[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 5, "Shot All to Hell"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Last week, I noted how some of the elements of that episode, particularly the disconnected scenes that came at the very end, seemed like they were either filler or things that belonged elsewhere but didn't work. So they were packaged together in episode 4, so that the narrative could sprint past them in order to get to something meatier. This episode confirmed that belief, as all those little moments needed to be got out of the way for this 42 minute bloodbath to take place.

In the five seasons Justified has been on, there have been bloody episodes, but never to this extent. The alternate title here could have been Thinning The Herd. Not only did a record number of people die, both reoccurring characters and new, but the episode also brought an end to one of the major story lines of the series. In many ways, it had a season finale feel to it, except for the dozen or so other story lines that are just getting going. And a helpful reminder that even on a good day in Harlan County, nobody comes out a winner.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that think they dropped a toonie somewhere.

It's not often that the writers of Justified misstep with a subplot. It has happened (Winona and that damned money being the obvious example), and it stood to reason it would happen again. And I think it just has. Because I cannot for the life of me figure out the point to convincing Paxton that Boyd was dead, beyond stretching that story across five episodes rather than four. If Paxton's story had continued for a few episodes more, with him under the impression that Boyd wasn't a threat, then maybe it could have been something. If it was used to set up Mooney as a goon, or potential threat to Boyd, I'd be more accepting of it. If it had brought Boyd and Mara closer together, and given her the opportunity to comfort him in Ava's absence, only to backstab him when he was exposed, I'd allow it. But as it stands, Paxton thought Boyd was dead for exactly one credit sequence, then got himself shot through the head. Then Mooney got himself shot through the chest by one of Boyd's loyal flunkies. Then Mara got herself ostracised from Harlan. So, while it may have lead to Ava nearly getting set loose, it all seemed like a lot of posturing for too little payoff.

Ava too has had criminally little to do so far this season. As I mentioned last week, Danny Strong's prison guard came out of no where, and here continues to be a pest. I don't blame the writers for not having time for Ava, considering how many other stories they've got brewing this season, and now that a fair number have been put in the literal ground, maybe we can shift focus over to our favourite former-and-soon-to-be-Mrs. Crowder. This week, just as soon as everything was looking up for the Crowder family, everything took a sharp turn towards worse. What it helped reinforce was the notion of these character's natures. Boyd is a manipulative planner who does not hesitate to act in his and his family's best interest (in that order too). He kills, mercilessly, and feels nothing for it. Ava, on the other hand, acts in violence only when she is at her most desperate. If a man comes at Boyd with a knife, Boyd is taking that man down. If a man comes at Ava with a knife, her instinct is to recoil. He is fight, she is flight. And those instincts will be the ruin of them both.

The meat and bones of this episode was Art's one man take down of the remains of the Tonin crime family. It's always nice when Art gets the spotlight, and it's helpful to remind the viewer that he and Raylan aren't that different, it's just that Art is better at his job and at keeping his emotions in check. But I won't say that I wasn't on the edge of my seat the entire time, nervous that Art might be making his last official enquiry. Even the final scene, all happy between Art, Raylan and Vasquez, which just kept going and going, and my mind tells me that if a scene runs long and a character is happy, chances are they're going to die. Art made it through this one, but he's on the verge of retirement, and has a big get under his belt. I fear for the old Marshal's future.

The story was straight forward police investigation. Art tracks Picker to a diner, along with Duffy and Mike, and has a confrontation with the Tonin consigliere (Alan Tudyk!), which was equal parts tense, funny and wonderful. That all settled, with just the right amount of sanrk from Duffy, nearly gets Art the information about Raylan he was looking for. Instead, Picker leads the Marshals to a stockyard where they have a shootout against the biggest gun featured on this show. Occasionally, Justified slips in a bit of cartoonish absurdism that somehow works perfectly in universe, and never seems forced or out of place. That... arm canon was one such thing. It's extreme overkill, but looked equal parts awesome and badass, and for that character, seemed perfectly reasonable.

Once Raylan had taken out the gunman (this might be shaping up to be Raylan's bloodiest year), they got a bonus in discovering that Theo himself had come out of hiding, to personally kill Picker as revenge for killing Sammy. A stupid ass move, but in keeping with the Tonin's emotional overreactions. So that sees the end of the Tonin crime family, who are all now either dead or in prison. Between Boyd cutting ties with Detroit, and the Tonin's under Marshal custody, that pretty much ends the northern influence on the proceedings. Now, with the Crowe's on one side, and the Mexican heroine trade on the other, looks like we'll be heading south for the remainder.

In as history and blood heavy an episode as this, what was most comforting was that the writers still took the opportunity to surprise us along the way. Ava's frameup certainly wasn't expected. Theo being in the storage unit wasn't either. But the real leg sweeping in this episode came in the two big scenes right at the end. Crowes took a back seat this week, with Wendy and Darryl talking some about responsibility, and Kendel proving himself to be the rare Crowe with a brain. The big scene though, was between Danny and the Haitian. Danny is clearly the weakest link in a gene pool that is already dangerously shallow, and his shotgunning of the Haitian was as big a surprise as any this show has pulled off. It wasn't that the character had been well defined, or that we'd become attached to him. It just seemed like he was going to be something important down the line. He certainly had Darryl's confidence, and the expectation was for him to become a force later on down the line, not "Haitian hamburger" in the whorehouse sitting room.

Equally, that last scene with Raylan and Art, where for a moment everything went everybody's way, and they all could have went home with a good day under their belts. Then Raylan, who never acts in his best interests even when he's trying to be noble, goes and all but confirms Art's suspicions. Now, Art and Raylan are chummy, but haven't really been friends since the Winona-money nonsense in season two. And I can't see their relationship surviving this next bit. Art, even if he's unable to punish Raylan for what he's done, will have little choice but to recognise that Raylan Givens is not good at his job, and swaggers dangerously close to being a Bad Guy.

Which means that Raylan's life is about to get a hell of a lot more difficult (or at least, he'll get babysat by Tim or Rachel more often, which won't be a bad thing). The shows time line is heavily condensed, and if Raylan had any eyes for Art's job when it comes available in "eight months,' I can't help but feel that's not an option anymore. As the start of the season reminded us, there is nothing keeping Raylan in Harlan anymore, save himself. The only family left to him is in Miami. And if Art is ready to give up on him, then it's only a matter of time before Raylan finishes his business and moves on down the road, or winds up under that tombstone with his name already on it.
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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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