Review: ‘Justified’ – ‘This Bird Has Flown’

Senior Television Writer
01.29.13 99 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I download the song about looking for a rainbow in every storm…

“How much you know about this girl?” -Rachel

“This Bird Has Flown” probably wasn’t as compelling as some of the other season 4 episodes so far, if only because I don’t really care about Lindsey one way or the other. I haven’t minded her in the past, but nor have I felt a need to see more of her in the way that, say, Joelle Carter popped off the screen as Ava back in season 1.

Ultimately, though, I think the episode worked because it didn’t really hinge on that question of where her loyalties lay. It was about Raylan trying to talk himself into something that he knew probably wasn’t true, just as the episode’s B-story featured Ava going into similar contortions about Ellen May, when she had to know, deep down, that they would wind up having to kill her.

And I appreciated not only how the two stories paralleled each other – and both ended with the woman of questionable loyalties disappearing into the wind – but how Graham Yost and company have been structuring the season so far. There’s the big mystery arc lurking in the background (and only touched on briefly tonight; see below), but for the most part, it’s a string of smaller events, with one leading to the next, and then to the next. Randall shows up a few episodes ago, then Lindsey disappears with him and Raylan’s cash. Preacher Billy turns up for a few episodes and dies(*), but it turns out that the real threat is the spiritual rebirth he’s inspired in Ellen May, and the damage she can do to Ava.(**)

(*) I thought that was something of a mistake, the way this episode treated Billy’s death as accepted fact. Yes, his odds weren’t good of surviving the bite, but the way the information was delivered here felt anticlimactic, especially given how good Joseph Mazzello was in his three earlier episodes.

(**) Ava’s arc this season very much brings to mind that line from the “Boardwalk Empire” pilot where Jimmy tells Nucky he can’t be half a gangster anymore. That, or Mike Ehrmentraut’s line to Walter White about the danger of half-measures. She’s either a full-on part of a criminal empire, or she’s out.

The other part of the episode I quite liked was the work it did in continuing Operation: Tim and Rachel, here focusing on the latter and her budding friendship with Raylan. Four episodes in, I do feel like I can discuss actual character traits for the two of them. We can see that Rachel, for instance, likes and/or respects Raylan a bit, whereas Tim just sees him as a pain in the ass. They both enjoy mocking him, but Rachel is also looking to him as something of a mentor, in a way very evocative of McNulty and Kima in “The Wire,” and I hope things turn out better for Rachel than they did for Kima.

And because of the way these episodes have been structured, with some kind of surprise at the end of each hour that sets things up for what the next show will be about, it’s hard to get too hung up on a particular episodic story. After all, I got to spend an hour watching Raylan Givens banter and shoot people with bean bags. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Some other thoughts:

* The Drew Thompson mystery gets put on hold this week, save for a fleeting, intriguing clue: Shelby is reading the autopsy report when his deputies bring Cassie in. We know Shelby was also a cop in his younger years, and I’m assuming he’ll have some connection to the case, as well. More Jim Beaver is never a bad thing.

* Ron Eldard hasn’t had a lot to do so far as Colton, but we get our first sign that the man isn’t quite as comfortable with killing – at least, with killing women (and/or innocents) – than he seemed when he was introduced in the season premiere.

* Always glad to see Navi Rawat, who pops up for a short but memorable scene as Gina, the woman who jokingly offers to wrestle Raylan. Hope this wasn’t a one-shot deal for her.

* To bring in just one more cable drama comparison, it was hard not to think of a certain “Sopranos” scene while Ellen May was riding in the car with Colton, even though she seemed to understand much less of what was going on. (Or was faking it better, based on her apparent escape at the gas station.)

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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