Last week’s offering was the most entertaining episode of Justified since the pilot, yet all I could do was bitch about the disposability of the episodes we’d seen thus far. This week’s show addressed my concerns by finally throwing me a fucking serialized bone with the dad shit and the promise that Bo Crowder, Boyd’s old man, is getting out of prison soon and will be looking to get back at Ava. But while I’m glad that the writers are pointing the show towards having something resembling an arc, this was inarguably my least favorite episode to date. I just can’t fucking win with this show, I guess.
Though Ray was primarily handling family business in “The Lord of War and Thunder,” he still had a fugitive to catch. The guy in question this week had shot a cop and Ray and the gang suspect he’s holed up at his wife and kid’s house, but without a warrant they can’t do shit. Tired of just sitting arund on stakeout, Ray dresses down (trades in his goofy-ass hat for a goofy-ass cap) and poses as a guy looking for work, offers to do yard work for food. When he finally spots the suspect in the house, he asks to use the bathroom then takes him down.
Simple, completely disposable plot with not a lot going for it. Couple of okay jokes but otherwise? Meh. Reminded me of how in the early seasons of The Shield they’d have Wyms and Wagenbach solve a different, who-gives-a-shit? crime every episode while Vic and the strike team kept the bigger story moving forward, the idea being that if you were a new viewer you could at least follow the little story that had a clear beginning, middle and end and hopefully be satisfied enough to watch another episode and eventually catch on to the larger arc of the season. I could see Justified (which is on the same network as The Shield was) doing something like this eventually, maybe once they flesh out the other Marshals enough so that we can hang out with them while Ray isn’t around. Maybe Gutterson and Rachel can go track down some who-gives-a-shit? bad guy while Ray carries on the main story about Crowder or his dad or something.
But while that sounds kind of lame, I do think that the fast pace and incessant action is part of what makes this show work. The reason it’s hard to really rag on Justified much is due to the fact that you never get a chance to think in an episode – something funny or exciting is always happening. This episode’s storyline didn’t call for that type of agility and I think the writers got nervous about that, tried to pad the episode with a few more violent confrontations than the story really could believably support. As they (hopefully) get us involved with these characters more, I pray the writers figure out a more comfortable balance between the character development shit and the whiz-bang action shit.
Because I do think the character stuff this week was good – surprising even. The “A” plot of the episode was about Ray being manipulated by his father into helping him steal oxycontin (“hillybilly heroin”) off a shady puke who rents from him named Perkins (they don’t come much weaselier than this dude, guy cracked me up). Ray thinks he sees all the angles on what Arlo is trying to pull over on him until Arlo ends up in the hospital for a possible heart attack. Then he’s blinded by his father’s brush with death into believing his bullshit, which leads him to shake down Perkins. But when rousting Perkins leads to some revelations, Raylan realizes he was burned yet again by his old man, that Arlo is still as crafty and terrible as ever. What briefly looked like the rekindling of a relationship is now no doubt a dead-bolted door instead of merely a closed one.
It’s a pretty sly little story, it does that thing I like about good crime shit where the story is actually quite simple but the storytelling makes it seem much more complicated (my go-to example of this aspect is Eastern Promises). Also, the dad really isn’t as nasty a guy as the build-up to him had made me imagine. Yeah, he’s a bastard and a crook, but he’s not evil in the least. Hell, he even points out to Ray that for all the bad shit he’s done, least he never shot anybody (touche!). I thought that was an interesting approach to the character, but I’m having a hard time imagining Arlo in some larger plot at a later date. Sure, Ray might have to choose whether or not to bail Arlo out of some jam again, but I can’t picture them coming to blows or trading gunfire or anything like the shit I’d already built up in my mind before we’d ever met the character. The guy’s just too old and small-time to be more than nuisance, will doubtfully ever be a true enemy.
But while Arlo factoring heavily into the show is hard for me to imagine at this point, you’re definitely set up for some more shit with the Crowder family going down toot-fucking-sweet – and that shit I most definitely can picture. I feel like this season has been leading up to ultimately being about Boyd’s nature vs. Raylan’s (which is pretty much the same as the conflict between Arlo and Raylan, come to think of it), and now that some more Crowder shit is guaranteed to come down the pike, I feel like we’re finally gonna get the serialized shit truly in motion. Here’s hoping that they can do the serialized shit with a little more grace than this episode’s game but misguided attempt.