava will bite the dust, though it’s going to be interesting to see how that goes down (if it does). Clearly, Detroit is now pissed at Boyd so she can easily become collateral damage. But will Ellen May betray her to the authorities? Is she that cunning? Hmm… it’s difficult to picture Ellen May phoning the police, so perhaps she might inadvertently tell the wrong person about Ava being a murderess. Per the urging of Shelby, Raylan might go seek out Ellen May for intel, though given that Detroit might hijack Shelby from the Marshals, Ellen May is not exactly a big priority.
Next week can’t come soon enough, and it will be hugely exciting to see how Season Four’s storyline plays out.
The Upside: Most things worked this extremely well this week. The episode unfolded so quickly and so effectively and was genuinely exciting to watch.
The Downside: I guess the Limehouse reveal was mildly cheesy… but I appreciated it anyway!
On the Side: Timothy Olyphant swallowed his pride – I’m guessing at the cost of entertaining his own children – and appeared on Sesame Street. You’re welcome.
Top Moments of Badassery: Boyd riffing with Raylan, Art waxing enthusiastic on Drew’s “pretty badass shit” and not telling the “statues,” Wynn Duffy’s sleep mask, and Limehouse very casually wiping pig’s blood off on his shirt.