‘Justified’ – ‘The I of the Storm’: Being Raylan Givens

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I buy a ski mask on eBay…

“For a guy who’s supposedly changed, you sound a lot like you always did.” -Dewey

One of the inherent advantages that a TV drama supposedly has over a movie is that characters can grow and change far more over many seasons than they can over the course of a two hour film. But what often fascinates me are the TV shows that choose, for one reason or another, to not let their characters change much, if at all. Sometimes it’s about preserving the status quo (“Dexter” for many years), sometimes about the show espousing a belief that people – real or fictional – aren’t capable of great change (“The Sopranos”), sometimes a combination of the two (the middle seasons of “House”).

With “Justified,” Raylan mainly is who he is. He might be capable of incremental change – being a mite slower to draw his gun just to avoid the paperwork, occasionally telling Winona how his day was – but he is who he is and his code is his code.

Boyd Crowder, on the other hand? He seems to change by the minute. But the key part of that sentence is “seems to.” As Raylan told us in the series pilot, Boyd has a history of trying on new identities as part of his usual pursuit of thrills. And because of that, there’s always this doubt – certainly for the other characters on the show, and to a lesser extent for those of us at home who get to see Boyd in his most private moments when he has no reason to role-play – of just how sincere his latest change is.

We know that his religious conversion turned out to be on the level, and it sure seems like he’s honest about wanting to just stay down in his hole and blow things up in a law-abiding way. But nobody – not Raylan, not Dewey Crowe, and not his shady new co-workers – seems to believe him in the slightest. And by the end of “I of the Storm,” that lack of faith in him – and the constant attention to a man who just wants to be left the hell alone – causes Boyd to crack up a bit. He goes all primal and caveman on Kyle(*), pulling him along as he drives very fast away from the bar. If Boyd’s past won’t stop chasing him, it seems, Boyd has decided to make the chase very painful for those who try.

(*) Played by Michael Mosley from the zombie final season of “Scrubs.”

What a hell of an episode for Walton Goggins, who keeps making Boyd smaller and smaller – I loved the shame in his voice as he had to answer for all the Jew-hating rhetoric of his time as a fake white supremacist – until the enormous explosion of the final scene. Right now, in the context of this season’s larger story about Raylan vs. the Bennetts, Boyd seems like a real wild card. You don’t know what role he’s going to play – whether he’ll wind up siding with Raylan again or maybe letting himself be dragged into the villain part everyone expects him to adopt – and the way the writers and Goggins have shaped that character, anything is possible and nothing would ring false about it.

And I like that as Boyd is trying so damn hard to cling to his current role, dumb Dewey comes back and decides to borrow equally from Boyd and from Raylan: the slippery identity thing from his old boss, and the identity itself from the Marshal who keeps making a fool of him. Dewey-as-Raylan was a fun bit of role-playing – and also nicely called back to the episode last year where Raylan “deputized” Dewey for a bit – and also helped move the Bennett story forward by having Doyle buy into the mistaken identity too quickly and confirm Raylan’s suspicions about him being dirty.

No Mags this week, but much talk of the mysterious Dixie Mafia. I suppose it wouldn’t be “Justified” if Raylan didn’t ultimately wind up in the crossfire between at least two different criminal organizations. Last year, it was Bo Crowder’s gang and the hitters from Miami. It’s still not clear exactly how and when Raylan and the Bennetts are going to come into conflict, but I imagine those Dixie boys are going to turn up to complicate whatever that conflict is.

Some other thoughts:

• In last week’s review, I neglected to mention the scene where Ava tends to Boyd’s wounds, in part because I had seen this episode already and didn’t want to give away what I already knew: that, for now at least, they’re just roommates. I don’t imagine they will stay that way – the writers need to give Joelle Carter things to do, plus despite her complaints about Raylan’s ego, it does seem an Ava thing to do to start a relationship with her ex’s nemesis just to piss him off – but for now, that’s what it apparently is.

• More Ava than usual meant less Winona than usual – given the nature of the show, it’s hard to give both of Raylan’s special ladies a lot of screen time in the same episode – but at least they got to go on a date way out of town to see venerable roots rocker Dave Alvin, a fan of the show who decided to send his new “Harlan County Line” song to the producers on spec, only to find that Graham Yost and some others are in turn fans of his. Isn’t it nice when things turn out that way?

• One of the commenters last week wondered when the show was going to get around to discussing Tim’s body count, which isn’t as high as Raylan’s but is still higher than your average Marshal racks up. And, indeed, Art asks Raylan if he needs to be concerned about their sniper colleague. And keeping in mind that both of the times we’ve seen Tim off-duty (tonight and in the episode last season where Arlo was at the VFW hall), he’s been fairly drunk, maybe he’s more troubled by all the killing he’s seen and done than Raylan is.

What did everybody else think?