[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episodes 9 and 10, "Wrong Roads" and "Weight"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Now that we're in the final stretch (only three episodes left!), the main storyline seems to be getting down to brass tacks. This season has felt more meandering than those in the past; less focused and driven by a central idea. Everyone seemed content to be doing their own things, getting distracted by little annoyances rather than focusing on the big picture. And maybe that is the message of the season, because all those little annoyances seem to have brought nothing but hurt to all involved.

These two episodes were about very different things. Wrong Roads was about confronting the future, while Weight was about acknowledging the past. Both were Justified working at peak efficiency. They dealt with the continuity of the universe, tore down some established walls while building up new ones, and had more than their fair share of both laughs and shocks. After a few weeks of weaker episodes, it seems like season five is shaping up to end strong.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that didn't take from this what I meant.

Lets talk about life and death in the world of Justified. From season one, it's been acknowledged that unless a character is played by a title sequence actor, there is no promise of job security. Folk die in Harlan. Yet the show has built up such a massive catalogue of recurring characters that for everyone they kill, there are half a dozen waiting in the wings somewhere, though a reappearance always carries with it the chance that it'll be the last. And it's taken as writ that the primary adversary in each season only has a one season life span. It's just a question of how they'll go. These two episodes perfectly highlight the fickle nature of human life expectancy within Justified.

First, there is Hot Rod, a character from way back, and a pillar for the writers to lean on whenever they wanted to touch on the crime empires that exist in the areas surrounding Harlan. Since Johnny's hostile take over earlier in the year, I had assumed that Hot Rod's days were numbered. And the writers, who have a tendency to give the best recurring characters fantastic exits, built a classic Leonardian plot around the search for the missing Tennessee drug dealer. Raylan teams up with Eric Roberts, playing what Graham Yost called the Ghost of Raylan Future, hunting them from the law side of things. Much was made of Roberts and Hot Rod's past, as a kind of Raylan/Boyd surrogate, though Roberts seemed to have far less disdain for Hot Rod than Raylan does for Boyd. The coming final season, and the inevitable confrontation between the show's two leads remains my primary area of speculative interest, and this gave us a glimpse of one potential outcome.

On the other side of things, you had the Harris brothers playing Roscoe and Jay, pitch perfect Elmore-style goons, seeking out their former employer looking for what they believe to be their by right. In one of the great scenes of the series, a tense meeting of the Kentucky crime elite concerning the future involvement of the Crowes turned into showdown between the law, the disorder, and the goons in between. Which in turn developed into a bit of a farce as the underbelly starts quoting and explaining Shakespeare. Raylan and Boyd scenes have been at their most infrequent this season, so it was nice to see, even briefly, the two cross paths again. It also served to put Boyd back on Raylan's radar, though I suspect he's never far from the lawman's mind.

On the other hand, there is Dewey Crowe and Dickie Bennett. Dickie has managed to out-survive every bit of chaos that has surrounded him. When last we saw him, it seemed like he had met his maker, but only body bags and grave stones count as permanent on this show, and his return was most welcome. It was brief, but full of joy, for both us and the characters on the show. Dewey seems cut from the same cloth, managing to survive no matter how much he screws up. These characters seem immune to the death that has surrounded them for so long. I thought for certain that, having mustered his courage to strike out on his own, that Dewey's time was up, but he was saved by circumstance, and lives to make a fool of himself again. He's burned his bridges with Boyd, and with his kin, so it remains to be seen if Dewey has anything left to contribute this season. Considering how things ended though, Daryl might come gunning for him.

Then you have Danny, and the rest of the Crowes in general. The show has never shied away from mixing humour with death, and I think they might have topped themselves with the way they dispatched the most unstable of the Florida Crew. Not since Limehouse's butcher knife has so much build up been put into a concept for so glorious a payoff. The 21 foot rule only works when there isn't a massive grave between combatants. What stuck me most about Danny's departure was not how soon it came (he was, after all, second fiddle) but how much it affected Darryl. In fact, Daryl was far more emotionally effected by death this episode than he ever has been before. Remember, this is a guy who ordered his own brother killed in his first appearance (everyone, save for a brief mention a few episodes ago, seems to have forgotten about Dilly). But here, learning of Jean Baptiste's murder, then later of Danny's self inflicted passing, he was clearly shaken. Daryl is a complex individual to be sure, but I thin the writers might be doing a bit of retroactive character building here, making him more than he was at the start.

It's getting tired to say so, but Ava's storyline continues to seem like putting in time. Every week, another obstacle is engineered to keep her story line going. First it was moving her to the bigger prison, then it was getting her involved in the drug supply, now it was getting her to murder Judith. Ava isn't cold blooded like Boyd, so they even had to engineer a reason for her to take a life in self defense (the only way she ever has done). The most interesting they've done with Ava this season happened in Weight, when she broke up with Boyd to protect him from what she had to do to survive in prison (though, she clearly hasn't thought that one through, seeing as Boyd's her drug supply). Boyd, understandably, does not take this well.

Which leads nicely into Wynn, who despite his promotion to main cast, has had as little to do this year as he's had since before Quarles. Wynn is stuck, as described, between a rock and a shit-kicker. Boyd's constant distractions this year, between Ava and the Crowes, have made what was meant to be a simple drug transaction, into a colossal waste of time and money. Picker is getting anxious, and Wynn (the greatest survivor on the show) needs to know which side to back. Enter Katherine Hale, played by Mary Steenburgen, a "consultant" from Duffy's past who agrees to help him. Hale is, apparently, poised to become a larger part of the show moving into the final season, which adds another layer of world building and some much overdue back-story for Duffy.

Perhaps my biggest issue with the direction of this season is that Raylan's involvement in the Crowes' business seems so forced. They haven't done anything to invite investigation by the US Marshals, which means the whole thing sits on the shoulders of them just being a bee in Raylan's bonnet. Dewey's running off with the drugs was one of the few times this season where Raylan's involvement actually felt organic, though only tenuous, as expressed by Art's continued ire at episode's end. Art and Raylan seems to have settled into a begrudging acceptance of their mutual antagonism, with Art just waiting for Raylan to screw up for good, and Raylan taking things as they come. With three episodes left, Daryl thirsting for revenge, and Boyd without motivation, I suspect neither of the lawmen will have to wait long for what they know is coming.
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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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