[Review] - Justified, Season 6 Episodes 3 And 4, "Noblesse Oblige" And "The Trash and the Snake"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.
A handful of episodes in, and the recurring themes of this season have been all but made obvious, and a huge one is the act of looking back. It is present in the writing, which is making call backs to the first season at every opportunity, but in a way that doesn't seem forced. In a show that relies so heavily on a connective web of recurring elements, the return of characters from previous years, or the refrain of phrases and scenarios from season 1 seem perfectly natural. And, in the case of the Trash and the Snake, lead to some pleasant surprises.

Also, now that Sam Elliot's Avery Markham has been properly introduced, we have a clearer image of this season's threat. Not just the threat embodied in Markham, but in the threats facing all our principles as Markham's influence in Harlan grows. And none so more than Ava, who is shaping up to be this season's emotional linchpin, and the character with the most potential directions to her storyline.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoiler that you're going to want to punch, but just have fun with them.

So let's talk about Ava. Her larger storyline got derailed last year when she went to prison (I understand it has given them material to work with, but it really was a deflated tire of a segue), but now that she's out, the writers have put her back on a path that began in earnest in season 3. way back when, with Boyd in lock up, it fell to Ava to take the reigns of the Crowder crime family. Over the course of that year, she held the line against Johnny and Devil and Arlo, took Audrey's under her protection, and generally positioned herself as the heir-apparent as crime-matron of the holler.

This season hasn't been subtle in planting the seeds of a potential return to rule for Ava. Avery as much said that the men of Kentucky crime only succeed when there is a stronger woman acting as the power behind the throne. With the return of Loretta to the mix, we've got a nice little female crime bosses of past present and future dynamic shaping up, with Loretta representing the ambitious future, Ava the uncertain present, and Catherine the regretful future. The show has used this generational tactic before, in regards to Raylan's career and family priorities, and Boyd's aspirations of grandeur.

Ava's dilemma, and indeed Boyd's waffling back and forth on his future in Harlan, and to a lesser extent, Raylan's refusal to just get the job done already, is a perfect example of the Leonardian concept of personal futility. Elmore's characters, especially the criminals, are characterized by their inability to recognize their own shortcomings. They think they are the best at what they do, and despite repeated failures, repeat the same mistakes until it gets them killed. And they almost always end up dead. In Boyd's case, it is his refusal to cut and run, always certain that his next scheme will be the one that crowns him the king of Harlan. In Raylan's case, its the idea that his next bust will be his last, never realizing that he's always kicking at the walls, then goes chasing the next rat that comes running out (which the show encapsulated in a much better and title-birthing metaphor). And in Ava's case, her flaw is two fold.

First, that she can always make the best of a bad situation. She married Bowman, and when that went bad, she killed him. then she shacked up with Raylan, and when that turned sour did a hard 180 and went with Boyd. Through Boyd she saw a life of influence and money, though that landed her in prison. She turned on Boyd to get her out of prison, and is now caught between an uncaring judicial system and the constant threat of violence. which brings her to her second flaw, another Leonardian concept: hedging bets. Elmore's characters were constantly playing both sides, or at least making plan after plan involving any number of characters involved with a given plot. The idea was, they'd make no matter how the piece went down, even if it went sour. This almost always backfires.

So here now is Ava, genuinely terrified, but seeing some measure of comfort (and considerably more personal freedom) in Boyd. All the while, she's keenly aware of the danger he poses, and thus remains as loyal as she needs to be to the Marshals. It is worth noting that she has been a begrudging CI to the Marshals, which Raylan has admonished her for. But she doesn't hesitate to "send up the bat-signal" at the first sign of personal peril. Her heart, I believe, still firmly rests with Boyd, and when push comes to shove, she'll choose him over all else except her own personal survival. And she won't be above manipulating both Boyd and Raylan to secure that survival. More and more I see Ava being the last person standing when the dust settles on the series, for better or worse.

Meanwhile, this season's Big Bads, Catherine and Avery, laid out their respective plans. Catherine is a bitter widow seeking revenge, less for the death of her husband, and more so for the death of her affluence and influence that his death brought about. Avery meanwhile, sees gold in them thar hills, and has a mind to set up a legal pot growing operation in Kentucky. It's a solid plan, and one that Boyd is content enough to steal. And one that Loretta is content enough to copy. And one that Raylan is content enough to ignore, if it weren't for the fact that Markham has his goons killing everyone who turns down their generous offer. The show did a solid job introducing Markham as a threat by having him meet each principle character face to face, in turn. The result: Sam Elliot brings a subtle and brimming rage to the role that I had no idea he was capable of, mostly because he' generally plays is roles so cool. But there is a powerful menace under that easy going, gentleman-like exterior, and it'll be a thing of beauty to see it go off.

Also, a guy exploded and the show gave a visual shout-out to Bridget Fonda's Jackie Brown character. This show is just swell.
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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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