[Review] - Justified, Season Six Episode 5, "Sounding"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.
Where I am, it is currently winter. It is currently the butt-hurt middle of winter, with each day bringing a new lashing of either warm-and-snowing or sphincter-puckering cold. In fact, it's a rinse-and-repeat sort of thing, one day being unseasonably warm and getting the snow on the edge of melting, only for it to drop to down to Hell's balls cold, freezing everything up good enough to kill you as soon as you step out of the house the next morning. I have a new theory that neanderthals didn't go extinct because homo sapiens bested them or bred them out of existence. I think someone explained to them that the Ice Age was next to eternal, and as a species they all just said "screw that."

My point is, and I do have one, is that at this time of year, there is a fairly regular occurrence. You're sitting at a red light, and it turns green, and you put your foot on the gas. Now, nine times out of ten, you put it down slow, knowing that beneath your tires isn't a firm black top, but rather a caked on, pressed down slab of ice and snow, and that even with winter tires, if you put too much pressure on the gas, all you're going to muster is a feverish bit of tire spin, and a decrepit amount of acceleration. Every red you come to, someone on one of the four sides of the intersection will tire spin, which throws off the whole rhythm of the light.

This episode was fine. But it suffered entirely from a regular occurrence on TV, even on series with shorter episode counts. And I'm calling it tire spin from now one. There wasn't any one particular thing wrong with it, it just seemed that it didn't get us any closer to the end of things, which five episodes into the final 13, is a pretty important goal to be working towards. So, it moves us from episode four to episode six, but it is mostly tire spin.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that aplex me.


The Justified greatest hits continues, with the return of Patton Oswalt's Constable Bob and Mykelti Williamson as Limehouse. It's just a shame that two effective characters (for entirely different reasons) were brought back seemingly for nothing but face service. At least the past characters they've brought back this season in other episodes have all served a purpose (Dewey, Dickie, Loretta). I struggle to see how the foundations of the episode might have changed if it had been anyone else but Bob helping Raylan out. And how nowhere Ava's adventure in fugitivism went, reducing Limehouse to just a bizarre cameo. True, these events may yet inform future episodes, but as it stands, this episode felt both forced and unnecessary.

The bulk of the episode, as it related to Raylan, Tim, Rachel, Wynn, Catherine and Ava was Ava's hot-and-cold-running-attitude running cold, and taking off running. It was an extension and over elaboration of the unease she has already demonstrated in every episode this season. Five episodes in, we know she's scared, we know she's cagey and ready to bolt. Actually having her bolt seems like it should have had more impact. But tracking her down and bringing her back, all seemingly without repercussion smacked of the Shaggy Dog.It very much felt like giving the majority of the characters something to do in between the things they need to be doing.

Episodes like this aren't hard to spot, if you're paying attention. Every character played a part, but they were small parts, and while vaguely interconnected, they were disconnected. There is a lot of where-are-we-now scenes. Take, for instance, Sam Elliot's lone scene, which was present exclusively to reiterate that 1) Markham is a scary dude, B) Walker is scared of him and iii) they kill people reflexively. We know all of this from past episodes, and it'll pay off in episodes to come. This episode wasn't about them, but to fill in the time, it was apparently worth reminding us. the same is true of Ava's entire story, which boiled down to a reiteration of every discussion she and Raylan have had this year. 

The other sign of a tire spin episode is that a larger plot is introduced both gradually and breifly. In this instance, it was the addition of Jeff Fahey as Ava’s uncle Zachariah Randolph, whom Boyd spends the entire episode courting, and who end with them blowing open a mine shaft and gazing down it's long dark scope like it's the season finale of LOST. Obviously, Uncle Zach and the mine are a larger part of what Boyd has planed, and probably could have been done in one act. But Boyd needed something to do, so the decompression works its way in, and a sorry C-plot gets stretched over the length of the episode. I do like the idea of Zachariah's existence, because after six seasons, it's the first sign of Ava's extended family beyond wistful references to her momma. Considering how important family has been as a theme of this show, and how much we've delved into the history of the Crowder's and Givens', that we've seen or heard no hide nor hair of the Randolph clan has seemed an odd oversight (I mean, we've even met Winona's sister, for the love of gods).

All of this should detract from the fact that, pointlessness aside, this episode was strong in every other respect. The writing in regards to dialogue was perhaps without standout, but it carried the same ebb and flow that the rest of the season has. And the acting was to the usual high standard, even if there was a subtle lack of enthusiasm. I have to wonder if, with actors that have been as close to these characters for so long, that they recognize the tire spin and understand that they don't necessarily have to put 100% into their performance. 90% would go by unnoticed and no less appreciated. the Obvious exceptions to this are Patton Oswalt, who I don't think has phoned in a performance since his days on King of Queens, and Joelle Carter, who has been working on another level this year, likely because she's aware it's her last chance to show up Olyphant and Goggins.
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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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