[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 12, "Starvation"

Courtesy of Sony Picture Television
The penultimate episodes of Justified tend to be doozies. Not that the finales don't pack punch, but the 12th episodes bring to an apex the crescendo of tension that has been building all season, capped off with one last act that sets off the powder keg in the finale. Season 5, despite it's more meandering gaze and less than steady climb, did not fail us. This episode was a flurry of activity, and it brought together every player, every plot, and every tangent the season has taken us on, and wove them together into a single fuse. Which Raylan then saw fit to light.

But it shouldn't have come as a surprise. The show never works as well as it does when Raylan and Boyd are standing side-by-side.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that do what they do.

This was an episode of goddamns. For Daryl, in his demonstration of sheer brute strength. For Boyd, for his continued manipulations and the sheer amount of swagger he can generate. For Dewey, for always managing to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Wendy, who despite every opportunity, never has the revelation that would allow her to escape the black hole that is the Crowe family. For Wynn, for being Wynn. And for Raylan, for rubbing everybody the wrong way, and making the hail Mary play at the eleventh hour. You can't say he isn't a man of his word: last week, he promised Daryl he'd come at him, not with a gun, with with the full might and power of his office, and he did not disappoint. Along the way, he left a trail of wreckage and disappointment in the lives of every other character in the show, and managed to piss off everyone else to the extent that a gun fight is pretty much the only way things will end.

This episode featured two rare occurrences, and they were what elevated the episode from great to spectacular. First off, the entire episode was devoted to Raylan and Boyd working on the same side of a problem. Raylan and Boyd don't get together often, so that's something to celebrate, and they haven't gotten together for such a stretch since last season's hill people episode. Raylan had less time to shoot the shit with Boyd here, as he was a man on a mission, and the anger he keeps contained was bubbling up to the surface. But the charm between them shone through. It is a kind reminder of why this series has worked so well for for so long, and it is the chemistry between the two leagues. The reality of the narrative keeps them apart, which makes these times special. And all the more special considering that Boyd is under duress the entire time. Usually, they come to meetings on even ground, but this is that rare moment where Boyd needs Raylan just a tiny bit more than Raylan needs Boyd.

The far more rare occurrence here was a meeting between Raylan and Ava. Stretch your mind back to the first season, and recall that they were the show's first love story. She was the first woman we saw get her heart destroyed by Raylan's nature. Their parting was not on the greatest of terms, but Raylan has never wished her ill will, and for his part he's still sweet on her, wishing she'd come to her senses. The two, extended scenes they shared here were wonderful, and the second was heartbreaking. In the first, Raylan saw the woman being with Boyd has turned her into. In the second, he saw the woman who opened the door on his first day back in Harlan and kissed him. Raylan isn't one for emotional displays, but damned if Olyphant didn't kill the itching sadness living just under his skin as Ava begged for her life, and he was powerless to help her. Then had to twist the knife when he told her that Boyd had acted in his own interests rather than hers. Props to Carter for her performance in that scene too, as the sheer weight of her burnt bridges falls onto her shoulders.

The plan to draw Daryl out, by the Marshals, and the plan to have the Marshals and the Mexicans destroy each other, by Boyd and Wynn, were both smart plans. But this is the universe of Elmore Leonard we're playing in. Smart plans never go accordingly. What was surprising was that they didn't go spectacularly wrong, just wrong enough to necessitate a constant recalculation. Plans A through D get tossed aside, and Raylan ultimately has to run a play that pretty much guarantees that it'll end badly for someone, no matter which way it turns. Raylan is always willing to put himself in the line of fire, but it is rare for him to use others in the same way that he's using Kendal here. Might it be a sign of the growing darkness, that has been reaching towards the surface all season. Raylan has never been one to give extra thought towards repercussions, but he really did a number on his world here.

First, he has left Ava in the wind. True, he's powerless to help her, but any shred of respect Ava might have had for him is long gone now. Second, any good will that he might have had with Wendy is gone. He's pushed her almost completely into Daryl's corner. Her eyes are seeing red, but I'm guessing they'll be trained completely on Raylan, and Daryl will sit quietly in her blind spot for Kendal's situation. Daryl will have been driven over the edge which family obsession. Tim and Rachel, despite backing Raylan up when Boyd announced his connection to Nicky Augustine, are too smart not to draw a connection between Raylan and Art's falling out, and the claim of impropriety, which will probably sour the office environment all the more. And Boyd. Boy howdy, did Raylan bring back the bad blood between them. Boyd has not actively gunned for Raylan since season one. But with Ava out of his life, his criminal empire turned to ash, and nothing left for him in Harlan, I believe that his wish for a "blank slate" might have been genuine. And Raylan, in a fit of temperament, took that away from him. Now Boyd, alone in the world, once his Mexican problem has been dealt with, has only Raylan left, to direct all his emotions towards. I'm guessing they'll be sour.

And then we come to Dewey. Dewey has been the most consistent punchline on the show throughout it's entire run. And despite the suggestion that the woes of the Crowes would harden him this year, he remained as clueless as ever. That his cluelessness never works out in his favour is a trait common to Leonardian characters, and here it was in full force. It ruined Boyd's plan, it ruined Raylan's plan, and it ruined his own plan. But he didn't die, and that is something. Unlike Wynn, who thinks himself out of the death that surrounds him, Dewey just stumbles into and away from real danger. Hopefully, he'll end up cell mates with his buddy Dickie, and they can while away the hours giggling like fools over turtledogs and their hair cuts. That's about the brightest future Dewey Crowe can wish for, and he deserves the best he can get.
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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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