Thursday, March 31, 2011
"Justified" recap: Holding the bag
Spoilers for this week's excellent episode of "Justified" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.
Tense as last week's episode of "Justified" was, it was, literally, a fairly quiet hour for Raylan Givens. Instead of firing off quips or angry monologues, he mainly just reacted to the chaos around him. That's perfectly fine -- you can do a lot worse than staring at Timothy Olyphant's face for an hour. But this week found our man considerably more verbal, and I was happy for it. In fact, the sequence at the town meeting provided some excellent showcase material not just for Olyphant, but also for Walton Goggins and guest stars Margo Martindale and Rebecca Creskoff. It was a nice lesson in how acting styles can contrast, but not necessarily conflict. In a few short moments, we went from Raylan's fairly quiet (and fairly hungover) monologue about the cruelty of life as a miner to Boyd's more bombastic defense of the mining company to Mag Bennett's impassioned one-woman show about the sanctity of life in Harlan. Add in Ms. Johnson's polished, measured monologue about the benefits of her project, and you have a sequence that showed all the actors here to good effect. It was particularly great to Martindale's Mags back in prime form after two weeks of not seeing her at all.
But, of course, this episode wasn't just about giving some air to some fine actors. This was a strong, action-packed hour that gave us a mysterious creature in a bag, a brutal brawl between Coover and Raylan, a rifle-wielding Ava, a gunfight at Aunt Helen's and a bit more insight into the tensions between the Givens's and the Bennetts. Raylan, it turns out, caused Dickie's limp with a baseball bat while defending himself during a particularly violent ball game. This revelation, and some liquor, nearly led to a tryst between Raylan and the alluring Ms. Johnson, who, for all her shadiness, is kind of a likable person. She knows she's risking her life tangling with the Bennetts, but it's her job and she's going to go through with it. It's kind of admirable and Creskoff, whom I'd previously written off as the poor man's Christina Hendricks, is convincing in the part. I've never really liked her work on "Hung," but that's mainly because her character on that show is so thoroughly nasty and unlikable. Ms. Johnson is a bit more complex, and Creskoff does well in the part.
There was some decent movement on the Boyd storyline, too. Boyd's new job has, not surprisingly, made him a target of the Bennett family. This conflict starts at the home of poor Reggie (want to place bets on how soon that poor fella will be forced to drink some tainted moonshine?) and continues to the police station and to Ava's house. I guess there are benefits to living with a woman who has no reservations about sticking a shotgun in people's faces (even if she used that same shotgun to kill your brother). I particularly loved the no-nonsense way Ava eyes the mystery creature in Coover's bag, then quickly blows it to smithereens. Oh, Ava -- we missed you!
At this point, it's pretty certain that the relationship between Ava and Boyd will eventually turn into romance, and I look forward to watching that evolve. Anyway, here are some more of my thoughts on "Spoils."
* Also in the episode, we learned that Art is very likely on to Raylan and Winona's scheme to return the stolen money in last week's episode. It's unclear what exactly Art is going to do with these suspicions -- right now, it seems he's finding excuses to get Raylan out of the office -- but it has Raylan worried for his future. Once again, I'm hoping this storyline doesn't drag on forever, as there's already so much going on here. But this does lend another level of complexity to this already complicated relationship.
* Aunt Helen really wants to keep Raylan away from the Bennett family, doesn't she? Why? Do you think she knows what they're up to? Is she a part of it? Or is she just terrified of the big pile of crazy that is Mags Bennett?
* I, personally, have no problem with creating a little suspense. So, when Boyd revealed that he knew what the Bennetts were up to, but didn't elaborate further, it didn't bother me much. But it drove my husband crazy.
* Question: Didn't Raylan seem to have gained the upper hand with Coover when Loretta walked in the store? Do you think maybe (and I'm probably wrong) he let himself be overtaken so that Loretta could see how scary her new family is? I don't know. It would be something Raylan might do. But Coover's brute strength was such that he was probably always going to win that fight.
* So what WAS Charlie, the mysterious creature in the bag? My first thought was snake, but the noises weren't right. Mongoose maybe? I have no idea. But it's probably best for Boyd (and poor Reggie) that Charlie is no longer with us.