A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as you step away from the dirty cop…
“And here's how it works: you protect your partner, and you avenge them against people who do them wrong.” -Katherine
People, can we talk about Michael Cosmatopolis for a moment, please?
“Fugitive Number One” was another fabulous episode, loaded up with all the things that has made this final season, and “Justified” as a whole, such a pleasure to watch. Plenty of scenes this week would be the easy standout of another episode, or season, or even series – the hour was like a gourmet meal where the delicious courses kept coming somehow without filling up anyone's appetite. But the one I think I will be carrying with me involves the man Wynn called Mikey – even in his final moments, even after being told that the gentleman hated the nickname – standing up for his partner despite every piece of common sense, every line of his outlaw code, and every last bit of self-preservation he must have felt was screaming for him to simply step aside and let the pretty lady put a bullet in Wynn's head.
As “Justified” deaths go, Mikey's wasn't quite as haunting as Mags deliberately drinking from the wrong glass of her apple pie. But what it lacked in gravity from that character, it made up for in spectacle, as this seemingly goofy thug took bullet after bullet, point blank, from Katherine's gun, but stayed upright and fighting until he was sure she was dead and Wynn was safe. And then dammit if I didn't get choked up anyway for poor, dumb Mikey as he asked Wynn to comfort him in his last moments(*). As with the death of Choo-Choo a few weeks ago, it's amazing how much depth and shading the show was able to give to a minor comic relief character in the process of killing him off.
(*) That scene does, however, seem to debunk my theory that Wynn and Mikey were more than just two adult gentlemen living together in an RV. Which is probably for the best; if they had explicitly introduced that concept in Mikey's final moments, it could have run the risk of overshadowing the sacrifice that happened before. It works just fine as Mike standing up for his “partner,” and Wynn in turn comforting the employee who saved his life. (And Wynn's response to the 911 operator's question about what the nature of his emergency was enough black comic relief for that whole scene, frankly.)
But Mike wasn't the only blindly-loyal henchman to suffer a bad outcome in “Fugitive Number One.” Later, Carl makes the mistake of trusting Boyd yet again, not realizing that all his boss needs him for at this point is as a fatally-wounded distraction for his escape from the hospital. (This is a bad move for Carl, but a very good move for those of us still hoping for a Raylan/Boyd showdown before all is said and done.)
Their deaths – and Katherine's, for that matter – involve characters not truly understanding the situation they're in. Carl thinks Boyd would actually split the money with him. Mikey thinks Katherine can be reasoned with (and also that Wynn is worth dying over, if it comes to that). Katherine thinks (no doubt buoyed by her victory over Seabass a few episodes ago) that she can go on her own to take out Wynn as a wedding present for Markham. They're not all stupid, but they are all wrong about what they are walking into, whereas the characters who triumph this week have complete command of the room and their opponents' limitations.
Boyd knows he can hypnotize Carl one last time to get what he needs from him, just as Raylan can not only instantly sniff out the dirty cop in the Harlan jail, but can call him out on every single thought running through the man's head to make sure that Earl is handed over without bloodshed. It's a fantastic scene in a season that's been full of marvelous verbal dexterity, and even if it gets overshadowed by what happens moments later in the Wynnebago,
It's impressive how many balls the show has managed to keep in the air even this late in the season, and even with all the characters killed off or locked up this week. With two episodes to go (sigh), Boyd and Ava are both fugitives, the careers of Raylan and Rachel and Art (who returns to his post as head of the field office clean-shaven and confident) are in the balance, David Vasquez believes Raylan is dirty, Wynn is somehow still alive, Boon is still threatening both Raylan and Loretta, and Avery Markham has just discovered that the only reason he came back to Kentucky is dead.
When Raylan insists on going after Boyd no matter what his orders are, Art gives him 48 hours to get it done or be considered a fugitive himself. That deadline should just about take us to the end of this series, and as sad as I am that we're almost done, it's clear that knowing the end was in sight has reinvigorated everyone involved in making it.
Rest in peace, Mikey, Carl and Katherine. I suspect you'll have a lot more company in the ground before we're through.
Some other thoughts:
* Though she's the episode's title character, and is responsible for many of the actions taken for others, Ava doesn't get a lot to do this week. I was amused to have her and Zachariah discover that Grubes, their potential guide out of Harlan, had died a long time ago, thus leaving behind a ton of survivalist rations for someone else to enjoy. Maybe Wynn can move in there while the Wynnebago is being cleaned?
* Since this episode takes place the day after the previous one, when exactly did Boon have time to have a custom cowboy hat made? Or was it already in the works, regardless of what happened with the hipster diner clerk?
* Carl refers to Boon at one point as “the hot kid,” which was the name of one of Elmore Leonard's better late-career books, referring to a Great Depression-era lawman known for his gunslingin' ways.
* I'm really impressed with how much production has been able to use Kaitlyn Dever so far, even for an episode like this where she's only in one brief scene. I know that multi-cam comedy production is pretty flexible, especially since she's not the star of hers, but network shows often will only let series regulars make one or two guest appearances per season on other shows. Good on all involved at “Last Man Standing” for letting this happen, and allowing one of the show's richest characters to be a relatively consistent and prominent part of this final season.
* Crime shows and movies have taught me that you never want to keep a stolen cop car for long, because the cops have the ability to track them, yet Boyd is still driving the dirty deputy's car at the episode's end. Is the sheriffs department in Harlan County too poor to spring for LoJack?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org