‘Justified’ – ‘Blaze of Glory’: The old man and the emphysema

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I call you on Skype…

“I think I have a problem.” -Winona

After the intensity of last week’s explosive Boyd outing, “Justified” shifts into a more minor key for “Blaze of Glory,” a decidedly laid-back outing whose two climactic scenes involve a bank robbery where everyone’s moving slowly and speaking quietly, and a foot chase between an elderly man with emphysema and a slightly younger man with bad knees and a hearing aid.

But if the show was more relaxed than last week, it was still very entertaining in its own way. It helps that the Elmore Leonard style doesn’t really depend on elaborate shoot-outs and chase scenes and lots of yelling. (The best parts of his books tend to involve characters talking about the big confrontation they expect, only for someone to usually think his way around that.) As conceived by Leonard, played by Tim Olyphant and written by the “Justified” team, Raylan is such a compelling character that I’ll gladly watch him step cautiously into a bank robbery and have himself an even-keeled conversation with the two robbers before convincing one to surrender and punching the other in the face. There was still plenty of tension in that scene, and the solution made perfect sense, as I couldn’t see that cocky bully willingly strapping a bunch of dynamite to his chest.

Similarly, Art’s solo airport confrontation with senior citizen criminal Frank Reasoner was no less effective for being so low-stakes. Yes, it’s funny to see the two older man shuffle after each other in this way, but the story also takes their fear of aging and death, their regrets about their lives, and their shared history, seriously before it goes all Grumpy Old Men on us. And the story as a whole was a nice spotlight for Art. The bosses on these shows weren’t always bosses, after all, and while Art was surely never as reckless as Raylan, we know he’s a crack shot and a quick draw, and I could imagine Art as the laconic young hero of a US Marshal drama circa the early ’90s.

Winona’s end of things was more of a mixed bag. We’ve established that she and Gary have big money problems, so I could see her maybe trying something as stupid as stealing the money from evidence. But at the same time, it felt a bit like the Rachel storyline from a few weeks ago: the writing staff trying to come up with material for a character who was underserviced in the first season, and in this case stretching to include her in a professional context for Raylan. We’ll see if this has any long-term repercussions – if this were “The Shield” or “Sons of Anarchy,” they could easy spend half a season on trying to track that bill down as it keeps changing hands – but this doesn’t seem at first glance to be the area of expertise or interest for “Justified.” I’d rather get back to Harlan.

On the other hand, I did quite like Raylan and Winona’s conversations about the end of their marriage, the meaning behind that touch of her belly in the episode with the pregnant fugitive, their chance of making it work a second time, etc. Olyphant and Natalie Zea work well together, and the writers have crafted a complicated relationship where neither one is an obvious bad guy, and there’s no easy way for them to fix things this time around.

No Bennetts this week, and no Boyd after the opening credits, but an effective pause before what I assume will be more fireworks, soon.

Some other thoughts:

• Yeah, Ava and Boyd are such a well-oiled machine at this point – and Boyd made his feelings for Ava so plain to Raylan – that I think we have to set the over on the start of an Ava/Boyd romance as two episodes from now, at the absolute most. It’s coming, and coming soon, and I expect it to be a lot of fun.

• The lead ATF agent interrogating the two of them about Boyd’s vigilante move at the coal mine was played by Conor O’Farrell, who, like Nick Searcy as Art, is an alum of the Graham Yost-produced “From the Earth to the Moon.” (O’Farrell played Jim McDivitt, who was most prominent in the Yost-directed “Spider,” my favorite installment of that great miniseries.)  

• I’ve never been to Kentucky and therefore can’t speak to how well the show is faking that location from its California home, I can say that the series usually does a good job of not making it look blatantly like they’re filming in California. But the scene where Raylan approaches the bank being robbed sure looked like it had a bunch of palm trees in the background.

What did everybody else think?