[Review] - Justified, Season 4 Episode 9, "The Hatchet Tour"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

All through this episode, I was concerned. I was fretful, you might say, that the events of the previous episode had opened the flood gates. An irrational feeling to be sure, but one that failed to subside. Justified shows little hesitation when it comes to killing minor and recurring characters, and regulars clearly aren't all safe either. So, every time things got tense, I was worried that this might be the end of Tim, or Colt, or Constable Bob. Happily, everyone made it through alright, but damned if I wasn't sweating.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have secretly been living under an assumed name for years.

I can think of few other shows that would reveal their big season arcing mystery in episode 9 of their season. Even if, as Yost has suggested, that originally last week and this week were originally meant to be 9 and 10, rather then 8 and 9, that still leaves a lot of real estate on the other side of the reveal, time most shows wouldn't have any idea how to fill. But the true identity of Drew Thompson, which at the earliest might have been guessed at last week (with evidence rather then just random guessing), is just one story thread in this pot. It's just that Justified this year has become a game of Jenga, and the reveal will undoubtedly cause the rest of Raylan and Boyd's intentions to come crashing down around them.

So. Shelby then. That's a smart move. I had wondered, back when Raylan was working with him at the beginning of the season, and his spidey senses kept tingling, if he might not have at least a connection. I feel it was the best choice they could have made. I often find myself less then invested in these sorts of mysteries, because inevitably, the big reveal will be a character newly introduced in that season, someone with whom the viewer has a limited connection. Like, for instance, if they had opted to go with one of the Clover Hill folk, characters we've only known for a couple episodes, it just wouldn't have the same punch. By making Shelby Drew, we have two season's worth of backstory and relationship with the character, and we actually feel the same sort of... maybe not betrayal, but certainly ire that Raylan and Boyd (especially Boyd) are now feeling. And it makes sense, in the way that making someone like Art Drew just wouldn't.

According to Yost, even the writers didn't know until they were writing last week's episode. They had a few suspects, but it wasn't until they were writing his scene with Ellen May that it clicked. And I think that made for a better reveal. Other shows, ones that might have known all along, couldn't have resisted putting in hints and clues that keen eyed viewers would have spotted and spoiled. This way, with the writers in the dark, the surprise really is, for the first time in a long time I feel, a surprise. And, all credit to the writers, even not knowing that Shelby was in fact Drew, they still made the time line work, and nothing contradicts. And by using Constable Bob to establish that fact, we know the information is genuine. Because we know he is a pure, honest character. With a hell of a go-bag.

The Boyd stuff this week was hit and miss. His and Ava's house tour was wonderful, and made me realise that after four seasons, we still know precious little about the former-future Mrs. Crowder. The reveal that her mother used to clean house for the Clover Hill crowd is, I think, the biggest reveal of her past we've had yet. And considering that there is at this point very little we don't know about Raylan and Boyd, I think the show would do well to start filling in those gaps. In fact, I'm fulling advocating that next season shift the Harlan focus over to the future Crime Mother of the county.

And the Marshal focus should fall on Rachel, as this season has fallen on Tim, if only because it was while Tim was doing his very best Raylan impression this episode I realised we haven't seen Rachel at all since the cock fighting stuff early season. Hopefully whatever they come up for Rachel to do will be a touch more interesting then Tim's, who gets in on the action with just a terrible contrivance. The writers dropped the ball then they expected us to believe that someone who took a head shot then drug himself across the floor, and texted an obscure reference to his friend before he died. It did set up a confrontation between Colt and Tim, something I saw coming, and something I expect we'll see again before the season is over. It also crossed over his story with the tale of Ellen May, and the reintroduction of the snake handling ministry, a story line I declared dead and forgotten just last week. Oops.

And much like the reveal of Shelby's identity, this week brought an end to Boyd's ignorance about Colt's mistake. And very nicely merges the two tales of Drew and Ellen May. But for the life of me I can't figure out Johnny's play. Some week's he's conspiring to see Boyd in the ground, and other weeks he's looking out for him, playing the loyal follower. It can't just be the establishment of trust, I think it's just general confusion. Either intentional, to show Johnny's inability to commit to something, or unintentional, in which case the writers had better break down his motivations.

I was wrong about Raylan's reaction to Arlo's death, with only a brief hint of any sort of turmoil bubbling up. Of course, it's only been a day, and the funeral is yet to happen. I'm sure they'll get to it eventually. This week Raylan's reaction was reserved pretty much to doing what he always does, which is exactly what he shouldn't. Hunter and him are a great pair, I thought so in season one and was disappointed when Hunter turned out dirty. It was nice to see them together last week, and a hell of a lot of fun this week. It also lead to the best scene of the evening, in Wynn Duffy's trailer. Everything, from the pushing Hunter over in the chair, to the genuine, almost civil moment between Wynn and Raylan on the couch. The best villains on this show aren't the monsters. The best ones (Boyd, Mags, Wynn) are the ones that you can just as easily see Raylan sitting down and having a beer with, the ones that share more of his general philosophies, just do things in a different way. The Theos and the Quarles are too extreme to be anything other then obstacles. The Wynns and the Boyds, those are the villains with substance.

Next week we Get Drew. And you know what? I think on this show, they just might.
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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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