By Josh Logue
There’s so much to like about “Justified.” How well it handles plotting and characterization. How surefooted and streamlined each episode feels. How it’s both comfortable in its genre while simultaneously and subtly transcending it. All of that was on display this week, but the show’s playful knack for language and dialect took center stage in this episode.
Unlike, say, something David Milch might write for HBO (ala “Deadwood” and “Luck”), “Justified” will jump in and out of ornate, area-specific dialogue (mostly Boyd’s) as it pleases, and, most importantly, it’ll have fun along the way without ever feeling too stylized or cartoonish (though it does walk that edge).
For example, “I come,” said one character this week, “with no more lofty of an aim than to apprise you of the situation in which you find yourself.”
Well what do you know. Me too! So let’s get into it.
That was Tye Walker, the mystery man who was offering everyone briefcases full of cash for their property, letting Boyd know Tye’s boss would look poorly on any further attempt to rob local real estate “sad sack” Calhoun.
Boyd angrily dismisses Tye for interrupting his “repast” and immediately sends Ava to reconnoiter the vault in Tye’s ex-bank come pizza place base of operations. Choo-choo and Tye see right through her ruse, however, and before long, Boyd (who was violently kidnapped) and Ava (who was not) are sitting in front of the season’s big baddy (at least so far), finally revealed in episode three. Aaaand, it’s Sam Elliott! Playing, in this case, Avery Markham, whose southern drawl hasn’t lost a step since those sarsaparilla swilling “The Big Lebowski” days. We saw him acting ominously in bed with Katherine in the premiere, but now we know she’s trying to use Boyd to rob him. We also learn directly from Avery himself that he “grew up in Kentucky, my life entire” without every developing a taste for bourbon (rare for this show) and the last time they met, Boyd was “no bigger ‘en a minute.” He’s also some sort of crime lord, and Boyd is determined to rip him off to finally make a life for him and Ava. We’ll see how that goes. Hasn’t worked yet.
Ava is still a giant dangling question mark in the air. She’s stuck between the feds on one side, who’ll send her right back to jail if she doesn’t bring them closer to nabbing Boyd ASAP, and Boyd on the other side, who already suspects her and probably wouldn’t hesitate to murder her if she betrays him (well, he’d hesitate, but he’d also probably go through with it). It’s hard to tell where her heart is. Half the actions she makes, like meeting Raylan whenever he texts for an update, imply she’s ready to backstab Boyd, and everything else she does, like SCOUTING a bank vault, says she’s all in with Boyd. No wonder she drinks so much.
Meanwhile, Raylan is patiently inching closer to nailing Boyd. He and Rachel, who’s been woefully absent so far this season, follow a coal mine manager whose explosives have been disappearing to his deadbeat son who’s stealing them to the member of Boyd’s crew who’s forcing him to. By the time the episode wrapped up, it was still unclear if that would lead anywhere substantial, but the ride was colorful and tense at all the right moments, and featured plenty of Rachel, which was long overdue.
All the while, Raylan’s baby came up regularly, referred to twice by Raylan as a “tad” and once each as a “lump” and a “gob.” Like I said, plenty of dialect on display tonight in a good way. And the fact that the show hasn’t completely forgotten about Raylan’s daughter (like, oh I don’t know, “Homeland” did) is a testament to how considered and sympathetic this show is toward its characters. It knows what its doing and it doesn’t ignore tough questions. Avery himself gave voice to one of the central conflicts for Ava’s character – whether she was strong enough to stand on her own in the harsh world of crime, or whether she’d be relegated to the one who gets threatened when anyone wants to get to Boyd. That question has been central to Ava’s character for several seasons now, and it looks like we may be in for a more definitive answer. Although I’m not even really in this for definitiveness. Just a dozen more episodes like this one and I’ll be plenty happy. That’s all I want.