Six rounds on tonight’s Justified.
1. First of all, Exploding Jake Busey may be my new favorite Busey. His Mr. Wiz is introduced in true Justified fashion, as a flamboyant backwoods genius whose expert skill (in this case, safecracking) makes up for his outsized eccentricities (in this case, having a snake-handling Daisy Duke girlfriend and, well, being Jake Busey). And then, also in true Justified fashion, he explodes himself after forgetting to put away his own cell phone before handling detonators, leaving a puff of smoke that should be a hair too cartoonish, if not for the bloodsoaked and bemused reactions of Boyd and Wynn Duffy.
2. Mr. Wiz was conscripted in the first place to blow up the bank vault containing Avery Markham’s cash, but by the end of the episode that action proves unnecessary, as both Boyd and Raylan deduce why Markham is back in Kentucky: Legal weed is coming, and hospitable farmland in Harlan is about to become very valuable. It’s an interesting twist as we get to the middle of the season, one that recalls Mags Bennett grifting the mining company in Season Two, and gets to one of the hard truths that has always lurked around the corners of the show, from Mags to the Harlan elite in Season Five to the history of exploitation in the coal mines: Crime does pay, and sometimes very well, but it’s nothing compared to turning your racket legit.
3. And speaking of Season Two, Dickie Bennett! And Loretta MacReady! Raylan’s investigation takes him to the Bennett family land, which Loretta was smart enough to buy from behind a holding company and Dickie was dumb enough to sell. This finally puts Raylan and Avery Markham in a room together for some good old-fashioned cowboy passive-agressive banter. In a land (and show) obsessed with its own history, where a man is most dangerous when he knows and has learned from the past, Avery once again shows himself prepared for every comer, with callbacks to Mags’ poisoned apple pie trick and Raylan’s series-inciting ultimatum to Tommy Burns.
4. As the season unfolds and the series wraps up, the show is drawing lines between the characters in bold colors, more so than ever before. Before the credits roll, Raylan visits Art to gain some insight into Avery Markham, but Art wants to know why Raylan is wading so far into the water when he just needs to put a case together against Boyd in order to get released to Florida and his family. Raylan doesn’t have much of an answer, because the truth is that Harlan is his family, literally and otherwise. The episode finds makeshift relationships everywhere: fathers for Raylan’s twin natures in Art and Avery; the worldly Loretta, a vision of Raylan’s own daughter if left without a father; the bitter, brotherly history between Raylan and Dickie; Katherine Hale’s deceptive sisterly bonding with Ava; and Boyd’s new long game, which would finally set he and Ava atop Harlan as benevolent Father and Mother of newly prosperous Harlan, unseating the duplicitous Katherine and Avery.
5. So, if all information currently available is to be believed, Avery escaped prison by ratting out his partner, Grady Hale, whose widow Katherine now plots revenge, twenty years later, by seducing Avery in order to plant a knife in his back. This chain of events may have a few links in it yet, especially as it’s hard to believe that anyone on this show (except Raylan) ever has a motive as simple as revenge. This episode does a fine job of emphasizing that particular blind spot of Raylan’s, as he dismisses Ava’s fears that Katherine knows that she’s an informant. If Katherine knew, his reasoning goes, Ava would already be dead. But that’s just how Raylan would handle things, and it’s clear that Katherine is playing a more sophisticated game with Ava and Boyd (and everyone else–Katherine remains inscrutable).
6. No Rachel this week, though we got some fine Bechdel Test-passing scenes between Ava and Katherine. That’s rare enough on this show to merit a Bullet(ville) Point of its own.