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Justified: Watching the Detectives

Posted on the 07 March 2012 by Eatsleeptelevision

Folks, this is how you set up a good cliffhanger. You don’t need any inane plot twists that come out of nowhere. You don’t need any red herrings or any of that other stuff. Just take a character that’s been developed well enough and give him a little nudge in a new direction at the very end of an episode.

I bring this up because as “Watching the Detectives” came to a close, I had that familiar feeling that every die-hard TV fan has had at one point or another, when an episode of your favorite show ends in such a way that you need to see next week’s episode. Right then and there. No matter what. You’d even be willing do do unspeakable, horrific, otherworldly things to fast-forward time exactly one week.

And the thing is, the end of “Watching the Detectives” isn’t really a humongous game-changer. It’s really just a tease of a villain team-up we haven’t seen before. So when I think of shows like Lost or The Killing or the two episodes of Alcatraz I watched back in premiere season, shows that thrive on the idea of crazy plot twists flying at you left and right, it makes me appreciate a well-written ending (and the drooling, maddening anticipation that’s sure to follow).

But now, on to the episode itself.

Unlike most episodes of Justified, “Watching the Detectives” focuses, more or less, on one single story- Quarles sets Raylan up for a frame (and, unwittingly, sends out false accusations of him being dirty), and Raylan’s got to pull himself from out of all of this hot water. Everything’s still as twisty and turny as your standard Justified fare, but instead of everyone trying to out-maneuver everyone else, it’s all about Raylan trying to remove himself from a constant and unending stream of crap.

And it’s ever so much fun. While the tension in all of the “Raylan being falsely accused of stuff” scenes is a tiny bit lacking (as we all know that he’ll escape these false charges in the end, whether it takes one episode or a whole season, plus all the Marshalls are on his side anyway), just watching everything unfold and seeing one new terrible situation unfold after another makes for an incredibly entertaining hour of television. Plus, the way everything resolves, with Art and Tim coming to the rescue, is incredibly satisfying. We, as an audience, sympathize with Raylan more than anyone else (at least for the most part), so to see that his fellow Marshalls are still willing to fight for him even after all the crap he’s put them through ties everything up with a nice little undercurrent of warmth and friendship.

But there are plenty of other characters lurking behind the scenes of “Watching the Detectives.” Most notably, our friendly neighborhood Detroit mobster Robert Quarles. Now, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty here- there are only five episodes left in the season, so things are gonna start escalating more and more with each coming episode, and this week ends with what may be a serious character change for Quarles. Cut off from his Detroit backers and hopped up on some kind of pills (my guess would be Oxy, but who really knows for sure), Quarles takes a solitary trip down to Noble’s Holler to strike up a deal with Limehouse, who, as always, is playing everyone against everyone else for his own personal gain.

This brings up a couple questions:

  • Limehouse is a fairly astute villain- how long until he realizes Quarles may not be of sound mind? Does it even matter to him if he’s playing every side of this war?
  • But, if Limehouse gets in too deep with Quarles and either Raylan or Boyd get wind of Limehouse’s new alliance,  where does he stand then? Could that be a point of no return for his character?
  • How do Graham Yost (and the rest of the show’s writers) view Limehouse? Was he only meant for season three? Limehouse seems to have that perfect combination of general villainy and not being an imminent threat to anyone important that could make him a recurring character from here on out- unless things were to change in the next couple episodes.

And Boyd shows up too, if only to be arrested by Quarles’ crooked sheriff for a (weirdly CGI-laden) car bombing he didn’t even commit. Brendan McCarthy, as Tanner (the sheriff’s accomplice in the bombing, who’s now yet another pawn in Limehouse’s control) is beginning to stand out as a minor villain, and plus he seems to be getting scuzzier and more vile-looking every time he appears onscreen. Plus, it’s always good to know that Justified’s building up a cadre of supporting villains so Timothy Olyphant will have more people to shoot at come finale-time.

A few quick thoughts before I wrap this one up:

  • Justified has officially been renewed for a fourth season! I can’t wait to see what mysterious villains the show has in store for us next spring. I assume there will be some kind of Southern-fried drug trade and that it will be great.
  • Wynn Duffy’s been playing second fiddle to Quarles all season long, but that final scene with him and Raylan proves he’s still an extremely unsettling human being.
  • RIP Gary. You were always kind of a loser, but you deserved better than this.
  • Only Neal McDonough could make eating a bowl of pasta seem threatening. Kudos.

Well, that about does it! I’ll see all you Justified fans next Tuesday.

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