A relatively quiet, decidedly slower-paced (!) episode of Justified this week. One could argue that “The Hammer” is about as close to a “character study” episode as we’re likely to ever get out of the show, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some ‘splosions and car crashes thrown in the mix as well – hell, there was even some T&A in there, but mainly of the decidedly unsexy Stephen Root variety (who you’ll remember from Newsradio, Office Space, a few Coen Brothers movies, and as the voice of neighbor Bill Dauterive in King of the Hill).
Root plays a guy reminiscent of the titular character from Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob (which, no fucking fooling, is the only Leonard novel I couldn’t finish once I started – I even own the damn book and I can’t bring myself to read the fucker, get bored around page 50 every time), a flashy poon-hound judge nicknamed the Hammer who wears a swimsuit and a thirty-eight under his judge mumu and nothing else. Attempts have been made on his life and he wants Raylan specifically to be his bodyguard, relying on Raylan’s itchy trigger finger reputation to hopefully come through and put the offending asshole down when the time comes.
But when the bad guy’s identity is finally revealed and the final confrontation goes down, Raylan deems the situation unfit for shooting. Turns out that not only was the Hammer counting on Raylan to kill some motherfuckers, but the bad guy was as well. He took out a large life insurance policy that would leave a nut for his put-upon wife and kid, hoping to kill the judge then be killed himself by Raylan so that it would pay out. Raylan, his face still showing the scars from his out-of-control attitude in the bar from last week, plays it cool and nobody gets hurt. Well, not too hurt, anyway.
So yeah, the disposable story was decent enough, revealed some shit about Raylan in a cool way and even managed to tie in well with Ava’s story. For saving his life the Hammer does Raylan a favor, asks Ava’s judge to drop her parole, leaving her free to leave Kentucky as she pleases and escape possible death at the hands of the Crowders. Of course, Ava’s tough as shit and won’t go, calls bullshit on Raylan’s motives for taking the trouble to boot.
Bo might still be planning some get-back, but it certainly doesn’t look like Boyd has any interest. Boyd’s been hanging out in the woods with some of his former crew, preaching the gospel and demanding clean living of his men. He starts a christian militia of sorts, first mission being to force out some good ol’ boys cooking meth in their trailer. At first Boyd and his men give the cooks a warning, but when they don’t scram he comes back and drags them out of the trailer before blowing it up. Turns out there was still somebody in there and it’s all Boyd’s fault. What Boyd’s despair over taking yet another life will lead to I don’t know, but his born again act has been looking pretty legit lately, and this might just be the sign he needs to go back to bank robbing and hell-raising.
News of the dead man certainly hurts Raylan something awful, his worst fears come true, his conscience eating him now. When he wasn’t protecting the Hammer in, well, “The Hammer,” Raylan was trying to get the phony pot growing preacher from episode one, real name Otis, to testify that he saw Boyd blow up the church. But, in a hilariously frustrating reveal, it turns out in the end that Otis didn’t refuse to testify because he was scared of Boyd, but because he legitimately didn’t see the guy. It was dark out, he was a hundred feet away, running for his life – who could make an ID on somebody under such circumstances?
A few parallels between “The Hammer” and the pilot, “Fire in the Hole,” like the use of the phrase “fire in the hole” followed by an explosion and the presence of Doug E. Doug (the funny-ish dude from Disney’s, um, “classic” Cool Runnings), for starters. Also, let the Nerd mention that modern noir filmmaking legend John Dahl was in the director’s chair for this episode. He’s the dude who did The Last Seduction, Kill Me Again, and Red Rock West – three crime flicks you should slap on your netflix queue toot-fucking-sweet.
So Ava’s still in town, Raylan’s feeling guilty and mad as hell and facing damn near no options for throwing Boyd back in jail, and Boyd has some soul-searching to do that could lead to the evil Boyd we saw in the pilot. Don’t know about you, but it looks to me like we’re in for some exciting shit before this season closes out, Justifans (oh, and in case you didn’t hear, FX has picked up the show for a second season!).