‘Justified’ – ‘When the Guns Come Out’: Let it be

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I threaten you with my boxer shorts…

“It’s always been our business to know you. Us knowing is the business of this holler.” -Limehouse

Knowledge is an interesting thing in any Elmore Leonard universe. Through his books, and through this show, the audience knows what everyone’s angle is, but the characters’ information about each other is more limited. You’ll often have people who can predict what their opponent is up to with uncanny accuracy — as Boyd so often seems to do on this show — but educated guesses are all they are.

So it’s interesting to see an episode like “When the Guns Come Out,” where you have one character in Limehouse who knows pretty much everything because he’s made it his business to do so, and a bunch of other characters who think they know what’s going on, but are working on bad information.

Quarles, for instance, in his quest to get an advantage on Raylan, jumps to the wrong conclusion that Raylan is on Boyd’s payroll, when Raylan’s just reluctantly helping Boyd deal with a shared problem, and that — outside of certain indiscretions related to the women he loves, and/or people who just need killin’ — Raylan’s as straight as they come. Boyd spends the episode trying to figure out who took out his oxy clinic, first (correctly) suspecting Limehouse before turning his attention to Quarles.

And, of course, Raylan spends much of the episode trying to get out of having anything to do with Boyd, Quarles, Limehouse and anyone else in and around Harlan, because Winona is the higher priority. But much of his concern is on the erroneous hunch that Winona stole the evidence money again. And even if she had, and even though she’s the love of his life, mother of his future child, etc., what we’ve seen involving this season’s villains suggests Raylan really needs to be devoting all of his mental energy right now to sending our friendly neighborhood carpetbagger back to Detroit before things get ugly both for him and the people of Harlan.

As happened last week, we have so many different factions coming into conflict now that the fun, and the tension, seem endless. Every Boyd/Raylan scene tends to crackle, but this one felt particularly strong, as Boyd got everything he wanted, and all Raylan could do was drop an extra strong warning on him that if he has to deal with crime on Aunt Helen’s property again, “The dance we do subsequent to that will not end with you finding Jesus in a hospital bed.”

Quarles doesn’t physically interact with any of his opponents this week — unless you count the poor bastard he’s keeping tied to that bed and torturing whenever he’s having a bad day at the office — but it’s clear this week that while he’s smooth and calculating in many ways, he can also be quickly prone to anger and to making the wrong decision. And it’s just amusing (if twisted) to meet someone who even Wynn Duffy is consistently creeped out by.

With Limehouse’s henchman escalating this war between Boyd and Quarles, the show gets to cleverly have its cake and eat it, too. The Limehouse we’ve gotten to know a bit in these episodes wouldn’t likely be stirring up all this trouble on his own, but forced into it by one his underlings, he’ll take advantage of the chaos and hope to gain a big advantage for himself and his people. And, again, he knows more than pretty much everyone else put together.

I had wondered at the start of this season why Winona had gone from wanting out of Raylan’s life — or, at least, the life where he’s an active agent, getting into gunfights every week(*). Graham Yost told me to wait and see, and we get our answer here: Winona was putting a good face on things just to see if Raylan was going to change, and when it became clear that he never would, she bolted. I’m glad she didn’t take the money — that was one of season 2’s weaker storylines, and it led to an underwhelming final scene of this episode, where we find out that an incredibly minor character (Charlie, the evidence room guard) stole it and ran off to Mexico — and I’ll be curious to see what the show does with Winona at this point. She’s having Raylan’s baby so she won’t be out of his life altogether, but “Justified” doesn’t have much more time for Raylan’s personal life than he himself does — that stolen money mini-arc last season seemed designed to at least give Natalie Zea something to do for a couple of episodes — and I wonder how tangential she might become as we move into the season’s back half.

(*) He kills another guy this week with a stray shot from his wrestling match with Tanner, but that only puts his body count up to either 2 or 3 for the season (depending on whether he killed Icepick or only wounded him). Art and Rachel do all the shooting in episode 2, the bad guys shoot each other before Raylan has a chance to in episode 3, and though he runs over Murphy in episode 4, Layla’s the one who actually kills him in (and Lance) in episode 5. It’s still absurdly high for a real federal agent, but for the purposes of this show, the writers are doing a decent job of letting their be action without Raylan amassing such a body count that even the fictional version of the Marshals service would chain him to a desk. 

Then again, if Limehouse or Quarles should get ahold of information about the good marshal’s crumbling marriage, impending child, etc., might they try to turn that to their advantage in the way that Quarles thinks he can with Raylan’s (non-existent) working relationship with Boyd?

Some other thoughts:

* A rare case where we don’t have as much information as the characters — maybe — is with Arlo’s apparent senility. With almost any other character, I’d believe it in a second; with Arlo, I’d almost be more surprised if it wasn’t a scam. Though the idea of Raylan having to care for the father he despises — wondering all the time how serious his condition really is — could yield some terrific material.

* Speaking of Arlo, and getting back to Aunt Helen’s property, I feel like I still don’t have a strong command of the chronology of young Raylan’s life. Do we know how old he was when his mother died, and when Helen married Arlo?

* Was the trucker’s request for the hookers to give him a little something “for the effort” a nod to Carl Spackler’s speech about the Dalai Lama?

* William Mapother, who played Delroy, the guilt trip-inducing pimp, feels like the kind of character actor the show must’ve featured already, as he specializes in playing the kind of scuzzballs that fit so well in Harlan, but this was his first appearance. This was, however, Abby Miller’s third appearance as Ellen May; she popped up a few times last year when Raylan had to deal with trouble out at Audrey’s.

* I will always welcome an appearance, however brief, by Stephen Root as Judge Reardon.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com