‘Justified’ – ‘The Devil You Know’: Off to see the wizard

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I can sense a disturbance in the Force…

“Goddamn if I don’t have to save Dickie Bennet.” -Raylan

“The Devil You Know” was pleasurable in a lot of ways, as the season’s various moving pieces started bumping up against each other, as we said goodbye to a notable supporting character, and as Raylan found himself once again reluctantly saving Dickie from the many people who mean him harm.

But the biggest pleasure of all was how well the script – by Taylor Elmore, who penned last season’s fantastic “Brother’s Keeper” – was able to give us dialogue that sounded like Elmore Leonard himself had written it. The dialogue was crackling throughout, as various characters tried to parse their words, only for others to point out how careful they were trying to be when they used phrases like “I can’t say.” As I’ve said before, as much as I enjoy seeing Raylan out-draw a bad guy, the most satisfying moments on this show tend to involve characters thinking their way out of situations, and the dialogue throughout this episode suggested a whole lot of very clever people (oh, and Dewey Crowe, but everyone’s gotta have an intellectual gimme).

And the sheer volume of smart, interesting characters has made this season a lot of fun so far. You can basically put any two or three people together in any combination and get a strong scene, whether it’s Carpetbagger trying to seduce Devil over to his side (and doing a Boyd-esque mock preacher bit), Raylan visiting Loretta to get some intel on the missing Bennet money, or Dickie looking to Limehouse to get him out of his predicament with Murphy and his goons.

Murphy, by the way, was involved in a pitch-perfect black comedy action sequence, with Raylan realizing that the safest play was to just drive his car into the locked-and-loaded prison guard – and then to drive over him again when Murphy foolishly kept trying to shoot at Raylan even with multiple broken bones. 9 times out of 10, Raylan Givens is gonna outdraw any man looking to put him down, but if he can just stay in his car for the 10th time, why not?

As good as the various combinations were tonight, “Justified” still sings loudest when the two tough, smart men in the room are Raylan and Boyd. I love the idea that Boyd can practically smell Raylan coming, but dramatically it’s interesting because Raylan is often strangely more open with Boyd than he is with anyone else, save maybe Winona or Ava. They’re not exactly friends, and sooner or later they’re going to be pointing guns at each other again, but they have a shared history together, and they understand each other better than the rest of the world does. Raylan doesn’t need to tell Boyd about his mother and Limehouse in order to get the intel about Murphy, but he has to talk about it to someone, and Boyd seems a better confessor than does Rachel.

So Boyd points Raylan towards Murphy, who sends him to Dickie, whose life has just been saved by Limehouse, who allegedly only has $46,000 remaining of Mags’ money. Whether he’s lying or not, Dickie sure believes he is, and would rather go back to prison – now with added tough guy cred, having taken credit for the goons Limehouse and his sidekick shot – to plot again. 

The Limehouse situation is still very much up in the air, as is the fate of poor, dumb Dewey Crowe, who when we last see him appears on the verge of becoming some kind of dark surgical victim.

But before we can move on to whatever’s coming next – including, presumably, more Carpetbagger vs. Boyd maneuvering – Boyd has to first take care of Devil. It’s a story development pushed in part by outside forces (see below), but still a tremendous scene. Whether we’re supposed to believe all of Boyd’s BS, Boyd himself believes it all as it spills out of his mouth. He has grand plans for Harlan, and those plans once included Devil, and while he can’t take disloyalty, he at least does Devil the mercy of not letting him writhe in pain from that first bullet wound. (And in a nice touch, we cut to black before Boyd fires the kill shot, neither man nor show reveling in what has to happen.)

They’re cooking with gas right now, and the season has barely gotten started.

Some other thoughts:

* RIP, Devil. Kevin Rankin has an ongoing gig on CBS’ “Unforgettable,” so Devil had to go, and at least he went out memorably. I like Rankin, and wish he could stay on a show like this that made more interesting use of him than “Unforgettable” does, but from a business stand-point, he’s making more money and more secure as a cast regular on a network show than he’d get from a recurring role on basic cable, so I can’t begrudge him the choice.

* Speaking of “Justified” recurring characters who found steadier network work, Katilyn Dever is otherwise-engaged on ABC’s “Last Man Standing,” but it was nice to get a glimpse of her as Loretta, and to see that she’s doing relatively okay.

* I haven’t read much of “Raylan” yet, but I think we are about up to the point where “Justified” started borrowing a few plot points from the book. If you’ve read it, please keep that stuff to yourself. Thanks.

* Dewey Crowe wriggling around in a body bag is just funny. It just is.

* Limehouse can not only identify Rachel’s accent, but he’s already shown more interest in her and her background in a few minutes than Raylan has in two-plus seasons.

* Limehouse also gives us insight into the origin of Noble’s Hollow (or should I be spelling it “Holler”?), and it sounds like such fertile storytelling ground that you could just make a historical drama about the place.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com