A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I threaten to sing showtunes…
“I know we’re on the run and all, but I ain’t never felt so free.” -Ellen May
The mystery phase of “Justified” season 4 is over, which is probably for the best. The show never really gave us a compelling alternative to Shelby(*) as Drew Thompson, and in fact had done such an iffy job of explaining why Drew mattered to so many people that I’ve been repeatedly asked about it each week in the comments, via email, on Twitter, by smoke signals, etc.
(*) In my notes, I found myself still referring to the character as Shelby, which is how I’ve known him since season 2. Curious, I asked Graham Yost how the scripts after last week’s referred to the character, and he said the writers ultimately made the same decision for the same reason, although “occasionally I would see a writer give dialogue to SHELBY, then, later in the scene, call him DREW.”)
That phase of the season is over, though, now, and we begin this new free-for-all stage with Art doing an entertaining rundown of all the “badass shit” Shelby has pulled over the years – and, therefore, why the Marshals, Boyd, Theo Tonin and company are all hot on his trail – before we get to see all the interested parties make their play for the guy in the sheriff’s uniform.
“Get Drew” is a pretty textbook piece-mover episode, there to get all the players in position for Raylan to make his “We just have to figure out how to get out of Harlan alive” declaration in the closing seconds. But as piece-movers go, it’s an awful lot of fun.
For starters, with Shelby’s true identity revealed, Jim Beaver gets a lot more to play, particularly in the struggle between the Drew who just wants to get the hell out of town and the Shelby who’s taken a shine to Ellen May and wants to protect her. She’s so damaged that she still thinks Ava has her best interests at heart until the final moments, and finds a life as a fugitive with Shelby an improvement over her current state.
Also, Shelby’s quest for sanctuary brings back a face I had given up on seeing this season. Limehouse is of course the man who would be tasked with protecting Ava, and the place Shelby might take Ellen May when all other options are exhausted. I’m glad to see Mykelti Williamson continue to be a part of this world, even when Limehouse has been absent for the great bulk of the season. (And we’ll see how long he stays involved this time, or if Ellen May is quickly rescued/purchased from Noble’s Holler next week, with Limehouse waving goodbye and returning to his hogs.)
Limehouse’s return also signals what I’m assuming will be the full cast complement for most, if not all, of the remaining three episodes. Rachel’s been gone for weeks, Tim was absent much of the early part of the season, and Art has appeared sporadically, but they’re all there trapped in Harlan with Raylan and Shelby, for what feels like it could be a riff on “The Professionals,” or “The Gauntlet” or my beloved “Midnight Run,” or any other tale of a small force trying to get out of very hostile enemy territory with something (or someone) valuable. I’m looking forward to seeing these four – plus Shelby, because you know at some point he’s going to wind up with a gun in his hand again – having to deal with Boyd, Colton, Johnny, Nicky Augustine, etc. (And I’ll be curious to see whether this attempted escape takes up just a single episode, or whether the next three episodes all take place over a few hours’ time.)
Even though we know where our heroes are and what they want to do, there are a lot of other uncertainties heading into the final lap. Will Wynn actually run away to Canada?(**) Will Boyd and Ava stay and try to explain things to Nicky, or will they hitch a ride to the great white north on the Wynn-ebago? Who might try to purchase Ellen May’s freedom, if only to mess with Ava? Where exactly do Johnny’s loyalties stand, other than to himself? Does Colton’s ability to avoid giving Shelby a suicide-by-MP mean he’s finally gotten his act together, and that Tim can feel righteous when he shoots him? And when and how will Constable Bob’s go bag figure into things?
(**) And, if so, can I amend last week’s request for a “Wynn Duffy Reacts to Unexpected Things” web series to involve him reacting to Canadian culture? Possibly co-starring the McKenzie Brothers?
Fun times all around. And now I have the urge for some soul food.
What did everybody else think?