A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as this hotel takes the non-smoking policy pretty seriously…
“The Toll” is among the more streamlined episodes of “Justified” season 5, and is the better for it. Like a lot of this season, it echoed a stronger outing from season 2 (“Reckoning,” with the manhunt for Dickie after he kills Aunt Helen), but in streamlining things down to two basic stories(*) – the marshals' search for whoever shot Art, and Boyd's meeting with Wynn and friends – it put more weight on what was happening and created a level of tension that's been lacking at times this year.
(*) We also get some movement on Ava's killing of Judith – including Judith's acolytes all giving Ava their ice cream in tribute to the one who finally got that miserable old lady out of their lives – but it was the bare minimum needed to advance that story for whatever's coming next.
I had a bad feeling something was going to go awry when Art volunteered to guard Allison, and though it's a familiar trope of the genre for one of the hero's co-workers to get shot, it became a trope because it's very effective, especially if the character is as strong as Art, and if the relationship with the hero is as complex as the one that he has with Raylan. As Art's wife notes while driving to the hospital, Raylan should have been there right alongside his boss, but what she doesn't understand – what nobody in that office entirely understands, other than Raylan and Art himself – is the depth to which Art has come to resent and mistrust his trigger-happy deputy, and the added guilt Raylan has to feel as a result of this. It's not just that Art gets shot because Daryl was looking to punish Raylan for Danny's death – even though it was Danny's own damn fault he got killed, just as it would have been had Raylan shot him during the test of the 21-Foot Rule – but that Raylan's not there because Art is just that mad at him by now. I don't know that Raylan even now regrets his role in Nicky Augustine's murder, but now the consequences have stretched out further than he could have imagined.
That Daryl has apparently bullied Kendall into taking the fall for the crime creates some more extensive problems Raylan has to solve before the season's over. He can't just put a bullet into Daryl in a situation that fits his code, because doing so doesn't magically erase Kendall's confession. And even though Daryl is right that Kendall will likely only do a few years in juvenile detention, Raylan is also right in how much that's going to transform the kid for the worse. We began this season with many Crowes (plus Jean-Baptiste), even more than there were Bennetts at the start of season 2. Now we're down to a handful, with Dewey in the wind, Kendall in jail, Wendy not sure who she wants revenge on more and Daryl still facing the wrath of Boyd. He's definitely one of the show's weaker villains to date, but there's room for interesting things to happen over the next two weeks.
As for Boyd, I figured something was up with Chekhov's cigarette pack, given how much discussion it kept getting, and yet the actual moment where Boyd blew up Picker real good on the hotel sofa still floored me. As Boyd says, he may not be good at a lot of things – and this season has suggested that he's absolutely horrible at being a drug kingpin – but he has always known his demolitions. Now, of course, we have to see if Wynn decides to cut his losses and find a way to appease his Mexican/Korean connection, if he decides he needs to eliminate Boyd once and for all, or if Katherine Hale(**) was somehow impressed enough with such a bloody assessment that they may try to rekindle the partnership.
(**) We knew that Wynn and Katherine had a history, and now we know that David Vasquez does, as well – and boy oh boy does Mrs. Hale not like our local AUSA, based on her colorful hobbit-flavored description of him. A nice scene, and I'm curious if it was just there to give Mary Steenburgen more to do during her stay, or if it's setting her up to be more prominent next season.
Again, this has been a disappointing and at times frustrating season of “Justified,” and last week's episode arguably had more high notes than this one. But “The Toll” was the kind of episode this show is built to do well with, and it did.
What did everybody else think?