Some of you were worried a few weeks back that Harlan County would not believably produce enough bad guys for Raylan to hunt down, that rednecks and meth dealers would lose their novelty after a few episodes. Last week I thought the show was addressing those fears by having Arnold Pinter talk about moving to Kentucky because he couldn’t handle the more dangerous gangs in New York and Miami, a bit I interpreted as the writers assuring us that there will be a variety of badasses for Ray to shoot in the greater Lexington area. This week they further assuaged the audience by having Ray take his first field trip (with Rachel on point, despite Ray’s bitching), this time out to sunny Los Angeles. Seeing how this is only episode four of the show, I’m guessing Ray will take many more out of state assignments in the future.
So they’ve given us enough backstory on Ray to keep me invested in him, explained that the universe of the show is vast (geographically, I suppose), assured me that Harlan County has plenty of different bad guys to capture and kill, and proved that they can tell a kick-ass, disposable and very Leonard-esque crime story in forty-five minutes flat. Fucking awesome – I’m totally with you, show-named-Justified-on-FX-at-ten-nine-central-every-Tuesday-night. Now: can we please move onto the serialized elements so extremely readily fucking available to this show?
The dad stuff, the new girlfriend, the ex-wife, Walt Goggins’ character – let’s have some of that shit start paying off toot-fucking-sweet. I need something else instead of cool-as-hell bad guys that I know won’t survive the episode.
And I know what you’re gonna say, dear reader. You’re gonna say that I’m asking for the stars when I’ve got a perfectly good moon resting snugly in my back pocket (hopefully you wouldn’t use that exact phrasing, but something like that) – and I can’t really argue with that. This is about as good of a disposable episode cop show as I’ve ever seen, and hey, maybe I’m just being a TV snob. Maybe it’s time for a solid-ass throwback to the days before shows like The Sopranos or The Wire made all non-seriazed dramas look like pieces of shit. Thing is, I didn’t really give a shit about TV dramas until those shows aired. Sure, Homicide: Life on the Street was really good (for most of its run, anyway), but other than that? Meh. Watched a few shows now and again back in those dark days but it’s not like today I’d ever netflix The Practice today for old time’s sake (okay, now I’m just annoying myself with my own snobbish-ness, but you get the picture). TV dramas changed about a decade ago and goddamn are we ever fucking better for it.
But like I said, maybe a throwback is in order and I should just settle down and groove on that shit. Thing is, I don’t think that that’s where the show is going. I honestly think they’re just stalling, waiting for word-of-mouth or the endless web promo shit to catch a few more viewers before making every episode count. Probably a good strategy and, if you look at FX’s other shows, it’s a strategy that they’ve no doubt employed in the past to great success. But I’m starting to get antsy as shit now. I mean, let’s fucking hang out with Ray’s dad already, watch Goggins escape from the infirmary, have Ray fight with Winona’s emasculated husband – even if it’s soapy-as-hell I’ll take it at this point. Just quit making me nervous this journey will be similar to the consequences-free, bathroom-dixie-cup-dispenser worlds of shit crime shows like Burn Notice or Castle.
Okay, I got my Castle joke in and yet another rant out of my system, so let’s talk about the memorable shit in this very fine episode. We got a great cold open where Rollie the dentist (the nerdy guy from Speed) takes back his fillings from a patient who refuses to pay for them…with pair of fucking pliers and a syringe full of drano. The incident becomes a national news story and soon enough both Ray and the mob are after Rollie, who has his receptionist girlfriend Mindy in tow. Rollie is basically a good guy, a shoe-in for witness protection who would rather be on the run than be told how to spend the rest of his life, even if that means death could come knocking at any time.
And good God do motherfuckers want to kill this guy. First he has those fantastic mob hit guys after him, then he’s betrayed by his coyote who stabs him and tries to rape Mindy, then in the end he is killed at the border by a Mexican sniper – but the scene plays out more like a noble, fifties-western-style suicide than a tragic murder. Also very western-ish this episode: the awesome shootout in the desert between Ray and the two mob guys (he told that guy one more step…).
Once again the assorted bad guys took up more screen-time than Ray’s cop duties and once again the bad guy shit was the best part of the episode. The mob hitman and his local contact had a few great, vintage-Leonard bullshitting scenes, Mindy’s dimness played beautifully off Rollie’s exasperated anxiousness, and the many even more minor characters made a strong impression as well (especially the lady who was offended that Rollie assumed she knew a coyote simply because she was Mexican). But this time out Ray got the biggest laugh of the night, when he thought that Hermey from Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer made Rollie want to be gay instead of a dentist (“The little gay dude?” Fucking priceless).
This week’s episode didn’t advance a goddamn thing in terms of the overall season arc, but it was probably my favorite individual episode story since the pilot. Ray killed two more guys this week so I’m guessing he has to go on leave yet again. That begs the question: when do we get to see an episode based around one of his weeks of shooting-motherfuckers-paid-suspension?