A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as I call the soft rock militia on you…
In one way, you could look at “Burned” as a filler episode, since very little happens to change the larger story arcs. Boyd doesn't get his hands on Markham's cash, and thus Raylan doesn't get to arrest him, but both men intend to keep trying. Ava discovers that Raylan is wise to her, but figures out a way to remain out of jail for now by giving him the real details of the heist. Zachariah tries to murder Boyd for what the Crowder family has done to Ava, but Carl saves his boss at the last minute. Raylan doesn't even manage to successfully sell Arlo's house to Loretta, since her overt pitch to the town to become part of her budding pot empire would get him trouble with the higher-ups. With one big exception that we'll get to in a moment, you could wipe this episode from existence and little about this season's bigger stories would change.
Why, though, would you want to erase this one? If this was filler, then it was filler that was vastly more fun than many dramas' fundamentally series-altering installments.
Start with the most notable plot development: Art identifying Wynn Duffy as the man who ratted out Grady Hale all those years ago and set so much of this season's madness in motion. Last week, I noted that the problem with the Grady Hale story was that it involved characters talking about things that happened 30 years ago involving people we never met and had no reason to care about. This, then, is a masterstroke, because we know Wynn very well and love seeing him react to things, and now the past is much less the issue than the future danger of Markham and/or Katherine finding out the truth, and the present complication of him being forced to snitch for Art again. Every single moment Jere Burns was on screen tonight was a goddamn delight, whether Wynn hilariously miming a phone call to Boyd or Wynn trying to explain to a pouting Mikey(*) that people like Katherine Hale wouldn't hesitate to turn on them in a second in order to ensure their own survival. The series hasn't had a lot of room for Wynn over the last few years – Burns ironically had more to do before he got promoted to the regular cast – and I'm glad to see him finally moved into a position of prominence in this story, even if I fear he will no longer get to ride the Wynn-ebago off into the sunset.
(*) This week in Alan Wants a Web Series: “Do Tell,” hosted by Michael Kenneth Williams in character as Omar (wearing his court attire), interviewing other TV criminals who claim to live by codes. Each episode ends with Omar determining whether their code lives up to his lofty standards. Mikey would make a fine first guest. Also, given the show's longstanding ambiguity about whether Wynn and Mikey are more than just colleagues, I wonder if Mike was feeling personally let down, as well as professionally.
Then move onto Loretta getting a chance to demonstrate all she learned from Mags Bennett with a very credible impression of her – circa Mags' very public (and very phony) feud with Black Pike – when she stood up to Markham at the pizza parlor. It was already a treat to have so many of the season's major players in the same room at the same time, but seeing Loretta out-talk a snake charmer like Markham – and only a few scenes after he had sent his Colorado henchman Boone to throw a scare into her – was pure pleasure. I'm hoping at some point before the finale, Markham gets a chance to demonstrate the terrifying competence that has thrown such a scare into Boyd and others this season – for a few moments after Loretta's speech, he wore the expression of a haunted amusement park owner whose scheme had just been foiled by Scooby-Doo and Shaggy – but at the same time, that sequence was one of the most effective and entertaining of this season's echoes of “Justified” conflicts past, and there was so much energy generated from putting most of our key players together for a little while.
That Boyd failed at his heist – and Raylan in turn at his sting – only delays several inevitable confrontations this season. And I was enjoying every energetic, sharply-written minute of this hour too much to mind that it was ultimately one big stall tactic.
Some other thoughts:
* RIP, Seabass. I feel like the show could have gotten more mileage out of Markham's three mercenaries, but at a minimum, all three got memorable death scenes. Also, I would settle for a web series about the management at that hotel where Katherine lives constantly having to clean up the dead people in her suite. Maybe something in the vein of the Lance Reddick stuff from “John Wick”?
* As for Markham's newest henchman to arrive on the scene, all welcome Jonathan Tucker from “Kingdom” (and “Parenthood,” and many other things), sporting a Wild West-style gunfighter's rig and a polished revolver to match. Will it turn out that this punk is finally going to be the one who's faster on the draw than Raylan, and we end with our hero suffering the fate of Gregory Peck in “The Gunfighter”? Or will we take pleasure in watching the wily veteran give one last smug young punk his comeuppance?
* Last week, I predicted Carl would bail on Boyd at a crucial moment because he had realized how little his boss cared about the help. Here, though, he saves him from certain doom. Is that betrayal still coming, or is Carl just that blindly loyal?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org