‘Justified’ – ‘Loose Ends’: Mine over matter

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I invite you up here to discuss the sociology of baked goods…

“I’m either gonna put him in prison or in the ground.” -Raylan

When you have as many chess pieces as “Justified” has put on the board, you have to do an episode now and then that’s simply about moving the pieces into a new position. It just so happens that “Loose Ends” is the second of those in three episodes, but if the payoff for these chess moves can be as terrific as last week’s “Watching the Detectives” did with the moves from “The Man Behind the Curtain” the week before that, then I’m okay with it.

The major development here is that Raylan has now decided that his new life’s mission is to get rid of Robert Quarles, even if Art and various other members of law-enforcement don’t agree. He tries to get to him through Tanner – in another example of Boyd and Ava cleverly getting Raylan to help them out of a jam by pointing out where their interests coincide – but Tanner blows up real good(*) before he can provide any information of value. And after doing a solid for Tanner’s mom by setting up her new TV so she can watch her stories, Raylan tips to Limehouse’s role in all of this, but Limehouse isn’t prepared to part company with  Quarles just yet.

(*) Not sure I understand why Tanner didn’t just let the bomb disposal guy take the pistol out of his hand. Wouldn’t have required him to move, and would have eliminated the risk of dropping it and setting off the mine. If the idea was that weight was a factor, and even taking the pistol away would be a risk, it didn’t really come across well.

On this week’s podcast, Fienberg said that he wished the show were spending more time with Limehouse – or, more specifically, going into the history and position of Noble’s Holler within the larger community of Harlan. And that’s certainly been the price of having so many antagonists in action at the same time. If the show didn’t have to service Quarles and Limehouse and Boyd (and to a lesser extent Wynn, Dickie, Dewey, the standalone bad guys from the early episodes, etc.), it might be able to invest Limehouse (or Quarles, for that matter) with the same sense of grandeur and weight that it gave Mags last year. But it’s also been fun bouncing from one villain to the next, and there’s something to be said for a change of pace after last year was so strong.

I do wonder, though, how the season might look without Boyd and Ava as a major part of it, or in it at all. Walton Goggins is tremendous in this role. We know that, and we get another reminder of it here when he echoes Mags’ disruption of the Black Pike meeting last year by giving a hellfire and brimstone sermon against Napier(**) and for Shelby. You don’t want to have Goggins, and Joelle Carter, for that matter, on hand and not getting anything interesting to do. But there have been times this season where it feels like giving them something to do, as opposed to servicing the season’s big stories, has been the order of the day. Ava taking over as the local madam has promise, sure, and it was satisfying to see her turn a shotgun on the loathsome, manipulative Delroy, but thinking back on everything she and Boyd have been up to this year, I wonder if maybe the show wouldn’t have been better off finding a way to put them out of commission for a while to focus on Quarles and Limehouse.

(**) Not entirely sure why Harvey, the debate moderator whom Quarles bought and paid for, lets Boyd keep carrying on in that way. I imagine there was some way to shut him up without making it look like dissent was being silenced.

It’s also quite possible that the season will come together in a way where I won’t be able to imagine it having worked without Boyd in the middle of things. While “Loose Ends” moved a lot of pieces around, we still can’t see the whole board in the way that Graham Yost and the writers can.

Some other thoughts:

* Graham Yost again dips into the large “From the Earth to the Moon” ensemble by casting Conor O’Farrell (who played Jim McDivitt in the Yost-directed “Spider,” my favorite episode of the series) as the bomb disposal expert.

* Raylan still has the Gary murder weapon on him, which seems a very poor idea. Then again, the show has been pretty consistent in its depiction of Raylan as a man who doesn’t always think things through the way he should.

* Had it been established before that Johnny can walk a little bit? I thought he was confined to the wheelchair all the time.

What did everybody else think?