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Justified: Coalition

Posted on the 05 April 2012 by Eatsleeptelevision

There must have been five or six moments in “Coalition” where I was sure somebody was getting killed off. Positive. One hundred-percent certain.

I was wrong every single time. Was there a gun pointed at Errol? Errol’s dead for sure. Was Dickie in a heated confrontation with Raylan? Dickie’s dead for sure. Was Arlo’s general nuttiness upgraded into full-fledged insanity? Arlo’s dead for sure…. well, maybe.

I can’t quite tell if my poor performance here is due to the show’s brilliance in plotting or just my own general ignorance, but I can tell you one thing- “Coalition” is a consistently engaging, well-plotted, spectacular piece of television that’ll keep you guessing (especially if you’re as clueless as I am) while setting things up for what I can only assume to be an incredible finale.

I’d even go as far as saying that “Coalition” is the best episode of the season.

And while plenty of people weren’t killed off in the penultimate episode of the season, one man most definitely punched his timecard for the last time (so to speak).

That person, of course, would be Trooper Tom. I can’t say he’s an integral part of the show, or even a noticeable part of the show (I’d place Tom a step or two below Tim and Rachel in terms of his importance to the story), but damned if those last few seconds of the episode weren’t riveting, with so many different elements coming together to make a relatively minor death seem enormous.

  • That mix of the night sky and the leftover flames from the car bomb (I should note that the explosion looked incredible, while a similar explosion in “Watching the Detectives” looked fairly cheap and CGI-y. I guess there was only enough room in the budget for one good fireball, and this episode won out).
  • The menacing, wounded animal look in Quarles’ eyes right before he fires. I’m also hoping that, what with the fire and all, Quarles will have some kind of horrific burn scars in the finale. What better way to take all his nastiness and put it right there on the surface?
  • Raylan’s reaction to the Tom’s death. Tom may not have been a key figure on Justified, but he was one of the few friends Raylan had left, and I eagerly look forward to seeing Raylan go on the warpath next week for some good old-fashioned Kentucky vengeance.

And the rest of the episode kept up the pace perfectly. We’ve been seeing a pattern recently of “one episode of setup, one episode of payoff” on this show, and “Coalition” manages to pull off both at once. We introduce some new threads with Quarles and Arlo now on the run, and we finally reach a conclusion, more or less, to the story of Dickie and his momma’s money. We know where the money is, we know that Loretta probably isn’t going to use it anytime soon, and we know that Dickie’s not going to be in a position to take it back for a long, long time.

I’m interested to see if the writers continue to work Dickie into the story from here on out. You factor in the long stretch of jail time Dickie’s facing, and there may never be another opportunity to see the last surviving Bennet, barring some unforeseen circumstances (Dickie’ll be in jail for years, and creator Graham Yost mentioned in an interview with EW that all three seasons of the show have only been about six months in the show’s time). And Raylan’s last speech to Dickie sums up his whole character pretty concisely. He’s weak and stupid, he always has been, and he always will be.

But what about Arlo? I’m worried for the man. He’s like Chekov’s gun, if you replaced the gun with a crazy old man running around in the country. He’s obviously coming back in some way for the finale, and you factor in his current mental state and his history with Limehouse and it’s clear something unfortunate is bound to happen. Plus, if you make a character dangerously unstable like that, there’s only so much you can do with him. If he doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory next week, chances are he’ll be relegated to some Junior Soprano-like fate. And Arlo finally going off the rails has been built up so smoothly and subtlely- throughout the season we’ve gotten little clues and hints, but they’ve all been attributed to Arlo just being off his meds (or ignored entirely)- at this point it’s clear there’s something seriously wrong with him. And that sudden, horrified look that flashes across Walton Goggins’ face when Arlo calls him Raylan? Fantastic.

Limehouse is another story altogether. At this point, I’m still not sure quite what to make of him as a character. He was introduced at the beginning of the season as this all-powerful crime lord, but in these last twelve episodes, we’ve never actually seen Limehouse take any kind of action. He simply sits back and plays everyone against everyone else. I have no problems with kind of a character, but the man’s supposed to be a threatening figure, and seeing him take such a passive role in the season diminishes his presence as a villain, if only a little. TV critic Alan Sepinwall argues that Limehouse isn’t really a villain at all- just someone who’ll do unseemly things to protect Noble’s Holler (read his take here), and I find myself agreeing with that more and more as I think about it.

But it brings up another question altogether: why haven’t we seen more of Noble’s Holler? If the crux of Limehouse’s character is protecting the people who live there, his development as a character could have benefitted from seeing more of his interactions in Noble’s. How do the people there react to him? Is it with respect, or unease over his supposedly violent nature, or something else entirely?

Although honestly, I have complete faith in Graham Yost and everyone else behind this incredible show, and I don’t doubt in the slightest that Limehouse will have plenty to do in the finale.

And as a final note, I have to say that “Coalition” was probably the funniest Justified episode I’ve seen in a long, long while. Nearly every character had something memorable to say, whether it be Wynn Duffy’s description of Quarles’ “big stupid baby head,” Raylan’s recommenation of The Wizard of Oz, or Boyd’s reaction to the story of Theo Tonin talking to a severed ear- “what does he say?”

Brilliant stuff. And we’ve still got one more week to go. I’ll see you all then.

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