A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as something comes between me and my Calvins…
Well, that was some fun, wasn’t it?
“Over the Mountain” isn’t exactly the “Justified” equivalent of “Pine Barrens” from “The Sopranos,” in that all of Dewey Crowe’s misfortunes happen on his own turf, where the whole point of “Pine Barrens” was putting suburban gangsters in the wilderness. But when you put a criminal in the woods and have him suffer one humiliation after another in black comic fashion, it’s going to evoke one of the most famous TV hours ever. And it was the “Justified”-specific elements of it that made “Over the Mountain” work as more than just a rehash of a classic.
It’s pretty remarkable how consistently the show is able to make us sympathize with Dewey Crowe. On the one hand, he’s a violent neo-Nazi criminal. On the other, he’s an idiot who is constantly manipulated, bullied, and taken advantage of by those who are smarter and/or stronger than him, whether his cousin Daryl, Boyd, the two hustlers who told him they had stolen his kidneys, or Raylan Givens himself. Dewey invites almost all the abuse thrown his way, but dammit of the writers and Damon Herriman haven’t turned him into a sad clown over the years. So here, Dewey winds up killing ex-Webelo and government informant (and onetime Raylan Givens) Wade Messer to satisfy Daryl, but in a way that only wraps him tighter in his cousin’s web. Dewey seems destined to always be someone else’s victim, even when he’s murdering a third party, though wouldn’t it be something if this season climaxes with Dewey somehow getting over on his many tormentors?
“Over the Mountain” was also the first episode where I really started to appreciate Michael Rapaport’s performance as Daryl, and not just because he’s dialed back the accent into something more manageable. There are some elements of the Bennett clan in how the Crowes close ranks around one another – and in the introduction of Jacob Lofland(*) as teenage brother Kendall (not exactly Loretta 2.0, but with some commonalities) – but there’s a level of caginess to Daryl that’s intriguing. He doesn’t ever hide who he is, but you can see him thinking through scenarios – as Raylan puts it, “What happens after what happens next” – even as he’s making threats, and that final confrontation between Raylan and the Crowes was the season’s most electric moment so far.
(*) When I first saw Lofland in the fine indie film “Mud” (playing the awesomely-named Neckbone), I immediately thought that he’d make a perfect “Justified” actor. Glad I wasn’t the only one to think so.
Raylan taking Kendall away from his brothers also tied in nicely to the previous scene between him and Allison, where she tells him about her latest lousy day and he offers her comfort. This has now gone from a sexy fling into something more serious, and as he goes back to Harlan, Raylan is essentially playing social worker in removing Kendall from an unhealthy situation. His motives are less pure than Allison’s – he’s doing it to stick it to Daryl and Danny as much as he is to help Kendall – but I wonder if he would have even thought to do it without that earlier conversation.
Raylan and Tim’s travels through Harlan, meanwhile, not only gave us their hilarious reaction to Danny’s dog, but our first Raylan/Boyd encounter of the season. “Justified” always takes on an added charge when those two are in a room together. Yet even before David Vasquez commented on Raylan and Boyd’s relationship, I couldn’t help noticing that Raylan had very easy grounds to violate Boyd’s parole and chose not to. Yes, Boyd leads him a step closer to Wade, but Raylan’s spiteful enough that he could have sent him back to prison, anyway, but instead lets him run off to what he knew would be more criminal activity. The two of them are more tangled together than Raylan would want to admit, and things should be awfully interesting whenever the plot finally pits them directly against each other again.
Some other thoughts:
* The end scene with Boyd and the corpses felt both abrupt and out of left field, until somebody reminded me that last week, near the end of the tattoo scene, Mara asked Boyd if he could get access to multiple dead bodies. We don’t know what she needs them for, but presumably that scene was part of her plan.
* Cousin Johnny is working with Hot Rod Dunham, which means the chance of a return appearance by the Harris brothers is very high. Excellent.
* Emmy-winning writer and sometime actor Danny Strong pops up as power-drunk prison guard Albert, who tries to molest Ava before learning what happens when you harass someone who’s “protected.” The only question is whether Boyd himself has enough juice to receive said protection, or whether someone else (Johnny? Raylan?) has put in the order.
* Will Sasso returns (albeit, sadly, without Dave Foley) and gives Art another big clue about Raylan’s involvement in Nicky Augustine’s murder. At the rate this side investigation is progressing, we might not have to wait for the final season for the inevitable Raylan/Art confrontation.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org