[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 8, "Whistle Past the Graveyard"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
After four solid seasons, I guess we can begrudge Justified a filler episode or two. This week's offering felt like little more than an extension of last week`s, covering pretty much the same territory for all the various story lines. Boyd and the Crowes remain in Mexico, sorting out their mess from last week, Ava continues to dig herself in deeper, and Raylan goes off on another one-off adventure, though one substantially less developed and interesting than last week's.

The writers managed to slip in a couple surprising character developments, though one was transparently little more than a way to keep the drama of the episode going, while the other has been a long time coming. It was a weak episode, possibly the weakest they've ever done. And at slightly over the half way point, I find myself becoming disinterested in the ways things are developing. That's not a good thing; not on this show.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were born to lose.

Graham Yost admitted that this episode was rather spur of the moment. They needed an episode, and needed it fast, so he and Chris Provenzano (one of the show's best writers) broke the story in a couple days, and dashed script out quick. And it shows. While all the elements are there for a traditional episode, it lacks the detail, the care of conviction that Justified's episodes are known for. Though I suppose I'd rather they burn off an episode here, than have the climax of the season suffer. To their credit, they sprinkled the episode with enough "big" stuff that the meat of the episode could be disregarded. But still, it felt like an empty meal.

Kendal called in his Uncle Jack at the tail end of last week, and this week Jack appears, broken sunglasses and smooth lies and a man on his tail. Jack is a classic Elmore Leonard loser, with a history racing to catch up with him and not enough sense to put his life right. Elmore's characters were defined by their inability to realize their mistakes and to grow beyond them, and Jack had that in spades. Raylan only has half that problem: he knows the mistakes he's making, he just can't help himself. Like getting involved in the Crowes, which I have to admit this season strains logic. In past seasons, when Raylan has gotten hooked on taking down certain characters (Quarles, the Bennett's) it's been for fairly sound reasons. This season, he seems just not to like the Crowes. And the way they've crossed paths with the Marshals has never seemed overly organic. Too much like the writer's needing Raylan to poke at them, rather than letting it happen. The Crowes have found a much more logical fit butting up against Boyd, but that leaves Raylan in the background.

So, while the Crowe boys are off on their Mexican vacation with Boyd, Kendal and Jack take off, leading Wendy to call in the on-vacation Raylan to help track them down. William Forsythe was the guest star this week, and it's a shame that he's as wasted as he is. Even the heavys on this show get development, but Forsythe was little more than a raspy voice and a stern look, coming after Jack for reasons. As a story, it was obvious filler, giving Olyphant a reason to show up on set for that week. The writers tried to make it worth while, like when Alison finally dumped Raylan. Unlike most characters on this show, she's smart enough to recognize a bad decision when she's making one, and takes steps to fix her mistakes. Dropping Raylan fits the characters, and frees Raylan up to make new bad mistakes in the future. The rest of the episode worked best when it was the Justified version of The Ref, with Raylan having to suffer the bickering of Jack and Wendy, who turns out are Kendal's parents, not distant relations. The reveal is meant to make Wendy seem that much more sympathetic, and build more onto the budding relationship she has with Raylan, while also distancing her from her brothers. But I'm frankly having a hard time believing the math. It works, with the actor's ages, but it seems like a desperate move on the writer's part, to give the episode some relevance.

Elsewhere, Boyd and the Crowes find themselves surrounded by bodies and angry Mexicans. And again, while the need of the story was to get them out of Mexico and to set up increasing tensions between Boyd and Darryl, the execution fell a little flat. The trickery on both men's part was in keeping with the characters, but it felt rushed (and how cliched is the use of corrupt federales). Solutions came to quickly and easily for the heroin smugglers, and too much was left to play out between the scenes. If Darryl is attempting to endear himself to Boyd, while working behind his back to take over the Crowder crime family, it'd be nice to see the two working together, rather than the snippets of conversations and reveals of the combined cleverness that we've gotten so far. The reason the animosity between Johnny and Boyd was so believable was that we had plenty of interactions between the two to draw on. Of course, that comparison is a little unfair, since we had four seasons of Johnny and Boyd together, while the Crowes have only been on the Crowder payroll for a handful of episodes. Still, it's all about establishment. You need to set the table before you pull the cloth out from underneath it.

Yet in another elsewhere, Ava's story continues to linger on. I said last week that this story was clearly concocted because they needed to find a way to use Joelle Carter on a regular, though they have no problem using the similarly main cast Rachel, Tim and Wynn only as necessary. Problem is, since hooking her up with Boyd, Ava's character is largely defined by how she relates to Boyd. By leaving her on her own in an alien environment, the writers opened up a world of possibilities, but the path they've chosen doesn't seem to be leading anywhere anytime fast. It's taken them three episodes to set up a relationship with the drug mules of the women's prison, and considering the way the rest of Ava's time in prison has went you can bet it's going to go bad for her. The twist is though, you know how it's going to end, so it's all for not. Unless they pull a surprise on us at the end of the season, and shank Ava to death, leaving Boyd to spiral into grief and misery in the final season, her charges will be dismissed and she'll be set free to return to the waiting arms of her betrothed. At least with Raylan and Boyd, you can assume that it'll come down to a stand off, but there is no way to know which way that'll go. By putting a main character prison, the end game can only be they get out. And what is the narrative point of that?

Which is as good a way to describe this season so far: what is the narrative point?
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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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