[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 7, "Raw Deal"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Episode seven of a thirteen episode season is the fulcrum episode. The episode where the narrative sits in a kind of equilibrium, as it begins to shift from set up to pass off. Past episodes sevens of Justified have seen the introduction of Bo Crowder, the Winona/money fiasco, the introduction of Sammy Tonin (and beginning of the end for Gary), and Elmore Leonard's final story credit on the series. This episode saw the series long conflict between Boyd and Johnny come to a head, but beyond that, it was more evidence that this season feels a little directionless.

There isn't a central thesis, an ongoing conflict or a Big Bad to united against. The Crowes are a presence, yes, but after a traditional introduction, they've taken to occupying a supporting role rather than an out and out villainous one. It was a by-the-numbers-Justified episode as you can get. Raylan was single minded, Boyd was crafty, and there were plenty of jokes. Which is fine, a standard issue episode of this show is still better than 90% of the rest of TV. But heading down the penultimate stretch, things should probably be at a higher level than just fine.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that intend to seduce you with their feminine wiles.

This season has felt more like a Boyd year than any that has come before it. He has always shared the spotlight with Raylan, which is part of the success of the show: two separate, both physically and ideologically, stories that occasionally converge. But Raylan has always been the precipitating force, and the primary focus. This season though, it has been the Crowder clan that has driven the season narrative. Boyd has had more interaction with the Crowes, has relied more on escalating story arcs and called back to previous seasons. Raylan's stories have mostly been stand-alones. This episode was the epitome of this arrangement. Raylan hunted a one-off crook, while Boyd put his house in order.

Raylan gets pulled into a classic Leonardian scenario, after being put in the dog house by Art. Apparently while we weren't looking, Rachel got a promotion to Deputy Chief, because she spent the episode bossing both Raylan and Tim around while Art gave Raylan the silent treatment. I think this is great development, both for the character and the show. It would be by-the-book for Raylan to be the choice to replace Art, except that we'd have to ignore the fact that Raylan is pretty terrible at his job, and Art would never support his promotion. Rachel however, is a competent Marshal who deserves promotion. She's also the least emotionally damaged person in the office, which helps her case significantly.

Raylan had a great speech at the end of the episode, calling Art on his behaviour, which ran more than a little empty considering that Raylan is completely at fault and deserves any punishment he gets. Art just shouldn't act like a child about it (he already floored him with a punch, the cold shoulder isn't that witty a rejoinder following that). Raylan insists that Art treat him like an adult, and either get over his massive disappointment at Raylan's borderline illegal activities, or transfer him. Since the show only has one season left, and time moves extra slow on this show, I suspect the latter will be the end result. Then again, in true western and Elmore fashion, I also expect the series to end in a shoot out with unexpected outcomes. So who knows how everything will end for these characters.

Boyd seems to have accepted his fate. While waiting with Johnny in Mexico he reveals that he had long ago comes to terms with his sudden and violent demise, saying that men in their line of work only come to one kind of end. Of course, he had at that moment stacked the deck in his favour, and knew how things would play out, which is very much in keeping with the character. He was shot in the heart once and survived, and everything he's done since has been to manipulate events to ensure his own survival. I'd like to think that, when the inevitable confrontation between Raylan and Boyd comes, that there will be a way for both to walk away, with neither claiming a victory. But Raylan also tend to be the one person immune to Boyd's machinations. Johnny, he was easier to play than a pair of spoons.

Boyd still hasn't gotten the heroine that he needs to remain a viable crime kingpin in his holler. Seriously, I'm fairly certain I could go out and find a heroine supply faster than it has taken Boyd to get in like Flint with the Mexicans. And cousin Johnny, just as spiteful as ever, is there trying to make life difficult. As Boyd points out, the thing Johnny could never get straight was that there are people who lead and people who follow. And Johnny is not a leader. He was doomed to death as soon as he resurfaced this season, and Boyd might have taken his time with it if Danny hadn't went murder crazy, necessitating Boyd to put a quick bullet into Johnny's chest. Did Johnny deserve as undignified a death as on his knees in the middle of the Mexican desert? I'd say so, if only for the two weeks comment about Ava.

Ava herself just keeps digging herself in deeper as she tries to survive in prison. And while I am happy that Ava is actually contributing to the plot, because it's completely divorced from the rest of the season's arc, I have a difficult time involving myself with it. It seems like the sort of story the writers came up with just because they couldn't think of anything better to do with her. Winona, they wrote out, but Ava has always been a bigger part of the world than Winona, so she's kept around, in a satellite plot that it's sad to say only subtracts time that could be spent building up the Crowes, or involving Raylan more in the plot of the year.

This week, he spent the episode hunting down a one legged hacker, and it synergistic that they got their first Fugitive joke into the show in the episode having to do with an amputee. It was a traditional Elmore set-up: a couple incompetent criminals who think they're better than they are, get involved with a legitimate threat who is motivated exclusively by greed. And all get taken down by their various hubris' and petty jealousies. It provided lots of opportunities for Raylan to crack wise, and to make just enough bad decisions that he gets in trouble, but win out in the end (like the organ harvesters a few seasons back). It also provided a chance for the cracks to start showing in a couple of the season's new relationships. Raylan's shine seems to have worn off for Alison, who was in no mood for his charm here. And Wendy opened herself up to being the weak link in the Crowe family chain.

From here on out, everything is running down hill. Which should also mean that everything will starting running faster, and picking up a lot of wallop for when it hits the end of the season. But unless they pull out a hell of a second half, I feel that season five will be the weakest season of the show's run.
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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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