[Review] - Justified, Season 4 Episode 8, "Outlaw"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
 The writers this season have made a wise choice, but putting big, series altering events into mundane, otherwise unremarkable episodes, so that they won't be swept away and forgotten. A few weeks ago, at the end of the closest thing this season has produced to a mess, Boyd proposed to Ava. This week, having to come off the success that was last week, would have to go big or go home.

But I didn't see that coming.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains BIG spoilers who also dream of owning a Dairy Queen franchise.

I applaud the choice that Yost, and the writers of Justified made. I've long been a fan of killing major characters. Too often though, it is a season finale sort of thing, well hyped and drawn out. LOST suffered from this occasionally. The dramatic gut-punch that killing a character, suddenly and unannounced mid season is a great technique, so long as it isn't overused. Joss Whedon is pretty much the master of this. And Justified too, who has dispatched Helen and Devil in similar ways (they also did so with Tim from Jurassic Park earlier this year, in a story line that ultimately went all of no where). Death can serve a character better then allowing them to linger, plotless and alone. And it can serve the other characters better, providing new challenges and new drama to work through and overcome. And that is where the show gets to go now.

Now that Arlo is dead.

What does this mean for Raylan? Well, we've seen the beginning of it, with his fight with Art. He is clearly, as Spock might say, "emotionally compromised." The pause, as he waited on the elevator, showed what is sitting under that anger, and what may well come out in the next couple episodes. The journey that Raylan gets to take now, and it will be a long one, what with the constricted nature of time on this show, is how did he really feel about Arlo? It is easy to hate a man who is front of you, doing terrible things. But when that man is gone, and stripped of those terrible things, he becomes just a man, and that man was his father. It was interesting that, in the death bed scene, Raylan didn't try to make right their relationship. He just kept trying to solve the case. Then, Raylan was still of the opinion that their relationship was long dead, no manner of words between them able to fix it. So, he appealed to the one thing Arlo could still fix: making right the case.

Now that Arlo is gone, the doubt will set in, the memories will begin to fade along the edges, and Raylan will be tempted. Maybe Arlo wasn't as bad as he seemed at the time? Maybe, if he hadn't been so much his father's son, they might have been able to make up near the end. Maybe instead of pushing him away at every opportunity, Raylan should have tried to get closer to him. Certainly while he was in prison, when he couldn't do anything, they might have been able to meet on common ground. Now that those opportunities are gone, will it eat away at him? Will he fall into depression and self loathing? Or will, and this is more likely, it fester and burn inside him, erupting as anger. Remember that the series began with Winona telling Raylan that he was the angriest man she'd ever met. Now that he has no one left in the world, no family behind him, and only the promise of a removed relationship with an unborn child in front, Raylan might well see his place in the world more clearly, and not like what he sees. In Elmore Leonard's world, people don't change. And when they do, it is rarely for the better.

Did Arlo deserve to die? Yost says yes, and that it's been coming since season 2 (I imagine it was Arlo rather then Helen who originally saw the most bullety end of Dickie Bennett's gun). And I agree with him. Arlo had served his purpose, and was now serving his time. By putting him in prison, it removed Arlo from the regular current of the series. There are only so many organic ways to get Raylan to Tramble, and nearly none for Boyd. Giving him a connection to Drew Thompson worked in a way, but again, because he wasn't operating in Harlan, any information Arlo might have had would aging by the day. And considering that he admitted to killing Devil, he wasn't getting out of prison anytime soon (unlike Boyd in season one, and Dickie in season three). Arlo was locked away, and probably for good. The only options available to the writers were either: move on, and leave him be; have Raylan make an effort to get closer to the old man, which would violate the rule about change; or kill him. Killing him is by far the more interesting option. Interesting for us as viewers, interesting for the characters, and will have a longer, deeper effect on the fabric of the relationships of the characters, if not the plot.

Arlo had to die. Now that it's happened, it makes perfect sense. But at the time, I couldn't believe that they'd done it. Twice. Because the initial stabbing, coming at the end of the cold open, was shock one. Shock two was the way his death was announced, off hand like the weather forecast. "Arlo's dead," said Raylan, a slight twinge the only emotion crossing his face as he adjusted himself in his chair. The others silent, uncertain if they had heard him correctly. No big deal, no undue fuss. Just the simple, quite fact.

The rest of the episode was, as I began, largely unremarkable. It was constructed mostly of a series of very engaging conversations. Raylan and the psychic, Boyd and Frank, Frank and the hitman, Shelby and Ellen May (which had all kinds of uncomfortable undertones), Shelby and Raylan, oyd and Wynn, Colt and the drug dealer, Colt and the friend of Tim, Johnny and Wyn, Raylan and the previous Harlan county Sheriff. They were good scenes, filled with lots of character, and lots of exposition, but like two weeks ago, none of them seemed particularly... pertinent. They all just seemed like moving pieces on a board, getting people into places, and situations, that will be important later on.

Perhaps the best scene was also the most plot-pointless, when Raylan walks into the bar and inadvertently saves Boyd's life. It was a life raft of a scene, featuring one of the scant interactions between Raylan and Ava, and was written with a Leonardian shimmer. Three conversations happening at once, each less to do with the business at hand, culminating in one of the series' best shootouts, in close quarters and with Boyd taken completely by surprise (not for the first time this year). And ending with what has got to be Raylan's personal motto at this point, "Boy I hope I got that right." It didn't add anything to the episode, it was just a funny way to conclude the hitman subplot.

Next week, Raylan takes a day to get his self right. That should end well.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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