So we got some classic femme fatale shit, Raylan doing a Columbo impersonation, Hitler’s paintings, and a rock solid cliffhanger, something I’ve been waiting on all season. We’re not quite where I want to be in this series, dear reader, but we seem to be getting there, slowly but fucking surely.
The disposable plot this episode was one of the weaker ones we’ve seen so far, but nowhere near as weak as the “Raylan does yard work” tacked on bullshit we saw last week. Raylan and Art head up north to claim some rich criminal’s property, which apparently involves some artwork of Der Fucking Fuhrer. The guy’s hot young wife has the stable boy kill the old bastard and make it look like a suicide. There’s some switching and faking of the Hitler paintings, Raylan calling bullshit on the suicide, and Buster from Arrested Development is in there somehow nearly getting his ass killed, but Raylan’s Columbo act (“ahh…just one more question…”) gets the stable boy to frame up the femme fatale, stable boy and trophy wife are arrested, the end. Serviceable but sure as shit nothing to write home about.
What really worked about the episode were the character development moments and serialization hints. We open with (thank fucking Christ!) Raylan visiting Boyd in prison, asking him if he knows anything about Arlo. Apparently Ray is looking to get revenge on Arlo for the way he was duped by the old man last week. Pretty cold shit, but Ray made his dad a promise, and he’s shown in the past that the last thing he wants to make is an empty threat.
But Ray starts to rethink revenge when he sees what the art collector has done all his life to get back at his long-dead dad, a former Nazi. The art collector has been tracking down and buying every original Hitler, then burning the piece and adding it to a private ash collection. Though Ray finds this less disturbing than simply keeping the Hitler art on display, he decides that life is too short to build up that kind of hate, especially toward your father. But when Ray goes back to see Boyd at the end of the episode to tell him that he’s no longer interested in whatever Boyd could come up with, his interest is seemingly piqued once more when Boyd assures him that the shit he’s got on Arlo would put him away for good – cut to fucking black. And with that we got ourselves a real, live fucking cliffhanger, an episode of some consequence toward a larger story arc. About goddamn time, I say.
But that’s not all “The Collection” had in the pot this week. Ray’s ex Winona brought Ray a list of names she wanted him to run a check on, an action that they both know is illegal as all hell. But Ray does it anyway and those listed came up clean, much to her surprise. Ray suspects that Winona’s milquetoast realtor husband is up to some hinky shit, but exactly what is for another episode. We also got some good backstory on how Ray and Winona ended up divorced (in a rare scene where the two were sweet to each other instead of straight-up pissed).
We also got some good shit out of Ava, who talks of moving to Lexington (her dream since she was nineteen, apparently) and holding her ground against her dead husband’s daddy when he gets out of prison. But then again, you had to expect that. Girl’s got fucking sand. Also of note to the Ava shit: Art finally knows definitively that Ray and Ava are fucking, despite Art’s warning.
But what I thought was the most intriguing part of the episode is the introduction of David Vasquez, the US Attorney investigating Raylan’s numerous line-of-duty killings. They’d been hinting on Justified for a good goddamn while now that they weren’t just going to let Ray kill someone every episode and let that be that like your average cop show would. It’s an interesting development, but I’m guessing they’ll play it more for laughs, like Ray will get a slap on the wrist then really work hard not to kill people – though the situation may totally call for lethal force. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’ll get charged, end up in jail with guys he put away before eventually getting back out due to some new revelation or another.
Shit, whatever happens, I’m just glad Justified is finally making episodes count.