A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as I'm more of a cribbage guy…
“Justified” has treated Raylan and Boyd as co-leads for a while now, but there have been times this season where Boyd has gotten so much to do – and been connected to so many different ongoing stories (Ava in prison, Lee Paxton, Cousin Johnny, the Mexican cartel and now this team-up with the Crowes) – that it's felt like he's now the lead and Raylan is a supporting character in his own show.
“Raw Deal” certainly does not skimp on Boyd and Boyd-related shenanigans. Ava gets involved with the prison's heroin-smuggling operation and – in part to avoid regular sex with a guard – arranges to have Boyd take over the supply. There's a lengthy interlude in Mexico where it seems like Johnny has gotten one over on Boyd, until it turns out that Yoon wouldn't break a relationship so quickly and was just running a short con on Johnny. And then the Crowes, eager to make themselves more important to Boyd's organization, wipe out Johnny's goons, an event so enraging to Boyd that he finally kills his cousin out of sheer frustration.
But even in such an eventful hour for Boyd, what's happening at the U.S. Marshals office feels like an even bigger deal. Raylan's story starts off as a pretty straightforward standalone case, an amusing instance of analog cowboy Raylan going up against a digital criminal(*), filled with light moments (like Raylan's reaction to one-legged TC making it out the window so nimbly) even in an episode where Larry the backgammon player got shot in the head and Mr. Kemp kept threatening to shoot TC's girlfriend's limbs off.
(*) It's also a neat inversion of Olyphant's role in “Live Free or Die Hard.”
But from the start, there's also the tension of Art ignoring Raylan and issuing orders through Rachel or Tim, which leads to the argument at the end. It's a terrific scene: Art understandably cold and distant, Raylan petulant that Art hasn't forgiven him already for his role in a murder (and one that could destroy Art's career and legacy if word ever got out), until Raylan finally demands a transfer. Though Raylan remains our hero, it's impressive that the show continues to put its sympathies with the boss who can't stand him. Raylan crossed a line with Nicky Augustine, and when he references funding his trip to Florida by winning a radio contest – taking TC up on his offer – we're reminded yet again that Raylan has no problem being an outlaw when it suits his purposes.
On the one hand, I'm disappointed that we only have a season and a half to go with this show. On the other hand, such a limited lifespan – on yet another FX show that compresses time enough that the remaining episodes could all take place before Art's due to retire in a few months – raises many more possibilities. Art could grant his request for a transfer and yet Raylan could reasonably be stuck in the Lexington field office for the duration of the series without it feeling contrived.
And with Raylan trying to turn Wendy against Daryl, and Daryl and Danny worming their way ever deeper into Boyd's organization, the two halves of the show appear to be converging before this season's end. Olyphant and Goggins are each good enough to carry their own end of things, but “Justified” is always better when they're together. The final season almost certainly has to be about the final confrontation between those two men; now we get to see what it takes to get them there.
Some other thoughts:
* I could have done without TC hiding out in his grandmother's basement as one final computer nerd signifier, but I loved Raylan posting a taunting comment on TC's blog. It suggests a major paradigm shift for the series, where instead of threatening guys to their face, Raylan takes to Twitter. #YouMakeMePullIPutYouDown
* When he passes Raylan on the staircase, Kemp makes a Dr. Richard Kimble joke, since “The Fugitive” is still the most famous depiction of U.S. Marshals in pop culture. It's a nice touch here, since Kimble was chasing a one-armed man, while Raylan winds up chasing a one-legged one.
* Desperate for someone to give him good advice about – and perhaps protection from – Danny, Kendall calls his Uncle Jack, whom I'm guessing will not be the same as Todd's Uncle Jack on “Breaking Bad,” even though both families are into white supremacy.
Kendall calls his Uncle Jack, who presumably will not be the same as Todd's Uncle Jack.
* I will be very unhappy if this is the last we see of either Harris brother. With Johnny dead, I suppose Boyd can place Hot Rod back in charge of his own operation, but would Hot Rod trust those guys not to stab him in the back again?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com