A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I’m looking at a bright future in mall security…
“So what now… Drew?” -Hunter
There was a brief period during “The Hatchet Tour” when I began to doubt my theory that Shelby was Drew Thompson. He got in the car with Raylan and Hunter, after all, and Hunter seemed awfully casual with him. I know Brent Sexton is a great actor, but is Hunter? And as my attention turned back to the surviving Clover Hill swells, I grew to like the idea of Shelby being exactly who he claimed to be: a straightforward lawman just trying to make sense of the ongoing lunacy of one Raylan Givens.
Ultimately, though, it had to be Shelby, and it was. No one else has registered enough as a character for the reveal of Drew’s identity to matter, and no one else is as involved in as many parts of the show right now as Shelby. I like Sam Anderson, but Lee’s only barely a character at this point, where the writers and Jim Beaver have made someone relevant to the show even if you take away whatever prior goodwill he has from “Deadwood,” “Supernatural,” etc. There really weren’t any viable alternatives, and if that made the revelation more predictable than it might have otherwise been, at least the answer feels more satisfying than if the writers had pulled a random Harlan citizen in from stage left.
What’s most interesting, though, is that they’ve chosen to solve the mystery with four episodes left to go in the season. That’s probably a smart way to play it, as I think a season-long whodunnit is a very hard thing to pull off in the era of social media, as I explained a year ago. The show played fair with us, but if the season had built solely to Raylan figuring out Shelby’s true identity, it might have felt anti-climactic. Instead, we have nearly a quarter of the season to deal with the fallout of this, with the Marshals, Theo Tonin’s goons and Boyd’s people all searching for Shelby (and perhaps poor Ellen May, who’s now caught up in this bigger mess) for various reasons. As Graham Yost put it back at press tour in January, “The mystery actually gets solved in the ninth episode. But then there are problems that come from the solving of it, and that plays out for the rest of the season.”
So I liked the way they structured things, and the decision to use Shelby as our mystery man. But I thought “The Hatchet Tour” was uneven at times in how it got us there.
In particular, it felt like we got an awful large pile of backstory dumped on us all at once to explain the motivations of both Hunter and Shelby, and for Raylan to finally put the pieces together. Hunter’s feud with the Crowders was mentioned when he was on the show back in season 1, and Constable Bob has told us part of that story a bunch of times before, but there was just a lot of new information that came flying at us in this episode, not always gracefully. You can mostly make out why Hunter’s doing what he’s doing at each stage – why he’s eager to run into oncoming traffic early, for instance, but not to attempt suicide again after Shelby’s identity is revealed – but it requires a little more guesswork than should perhaps be required in the middle of such a busy episode. I think some of the exposition required to explain Shelby, Hunter, Constable Bob and the Clover Hill swells, etc., could have perhaps been more gracefully inserted earlier.
The Boyd/Colton side of things at least gets more interesting now that Boyd has learned most of what’s going on (though not Johnny’s divided loyalties). I always enjoy those Elmore Leonard-y moments where we just watch Boyd think for a while, as he does after seeing the burglar alarm, and then later when he sees Raylan at Shelby’s house and realizes that he had Drew Thompson under his nose the whole time. Colton himself remains something of an underwhelming character, but I did find it interesting to watch Tim’s version of a Raylan Givens vigilante play. (Not sure, though, that I buy his “When I take him down, his eyes will be clear” rationale to Cassie, given that Colton doesn’t seem likely to sober up anytime soon.)
Mostly, though, I’m interested in seeing what comes next, now that everyone knows what Drew Thompson looks like 30 years later. It’s a good use of Jim Beaver, even if it means he’s all but certain to be off the show after this season.
Some other thoughts:
* A few of you suggested last week that we might see Raylan deal more with Arlo’s death in this episode, since Art was forcing him to take at least one day off. Nope – though, I suppose, Raylan and Hunter’s conversation in the final scene was as much emotional closure as Raylan’s going to allow himself, given how much he rightfully despised his old man.
* Who wants a Nick Searcy web series that is just Art throwing tantrums each time he gets a call at the office about the latest stupid goddamn stunt Raylan has pulled? Because that meltdown in the first scene after the opening credits was epic.
* And FX’s web division could perhaps pair it with “Wynn Duffy Reacts to Surprising Things,” because Jere Burns’ quizzical expression will never not be entertaining.
* Boyd and Ava get to have their “Pretty Woman” moment with the snobby realtor, but the two keep talking so much about living happily ever after in a big house that I have to think something bad’s coming for one of them – and the show’s not likely getting rid of Walton Goggins anytime soon, right? Will Ellen May put herself and Ava in jail? Or worse?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com