“We wouldn’t be the first dysfunctional family to ever make a profit.” —Boyd Crowder
As if in response to my callout last week, James Le Gros as Wade Messer is front and center this week starting with the first shot of the night, both literally and figuratively. Indeed, the entire plot revolves around Messer with both the marshals and the Crowes tracking him down, albeit for different reasons.
Messer’s nature is to find a loophole and exploit it. Over three seasons, he has somehow weaseled his way through partnerships with the Bennetts, the Crowders, the Crowes and, as it turned out, the marshals. Never has anyone gotten so much mileage out of being a milquetoast moron. Everything you need to know about Wade Messer is right there in the opening scene. This is boy-man that even the Webelos had the good sense to run off but who also sees the silver lining of coming out of the experience with a folding shovel.
Of course, even the luckiest gamblers roll craps eventually, and Messer stayed in the game one throw too long. But Justified’s loss is our gain as the loss of James Le Gros brings the season’s course into sharper focus.
All of the time we spent in the “chess episode” premiere is starting to pay off, as all of the disparate storyline arcs are starting to intersect. Boyd’s ongoing feud with cousin Johnny (so, so good to have David Meunier back) ties Boyd to Hot Rod Dunham, who has already had an Emmy-worthy run-in with Raylan this season. One can only hope that the clock is ticking on an eventual confrontation between Boyd and Dunham’s gunmen, the Harris brothers. Even better, how about a Mexican standoff between Boyd, the Harris brothers and Raylan? Dare to dream.
Anyway, both Boyd and Raylan are also crossing lines with the Crowes on various fronts with Raylan going family member to family member in his search for Messer while metaphorically taking Boyd for the ride.
Boyd has a lot on his plate right now between faking his own death and running Mooney against Paxton, making sure that Amazonian prison guards are protecting Ava, tailing cousin Johnny and, last but not least, having conversations with Raylan that require a thesaurus. Boyd’s Google calendar must be positively packed.
Speaking of the bar scene with Boyd and Raylan, everything that makes this show special is right there in that bit of dialogue, acting and direction. Taylor Elmore is maybe the best writer on the show when it comes to having an ear for Elmore Leonard speechifying. There’s good stuff week in and week out, but there’s always an extra bit of crispness to Taylor Elmore’s stuff, especially in scenes with Tim Olyphant and Walton Goggins. The direction stays out of the way and doesn’t draw attention, but if you catch this episode on rerun in the future, notice how Raylan and Boyd constantly jockey for position as they circle each other during the verbal exchange. As good as the dialogue is, it is elevated by the body language and clever blocking. It’s one of those “can’t put your finger on it “ things that sets truly special shows apart from the merely good.
Speaking of elevating the show, we have another scene-stealing young actor who excels at putting Raylan in his place. I don’t know how they found young Jacob Lofland to play Kendal Crowe, but someone deserves a raise or, at the very least, an Edible Arrangement. In my fanboy daydreaming, I like to imagine that Lofland’s Mud co-star, Ray McKinnon, brought him to the creative team’s attention. After all, McKinnon is both a Justified alum and former Deadwood cast member with Tim Olyphant, so it probably isn’t that far-fetched. By the way, if you haven’t seen Lofland as Neckbone (yes, really) in Mud, do yourself a favor and get thee to Redbox or Netflix.
By far the biggest plot development of the week had to be Art’s trip to Detroit. His chat with Will Sasso puts the final pieces of the puzzle into place for the remainder of the season. Now the rest of the marshals will be looking hard at Wynn Duffy and thus Boyd and thus Raylan. The big question for me is what Art’s suspicions really are about Raylan and Sammy Tonin. Art doesn’t seem to think Raylan is dirty in the traditional sense and has said as much, but it has been demonstrated time and again that he doesn’t care much for Raylan’s ethical flexibility when it comes to enforcing the law so a great deal of where this storyline goes will depend on the evolving nature of their father/son dynamic. Art was always setup to be a mirror of Arlo in Raylan’s law enforcement life, including being regularly disappointed in Raylan’s decision and actions, so there is good material to mine here.
A quarter of the way into the season, things are looking up. The pace and tone were noticeably improved over last week’s rather sedate outing, and we certainly chewed through a lot more plot and spun less wheel. But, there is one topic left to address.
I’ve come to accept that I will probably never entirely understand the creative choices around Michael Rapaport as Daryl Crowe. I’ll never understand the casting decision, the costuming, the voice or pretty much anything else. I certainly will never understand how this guy was even supposed to be a Florida poacher, but then again, I also don’t understand why Detroit PD’s interrogation room looks like a hoarder’s house right before the exterminators in hazmat suits go in with their sprayers. (Seriously, I know the city has fallen on hard times, but I think the set designers went a touch over the top.) That said, Rapaport’s giving it all he’s got, and I’ve at least come to a point where I can enjoy watching him even if I spend a good bit of time chuckling and shaking my head in bewilderment. Honestly, it’s worth tuning in every week just to hear him pronounce “bitch.”
On this show he gets a lot of opportunities.
Some closing thoughts:
As is so often that case, a few zingers deserve special attention:
—Raylan’s characterization of Messer as “not the brightest bulb in the makeup mirror.”
—Daryl’s retort to “file that under least of our goddamn problems.”
—Boyd supposing that “he just went fishing.”
—Art bemoaning Raylan “bumbling into some shit that I have to clean up later.”
—“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” I love Ava Crowder. I really, really do.
—To be such badasses, Tim and Raylan sure are scared of a dog. Funny stuff in general made even funnier by Tim’s Calvins joke.
—Damon Herriman. That’s all you have to say. Damon Herriman. Emmy voters, I’m talking to you.