A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as we do the Hammer and Anvil…
“Wrong Roads” introduces us to the DEA equivalent of Raylan Givens: Alex Miller, a hard-drinking gunslinger who has clearly alienated everyone in his field office the way Raylan has in Lexington, but who is good enough at his job that he gets away with it. As played by the always-colorful Eric Roberts, Miller was enough fun that I could imagine a parallel version of the show with Miller chasing bad guys, going to Hot Rod Dunham for information(*), and tangling regularly with the Harris brothers. He doesn't have a code quite as rigid as Raylan's – he shoots Roscoe before the time was up to drop his weapon – but his behavior in the final scene with Danny Crowe suggests a guy who does the job as much for the fun of it as for a belief in justice.
(*) The scene where Hot Rod died sipping from Miller's flask did a nice job of sketching in a very old relationship in only a couple of minutes.
I wouldn't want to trade our version of “Justified” for the Memphis one, because it would cost us Raylan and Boyd and so many other strong characters. (Wynn Duffy, for instance, finally comes back into the picture and is as understandably frustrated with these hillbillies as you would expect.) But watching Jay and Roscoe operate in tandem, giving jukebox-related ultimatums and quoting King Lear (and then, better, explaining the context of the quote and how it applies to this lousy situation they find themselves in), I found myself really wishing we could have worked out a fictional trade between those two and the entire Crowe family.
It's not just that we know how good Wood and Steve Harris can be elsewhere – and Wood in a drug-dealing context, at that – but that in a fraction of the screentime afforded to the various Crowes, they've been everything Daryl and his clan have not been: complex, funny and genuinely threatening. There's an artifice to all their antics – they very clearly want to be impressive and memorable in their antics – but in a way that feels like Elmore Leonard himself might have created them.
Now, Jay and Roscoe replacing Daryl and Danny wouldn't solve all of this season's problems. They wouldn't make Boyd's attempt to get all the heroin into Harlan drag significantly less. They wouldn't make Ava's time behind bars feel like more of a part of the show. And they certainly wouldn't have been able to do anything with the early Lee Paxton stories. But the show would be more fun whenever they were around, and when all else fails on “Justified,” the show can always lean back on fun.
“Wrong Roads” certainly had more momentum and tension than last week's episode did. Raylan and Boyd's stories directly intersected – though I cannot for the life of me figure out what happened from a law-enforcement standpoint after Jay surrendered, and why some characters were apparently arrested (and on what charges) while others were not – Wynn came back (and did not approve of his hotel's coffee), Olyphant and Roberts had nice chemistry and there were a bunch of successful comic moment. (I particularly appreciated how both Wynn and the new bartender can't conceal their understandable disgust with all things Harlan.) And Art's discussion with Raylan was, as pretty much any Searcy/Olyphant scene is, excellent.
But half of Boyd's heroin is still out in the wind, thanks to Dewey going rogue on Danny, and Ava still hasn't set up her drug connection. And each added complication brings the show closer to “Sons of Anarchy”-style overplotting. It's not that I especially care about the heroin shipment, but that so much of the season has been about this one problem that I just want it resolved already so we can move onto something more interesting. Wendy and Kendall can't wait to get away from this mess, and I do not exactly blame them.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org