The season premiere of Justified wasted no time putting last season to bed before introducing us to a new clan of down-home nasty motherfuckers that’ll no doubt provide US Marshal Raylan Givens a fresh season’s worth of aggravation. The opening moments featured some quick spring cleaning as the writers kicked the Bo Crowder/Miami cartel storyline to the curb, FX execs no doubt crossing their fingers that they didn’t lose any new viewers in all the confusion. To be honest, the Nerd hopes they stuck it out too because, while I may be “watch the whole fucking series already!” TV purist, “The Moonshine War” is a damn decent entryway into one of my favorite shows running.
So Raylan blows away a few more bad guys and generally squares things from last season before he returns to headquarters only to be saddled (dude wears a ten-gallon hat – there’s gonna be fucking cowboy references, folks) with a whole lot of paperwork and questions from investigators. Shit, they even have take his gun in a fun, decidedly informal ceremony that involves bourbon. One of my favorite episodes from last season involved Raylan’s week off from work following him shooting someone on the job and this scene is a continuation on that theme: while you may be watching an over-the-top police procedural don’t think that our hero is exempt from actual on-the-job problems and bureaucratic headaches. When fellow deputy Rachel Brooks asks if he’ll ride along with her to pick up a sex offender over in Harlan (on account of, as a black woman, she doesn’t feel respected in the backwater shithole) Raylan jumps at the chance to get out of the office.
An apparently not-so-anonymous tipline was called by widower Walt McCready, a weed farmer whose 14-year-old daughter has been harassed by sex offender Jimmy Earl Dean. When Loretta tells her dad that Dean works for the Bennetts (more on them in a second), Walt clams up when Raylan and Rachel come knocking. Not long after that local Sheriff Doyle Bennett and his psychotic brother Dickie Bennett come and put Walt’s foot through a bear trap in a fantastically intense scene.
Raylan and Rachel putz around Harlan looking for the rest of the Bennetts upon finding out Dean works for them, giving us a chance to meet the whole weed-growing clan. Mags and her three sons are all winners in the villain department far as the Nerd’s concerned, dear reader. They’ve got a powerful hold over the town in a way that has true stakes and storytelling legs and they’re all very distinctive just from this first episode alone. The charming matriarch Mags, the volatile thug Coover, the cunningly psychotic Dickie, the rational and corrupt Sheriff Doyle – I’m up for whatever nefarious bullshit they throw in Raylan’s way.
Rachel is (as are most of the Marshal staff other than Givens) an underutilized character and here seems mainly to serve as an audience surrogate for new viewers. She’s basically an excuse for Raylan or whatever Bennett he is talking to at the moment to over-explain their relationship for her benefit as she’s clearly an outsider. Just like last season’s bad guy hillbilly family the Crowders, Raylan’s got a history with these folks that will no doubt make things awful sticky down the line when they undoubtedly come to blows. Much as I’m excited for this new batch of characters, here’s hoping the similarities end there or we could be in for some truly “same story, different redneck clan” shit all season.
To get back to the plot summary shit, Jimmy Earl Dean rather lamely kidnaps Loretta and then Rachel and Raylan catch up with him at a gas station. Raylan, as he is wont to do, has a fucking hilarious and ridiculously cool Elmore Leonardian verbal stand-off with Dean (Rachel’s got the gun but Raylan’s got the lines) and they save the day. So long Dean, nice knowing ya, you served your function as a disposable-eventually-captured-bad-guy-to-fulfill-a-single-episode-arc and given us a reason for Raylan to meet the Bennetts, the true bad guys of the season.
But we’re not done there. Following the climactic moment we get a scene of Dickie and Mags confronting Walter about his grow op and his calling the cops on one of their men, pervert though he may have been. Mags makes it seem like all is forgiven, serving him some of her moonshine and talking sweetly, but then reveals that she poisoned him for going “outside” for help. In his dying moments she assures him that, no problem, she’ll watch Loretta for him. It’s a great scene, especially when you couple it with Dickie’s initial bear trap confrontation with Walt. While Dickie likes to be tortorous directly, Mags kills them with kindness.
In the final moments of the episode we learn that Raylan and his impossibly hot ex-wife Winona (who whenever I think about her I imagine Principal Skinner yelling at me, “Milhouse, lower those eyebrows! AND the other one!”) are still fucking despite her still, you know, being married and that Boyd is still on the run and has blown up a mine, using his favored “Fire in the hole!” catchphrase for what it is intended for for once.
What this brief glimpse of Boyd is supposed to mean, I can’t really say. First thought, seeing how Boyd seems to be on some sort of savior path these days, maybe he’s become a labor activist? Shit, that’s all I got. You got any guesses? I’m also curious what people think is the arc of Loretta now that she is supposedly going to end up with the Bennetts. She obviously admires Raylan a great deal even before he rescues her so maybe they’ll have a friendship and then his trying to rescue her from their family will be his mission to bring them all down? Maybe Loretta will find out they killed her dad then murder the whole lot of them? Jesus, I’m just talking out my ass at this point, best just to hit the sack and be done with it.
Hope all you Justifans out there are having as much fun with the series so far as I am and I hope to see your beautiful asses here next week! Okay, sure, I guess we’ll call that piece of shit sentence a sign off…