[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 2, "The Kids Aren't All Right"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
One of the reasons I consider FX to be the best of the American cable networks (sorry HBO) is because of the creative freedom they give their shows. The basic company line is, so long as you turn in a good product, we won't meddle. The awareness that the creative types should be the driving influence of the product, and that management should only worry about making money off what they make, not trying to change what they make, is refreshing and rare. And because of it, FX's shows are consistently good over the lifetime of their series, and some of the best on TV (It's Always Sunny, Archer, Louis, Justified to name a few).

It's with this in mind that the announcement that Justified has been renewed for a sixth season, which will also be it's last should be considered a good thing. The show has never been a rating's bonanza, but is critically acclaimed. On another network, it might have been retooled earlier in it's run, or cancelled outright, or had it's soul stripped out into something procedural and meaningless. Instead, it's been allowed to live on, for it's intended lifetime. Said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, "It was Graham Yost and Timothy Olyphant's decision. I would have liked to have had more Justified. It's one of my favorite shows." From day one, Yost has envisioned Raylan's story taking six season to tell, and that's exactly what we're going to get. The quality of the show has been and remains strong, as evidenced in this second episode of the now penultimate season. It's business as usual in Harlan, and business is good.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that know how to pass the time in a whore house.

This episode reminded me of last season's premiere in a lot of ways, and I suppose that speaks to the writers having figured out a formula that works. Last week's episode felt, at the time, like a mid season episode. In retrospect, it felt more like a prologue (which Elmore Leonard never did), and this felt like the proper premiere. And, it took the opportunity to introduce even more Leonardian archetypes to the mix, which are never not fun. Plus Rachel and Tim! Briefly!

The Crowe family woes took a back seat this week so that we might revisit some old friends. Loretta returned, and pulled Raylan into her world of hurt, after she got in too deep with another recurring face to the series, Hot Rod Dunham (Mickey Jones). It's yet another in a long series of side missions that speckle Raylan's life, and yet another example of Raylan overstepping his bounds because of his persona, skewed moral code. I saw it said elsewhere last week that Raylan might be a good guy, and he's a hell of a hero, but he's a terrible Marshal. And that's true. If you went back and counted the number of times he's used his badge to intimidate, superseded or otherwise conduct non-Marshal business, he'd have lost his star long ago. And it's starting to catch up with him, as Art, who is a far better Marshal, is looking into Raylan's deal with Sammy Tonin from last season's finale, the closest that Raylan has ever come to true villainy.

The episode also played heavily on one of Elmore's favourite concepts, the idea that people don't change. We are each to our own nature, and we might even take steps to better ourselves. But in the end, when our backs are against the wall, we will always be who we are. Raylan tells a long story about Arlo, and how he's been seeing death since he was a boy, and has gotten pretty good at it. It's a threat not thinly veiled, and he uses his badge to disguise the immorality of it, which is Raylan's eternal struggle: the man that Arlo made, verses the man he wants to be. Loretta too, despite being instructed in the past to be better than Harlan or Mags might have made her, and her promises to do so, she keeps falling back on old comforts. "She's the daughter of a murdered pot farmer," Raylan boils down. "It's in her nature." Even Alison (Amy Smart, fitting in quite well) proclaims to have learned lessons the hard way, but looks to be intending on making all new same-old mistakes.

Elsewhere, Boyd's life keeps getting more interesting. And by interesting, I mean worse. Ava is beginning to crack, his desperation to help her having caused them only more problems, his dealers are getting antsy, and he's come face to face with someone just as desperate as himself. I loved the little show Mara put on in front of Boyd, establishing her credibility as a threat by bring Mooney right to his door, so she could look him in the eyes while she did him a solid. It was a ballsy move, and one not out of character for an Elmore girl. I compared her last week to Jackie Burke (Jackie Brown in the film), and the comparison holds. She's desperate, and more than a little afraid, but she steps up and take charge of herself, since no one else is on her side. Except, now she's got worries. Mooney, after drifting in the background since season 2, finally steps up, and has apparently developed quite the ego despite his only talent having been to not die in a gun fight while everyone around him has. Turns out, he's a bastard, the sort of crazy evil that really stands on a show of grey hats. His road side scene where he "intimidates" Mara was one of the most uncomfortable that the series has ever produced. And, if that wasn't bad enough for her, Paxton wasn't as coma ridden as everyone thought.

Then, there's the heroine. The law unabiding folks of Harlan county are getting desperate for a fix, and they clearly do not recognise Wynn's authority. His fancy suits are no match for Boyd's tongue, which calms the masses, but doesn't shut their mouths. Loose lips to a pretty girl, and what should have been a simple drug deal turns into a blood bath, and Boyd remains without his product. Two episodes in, and Boyd's story line is driving the plot of this season, which is fine because his story last year took a few episodes to kick in. I can also foresee the arrival of Daryl in Harlan coming to Boyd's attention long before it comes to Raylan's, and Ava is still locked away. Despite his promise that her case would never see the inside of a court room, his plate is getting ever fuller, and things are already starting to slip off the edge. 
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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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