Review: ‘Justified’ – ‘Noblesse Oblige’: 30 minutes or less

A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as you lead to unevenness in my facial tone…

“Come to it, I guess you ain't all that big now. Grown, but still just playing pretend.” -Avery Markham

It likely doesn't come as much of a surprise when “Noblesse Oblige” reveals Avery Markham as the man pulling the strings of Ty Walker and company. The show wasn't going to bring Sam Elliott in just to smoke weed and be charming, and his old ties with Katherine Hale simultaneously simplifies this season's arc (because now we see how all the pieces are connected) and complicates it (because Katherine and Avery's relationship is dysfunctional even by “Justified” standards).

Mainly, though, it's just a pleasure to watch Elliott work, sporting a different look than we're used to (not only clean-shaven, but with hair swept back, and in a slick suit and bolo tie), but so confident and casually terrifying. Think about it for a minute: Boyd has over the years gone up against the Miami cartel, Mags Bennett, Robert Quarles, Nikki Augustin and even the Mexican cartel, and this is by far the most scared he has ever looked. That's not an easy thing to pull off without seeming like empty hype for the series' final big bad, but Elliott and Walton Gogins make it work.

It's also still a treat to watch Garret Dillahunt play this role, and to see the “Justified” writers give Walker a brand of oratory that feels like a cross between one of Dillahunt's “Deadwood” characters and Mr. Boyd Crowder, who notes, “Damn, son, you like to talk as much as I do.”

The season's villains have now been revealed, even if we don't know what their agendas all are. We're also still very much in the dark about what Ava's plan is – or if she even has one besides “stay alive at all costs and see who the last man standing is.” Right now, she seems to be trending towards Boyd, by not telling Raylan about the pizza parlor and having sex with her sometime-fiance in order to seal the bond between them. But the look on Joelle Carter's face throughout these early episodes is of a woman who simply wants out, by any means necessary. She's very much a wildcard in whatever's going on between Boyd, Katherine, Markham and Raylan.

Three very strong episodes in a row to start the season, and now we're caught up with what FX sent to critics in advance. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Some other thoughts:

* Wynn Duffy + tanning bed + Speedo = an image I will not get out of my head for a while. I wish there were somehow two Wynns, so we could see him reacting to himself in that get-up.

* Though Rachel's now running the Lexington field office, she decides to get hands-on with Raylan's RICO investigation, just as Art used to do from time to time, and in her biggest showcase of the season to date, it's clear she's worried about both the case itself and the status of the deputy running it.

* It's been a while since the show talked much about Raylan's own history of working in the Harlan mines alongside Boyd, so the storyline involving old Luther taking the fall for his idiot son (and Carl's idiot brother) was another nice full circle moment in a season that's had a lot of them.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at