Review: ‘Justified’ – ‘Alive Day’: Train in vain

A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as I come across a chupacabra…

“Maybe this time, things end different.” -Boyd

Last week, I wrote that I looked forward to “seeing the very stupid way” in which Choo-Choo would died, thinking about the accidental demises of White Boy Bob in “Out of Sight,” or Danny Crowe when he tried to test his 21-foot rule theory on Raylan last season. “Alive Day” appears to kill off our latest impulsive man of violence, who fails to get crushed by his namesake, but instead expires from wounds acquired in a shootout with Raylan, Tim, Ty Walker and some of Avery Markham's other mercs. And it's not just the method of Choo-Choo's death that's a surprise, but the tone of it. Introduced as perhaps the dumbest and strongest of the series' many dumb strong guys, he instead turns out to be someone who still retains much of his pre-IED smarts, even if they can be hard to collect and even harder to express. And even when not bright, he's also not as ruthless as his comrades in arms expect him to be, or Markham demands them all to be.

It's an emotionally affecting piece of misdirection, and the overall lack of unit cohesion among the mercenaries –  “Wonderful things can happen when you sow seeds of mistrust in a garden of assholes,” says Asshole Philosopher-in-Chief Raylan Givens – is an interesting wrinkle to this final season. Graham Yost was a writer and producer on a pair of classic military miniseries (“Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”), and “Justified” has dealt to a degree with the transition from combat back to the real world with Tim Gutterson and with Boyd's season 4 sidekick Colton Rhodes, but the idea of a gang of ex-soldiers who may not be ideally suited to be criminals still feels new to the show. The scene where Ty is torn between loyalty to Choo-Choo and the demands of his employer was tense and sad – not to mention wonderfully played by Garret Dillahunt in the moment where Ty gets the call from Choo-Choo and realizes what he has to do. The only question is how much more of that we're going to get, with Choo-Choo either dead or incapacitated, and with Ty Walker now a fugitive from justice. We know now that Markham employs more than just the first three mercs we met, but I fear Seabass is going to seem awfully lonely when next we see him.

The rest of “Alive Day” was pretty spiffy in its own right, with characters sizing each other up, trying to figure out whom to trust, and at times placing their trust where it absolutely does not belong.

It's not clear exactly what happened between Raylan and Ava immediately after the end of last week's episode, but Boyd's early return to the house was a corker, calling back on the last time these three were gathered for fried chicken, and toying with exactly what Boyd did or didn't suspect between his lady and his nemesis. And Limehouse's continued presence in the story – not to try to steal the money Boyd is going after, but to trade information about Ava for a new partnership with Boyd – should make things very fraught, very quickly.

Markham and Katherine's game of No, But You Were The Snitch, Right? was a lot of fun to watch, but then, pretty much every bit of charm Sam Elliott oozes onto the screen in this role is. I assume Markham is ultimately a sideshow in whatever's going to happen between Raylan and Boyd, but as distractions go, it's hard to do much better than this. For that matter, Jeff Fahey's turning out to be a damn fine distraction as Zachariah, who seems bound and determined to do permanent harm to Boyd to protect Ava, and who here takes out one of Boyd's redshirts when the poor guy notices the trap Zachariah set up. Curiouser and curiouser…

And it was interesting to have Art pay a visit to the office and give Rachel – who, of course, is on top of every ridiculous, out-of-procedure thing Raylan has been doing over the past few episodes, because she's always been much smarter than him – some advice on dealing with what is simultaneously her most irritating and most important deputy. She lets his nonsense slide for now, since he finally does offer useful intel from Ava, but since we know that situation is about to blow up, maybe his position won't be secure for much longer.

It's really something: we're about to the halfway point of this final season, and I really have no idea what's coming next, since all the stories seem at a point previous “Justified” seasons didn't tend to reach until much later. If all the guns came out next week, followed by six episodes of Rachel doing paperwork and rolling her eyes at all that Raylan let happen, I would not be stunned. But whatever happens, this stuff is a lotta fun.

What did everybody else think?