Six rounds on tonight’s Justified.
1. We’ll begin at the end, with Boyd seemingly outfoxed and severely underestimated by his enemies. Sam Elliott’s Avery Markham has his inaugural scene with two of our regular characters, putting the folksy, smooth-as-silk fear of God into Ava and Boyd, and introducing himself not just as the guy behind the guy for this season, but possibly the entire series. The actual leaders of the so-called Dixie Mafia have always been just on the periphery, as each season has dealt with the lower-level dramas of Bo Crowder, Wynn Duffy, Mags Bennett, and Drew Thompson, while the macro view of the show’s criminal society has so far focused on the lords of Miami and Detroit. Avery’s reminiscing about a nine-year-old Boyd served not just to put Boyd in his place (and to light a more personal fire under Boyd’s ass for revenge), but to pull all of Justified‘s disparate illegal elements and players under his watchful, twinkling eye.
2. Speaking of Boyd’s enemies, tonight’s episode further muddies the waters between Ava, Boyd, and Raylan, as Ava draws closer to Boyd while the Marshals and AUSA Vasquez threaten to revoke her Confidential Informant status and send her back to prison. Between her reconnaissance mission to the Pizza Parlor (which earns her a new admirer in Choo Choo) and her one-on-one scene with Sam Elliott, this season continues to feel like one long apology to Joelle Carter for stranding her in prison all last season.
3. And speaking of long apologies, there’s Erica Tazel. The show has never known quite what to do with Rachel (and to a lesser extent, Tim) other than have her react sourly to whatever shit Raylan has stirred for himself that week. Putting her in charge of the office this season feels like a step forward for the character and the actress, but in execution all it’s really done is given us additional examples of how terrible it would be to have Raylan as a co-worker/employee. There’s always been the potential for great drama in Rachel as an outsider to not only Harlan but also to the Marshals, as both worlds are strongly and specifically codified for white men, but for some reason the show has never looked that in the eye. We have a few more episodes left, so there’s hopefully still time to give character and actress a moment in the sun. As much as we all love Raylan and are asked to identify with him, I really wouldn’t mind seeing Rachel do like Kima in the last season of The Wire, finally taking our “hero” to task for all the frankly unconscionable shit he’s gotten away with over the years.
4. Another member of the Deadwood family arrives in Harlan this week: Brent Briscoe as Luther Kent, an old mining buddy of Raylan’s whose idiot son has been skimming explosives for Boyd and company. Briscoe appeared in one episode of Deadwood‘s first season, though fans of quality television from current decade might know him best as the owner and namesake of JJ’s Diner on Parks and Recreation.
5. While Justified has always had a flair for ornate and memorable dialogue, tonight’s episode seemed especially florid, giving Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant some odd turns of phrase that wouldn’t have felt out of place on Olyphant’s first cowboy show. I was especially struck by Avery using the term reconnoiter during his scene with Ava, as that is a word that I know exclusively from “Reconnoitering the Rim,” an episode from the first season of Deadwood.
6. Sometimes, though, direct is best, so I’ll leave the last word to Raylan and one of his most memorable threats in a long time: “You understand me, Earl? I’m gonna shoot your dick off.”