Well, I guess that settles that. Let’s get right to it (after the jump, obviously, because spoilersspoilersspoilers).
First and foremost, here’s showrunner Graham Yost discussing the Drew Thompson reveal in his weekly postmortem at EW:
We didn’t know until we were finishing up breaking episode 405. We had played with various other possibilities. Initially, we were thinking Drew would be a Clover Hill person. And then we thought, “Eh, we don’t really know them. We’re not invested.” And then we thought maybe Josiah [guest star Gerald McRaney], who got his foot chopped off. “Yeah, but we were thinking we wanted Drew to go on the run, and that wouldn’t work.” And then I got a call that Ben Cavell in the writers room had hit on an idea. It might have come up before that, and we all just kind of pooh-poohed it. But in that context, he said, “What if Shelby’s Drew?” And we put [story editor] VJ [Boyd] [Ed. note - SHOUTOUT TO VJ BOYD] on it — we jokingly call him Storytron 6000 — and he’s brilliant at tracking everything back and saying, “Okay, in season 2, this is what we knew about Shelby…” So he tracked it back and found that it could fit with a few little nudges. Tim’s response immediately to it was ours: We liked the idea of a guy who was on the run from the law working as a sheriff’s deputy for years and then becoming the sheriff. That was partly suggested by something that [EP Fred Golan] had read about, a guy was running for Congress and then it was found out he was living under a stolen identity. Then it became a balancing act: We wanted to support the answer, but we didn’t want to give it away. The thing is, in this modern world, people really pay such close attention to everything in a show, and because of the various forums and blogs and feeding off each other, it’s harder to really pull it off as a complete surprise.
And I guess that’s the thing, isn’t it? That the moment of truth wasn’t a complete surprise for a lot of viewers? I mean, of course Shelby was Drew. He had to be. The crumbs that were laid out over the last few weeks clearly pointed us in that direction, so when Hunter did the whole “So what now, Drew?” thing in the back of the squad car, it was more about confirmation than a dramatic reveal. But here’s the real question, and I’m not sure I have a definitive answer: Does it matter that we kind of knew?
Like, sure, they could have made Drew one of the rich old coot Harlan Illuminati guys, but that would have required a lot of backstory being thrown together for people we haven’t particularly cared about to this point. Or they could have made it a total stranger, but that brings up the same problems as the last option, with the added “What the hell? Who is this guy?” issues that arise with bringing in an important new character with a handful of episodes left in the season. Or, I suppose, they could have had a spaceship land right on top of the marshal’s office and had a green, twelve-headed alien saunter into Art’s office and announce “Hello, I am Drew Thompson” through its human voice modulator, moments before Will Smith walked in and punched it in five or six of its heads. All options that were on the table.
All in all, I think I like that Shelby turned out to be Drew, for a couple reasons. First of all, it sets up a close to the season that will feature a bunch of characters we know and love (Raylan, Boyd, Wynn Duffy [once he finds out, which he will]) hunting down another character we’ve come to know and love, with very different intentions. And second, it feels a little silly to punish a show for not fooling us when the process of not fooling us has been so damn fun.
And now, the highlights:
- I could watch Art rampage forever. Grumpy Art is nice, Sarcastic Art is fine, and Excited “Marshal Stiffy” Art is just a dang good time. But Angry Art? The one who storms around the office yelling “GODDAMMIT” at any poor soul who had the temerity to show up to work that day? That’s my dude.
- A couple really great scenes this week: 1) Boyd and Colt in the office getting to the bottom of the Ellen May business. Boyd is great when he’s calmly quoting classic literature in tense criminal situations, but he can also be downright menacing sometimes. 2) Hunter and Raylan at the end of the episode. Raylan’s Hallmarked-up version of his last moments with Arlo cracked me up, given that we all know the old man’s last words to his son were “Kiss my ass.” The real killer there, though, was Hunter’s line to Raylan: “I think we both know whose voice it is makes you do what you do.” Hoo boy. Like a scalpel.
- Speaking of Colt, he is not long for this world. Can’t be. I thought for sure he was a goner last night, and now he’s on borrowed time. Time that’s been borrowed from Tim. Apricot? Apricot.
- Funniest moments of the night: 1) Art dropping a “Don’t be a smartass!” on Tim, which, let’s be honest here, as much as I love Tim’s perma-sass, was a long time coming. 2) Constable Bob’s l’esprit de l’escalie moment walking away from Lee Paxton (“You go play ASSHOLE in the mirror, Lee!”), which, obviously, led to a shootout involving automatic weapons and handles of bourbon. Kentucky, y’all.
- The worst part about Boyd getting arrested and Ava going into hiding is that we probably won’t get to see them shop for houses with a suitcase full of money for a while. I wanted that to be next week’s entire B-plot.
- “I’m supposed to be back here sh-tttin’ myself?” “Lord, I hope not.”
- Raylan Givens, on Wynn Duffy: “Eh, Dixie Mafia such-and-such. Tools around in a motor coach. Don’t matter.” Accurate, I guess. But he probably should have mentioned the eyebrows. (Oh, also, how cool was that tiny, eensie-weensie moment of compassion Wynn showed after finding out Arlo died? It’s the little things with this show. It’s mostly the big things like an incompetent constable with a Napoleon complex spraying a house with bullets, but it’s definitely the little things, too.)
- No Jackie Nevada again this week. My guess? She got held up in Atlantic City after some seedy low-lifes caught her cleaning up in late-night, big-money card games. Don’t worry, she’ll figure a way out of it. After all, this is Jack Nevada we’re talking about.
- I still wish, after we found out Shelby was Drew, “he” pulled off a wax mask, Mission: Impossible-style, to reveal that he WAS MAGS THE WHOLE TIME! BUT HOW?! IT CAN’T BE?! I THOUGHT SHE WAS DEAD?!
GIFs from Chet Manley’s are on the following pages. Please do not shove dog sh-t down my throat.