Contributor: Gregg Wright
It’s entirely understandable that the episode following what may have been the best of the entire show would not be on quite the same level. But I did have some expectations, and it was interesting to see how unexpected much of this episode’s events were.
In a certain respect, I expected things to kick into high gear, particularly in the re-ignited feud between the Bennett clan and the Givens clan. But this didn’t quite occur. In a great scene between Helen and Mags, Helen somehow manages to convince Mags not to strike back. Mags is angry, and she most likely still has a beef with Raylan (despite the fact that, admittedly, she would have killed Coover herself if he’d done anything to Loretta). But she seems to have bigger plans that force her to put aside her feelings, at least for the moment. This was only the first surprise of the episode.
In what seems like an out-of-character move, Boyd begins actively planning to fill the power vacuum left by the Bennetts, taking back what once belonged to the Crowders (with Mags’ blessing, of course). I say that this only “seems” out-of-character because it’s been pretty well established by now that Boyd has changed for the better. He still has strong criminal inclinations, but there are lines now that he won’t cross. It seems extremely unlikely to me that Boyd would make such a concentrated return to organized crime for purely selfish reasons, though that could easily be part of his motivations. Perhaps Boyd recognized that Harlan County would be safer with him in power than anyone else.
Dickie, somehow simultaneously both devious and stupid, is extremely unhappy with Mags’ decision. So unhappy, in fact, that he begins plotting to overthrow Mags as head of the crime family and take over Harlan county himself. I don’t expect this to go well. Dickie has guts, but going up against both Boyd Crowder and Mags is about as stupid as it gets. One way or another, Dickie is going to bite it before the finale.
Raylan and Winona have such a dysfunctional relationship. At this point Raylan actually begins openly questioning Winona’s sanity, and with good reason. I can’t even tell anymore if their relationship is on the verge of destruction, or if it’s stronger than ever. As much as I wish Raylan would get the hell away from Winona, the two do seem to have developed an enormously strong bond. Raylan has just about had it with Harlan, and suggests that he and Winona head for Glencoe (Alabama?). And after an assassination attempt, Winona agrees. They’ve both had enough of Harlan.
Another surprise was Loretta’s re-appearance. Raylan’s talk with Mags in the previous episode seemed very final; as if Loretta was now completely out of reach. Now I’m thinking that Loretta may become involved again, somehow, in the final events of the season. It’s been really nice to see the somewhat fatherly attitude Raylan has taken toward Loretta. He seems a bit uncomfortable with it, but he still manages to tell Loretta exactly what she needs to hear. Loretta is a surprisingly endearing character, and it’s a bit of a shame to see her go. I’ve enjoyed her and Raylan’s interactions, and seeing Raylan becoming so protective of her. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Raylan adopt Loretta himself, though that possibility seems unlikely. It just seems wrong, somehow, for Raylan to abandon her to a foster home, when she’d probably be a lot happier with him.
Boyd and Ava hooking up has seemed pretty inevitable, or at least very likely, since it was first revealed that the two were living together. I’m actually fairly pleased with how that relationship has developed and progressed to this point. We get to see how Boyd gradually earns her respect and, eventually, his affections. They’ve taken their time with it so it feels earned, rather than forced.
It’s hard to make a judgement call on all of the story elements in play in this episode, since it’s impossible to know where they’re all going. But given how much trust the show has earned from me, this was about as good a follow-up to the best episode of the show as I could have hoped for. And once again it manages to surprise and deliver on multiple levels. It seems likely to me that the next three episodes will be least on par with this one. And if there’s one episode that has the potential to match (or even exceed) the excellence of the previous episode, it’s the finale. Add to this the knowledge of an upcoming third season, and you can understand why I’m a very happy “Justified” fan right now.