Justified: “Burned”

(Episode 6.09)

TV Reviews
Justified: “Burned”

This is a review. Thus, it is likely to contain spoilers. If you haven’t, as yet, found yourself at liberty to view this episode then consider yourself apprised of the potential jeopardy and proceed at your peril.

“Don’t take it personal. I’m just doing what I gotta do.”—Raylan Givens

There is a well-worn trope in mystery novels (and television shows for that matter) where all the principles gather together so that the detective may reveal who the killer is. Justified doesn’t often bear similarity to a drawing room mystery, but the writers clearly recognize that there is endless dramatic tension to be gleaned from putting all of your characters into a crowded place just to see what happens. Classic mysteries derived their tension from the knowledge that there was a single unknown killer in the room. Justified derives its tension from the knowledge that everyone in the room is a killer.

Call it ‘the calm before the storm’ or ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’—the fact that we have so many names for it shows how powerful it is as a literary device. For myself, I’ll just call it ‘gut-wrenching.’ In a season filled with incessant plotting, there is something disarming about forcing all the characters to stand still for a little while. This week’s episode isn’t as outwardly exciting as last week’s, but the tension it leaves is equally lasting.

If there is a constant linking all of the players in our little story, it is that each and every one of them is in an unending battle for control of every situation. I wanted to add “even with their allies,” but watching how Raylan deals with his superiors and colleagues, I should probably say “especially with their allies.”

This week is all about what happens when you take away control. We’ve seen them all be in control, now what can we learn from watching them be helpless?

I’m glad I was enjoying the “Grady Hale rat” mystery so much because that particular pleasure is officially over. I’m sad to see it go, though I do take some pleasure in being correct about the identity of the aforementioned rat. To be fair, finding out that Wynn Duffy has made a career out of turning on his cohorts isn’t exactly a major shock. Characters have dropped comments about his cockroach-like nature ever since he first appeared on the show. If that weren’t enough, the events of the last few weeks not only got us from A to B, but also made it pretty damned likely that we were going to end up at C. Thankfully, the creative team made sure to wring every last bit of fun out of the revelation of Duffy’s duplicity.

Mostly I just feel bad for poor, dumb, misled Mikey who wants nothing more than to live in the stylized world of criminals that he has invented for himself after watching too many movies. Only Mikey could live in the Elmore-verse and still think that criminals have a code that they live by. It would be adorable if he weren’t a mass murderer.

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe my mind has been warped by yet another sighting of Jere Burns in a speedo (though if I had a body like that at 60 years old, I would put a shirtless requirement in all my contracts). You would think that the “Duffy tanning in a thong” joke wouldn’t work the second time, but Nick Searcy and Tim Olyphant milk so much humor out of the scene that it almost feels like Jere Burns lost a bet and that scene is his penance. Regardless, it’s consistently funny and provides a perfect conduit for revealing Duffy’s history as a criminal informant. So what does Wynn Duffy do when he feels helpless? He makes whatever deal he can to save his own ass. No surprise there.

Katherine Hale is a different monster altogether. Poor Seabass picked the wrong hotel room to walk into with a bad attitude and a gun. I don’t know who was more impressed, Katherine at Markham’s fearless anger, or Markham at Katherine’s deadly calm. I’m more certain than ever that the two of them are undoubtedly perfect for one another, but I cannot imagine a future that involves a happy ever after. Then again, for two such cool characters, they clearly were not prepared for Loretta McCready.

There was no way the series was ending without Loretta playing a major part and it’s fitting that she’s as much a thorn in Raylan’s side as she is an ally. Though she suffers from no small amount of naiveté, she makes up for it in business sense, and she’s the only major player in Harlan who seems to know when to ask for help. Who she goes to for that help is where the naiveté comes in. Loretta’s mentor, Mags Bennett, claimed to have Harlan’s best interests at heart but much like Boyd, she only offered a handshake to distract you while she picked your pocket. Loretta, on the other hand, is the real deal and it’s a little sad that she can’t quite see Boyd’s true colors. Then again, maybe I’m underestimating Loretta as well.

What is unquestionably clear is that Markham’s new Colorado gun thug, Boone, is a whole new kind of threat. Unlike the Tiger Hawk mercs that he deemed soulless, Boone is no disciplined military man. If he isn’t quite unhinged, it is only because Markham is holding the door closed. Though Boyd and Raylan’s final meeting seems destined to play out in some other way, it does now seem likely that at least one classic standoff is in our future. Boone is a villain tailor made for Raylan. His sadistic bit with the snake may have initially been to spook Loretta, but with his quick tongue and even quicker draw it is obvious that his real target is her protector. As much as Raylan is a throwback, old-fashioned cowboy, Boone is an old school outlaw right down to his six-shooter. It’s almost comical; he doesn’t have any use for television and he’s never heard of John Wayne? They may as well have just named him Billy Kidd and gotten it over with.

Then again, if our protagonist can be a stoic, gun-slinging Marshal born a century too late then it serves to reason that he must have an opposite number out there somewhere. Until tonight, it had always seemed like Boyd fit that bill, but more and more it seems that Boyd and Raylan exist in parallel, rather than perpendicular. Besides, if there’s a western motif even more ripe for subversion than white hats versus black hats, it is the aging hero facing down the younger, faster baddie dying to facedown the legend. Leave it to Justified to figure out a way to have it both ways.

Elsewhere, Zachariah finally puts his vengeful plan into action, though predictably without success. It is notable only in that Boyd has been so blinded by greed that he didn’t see it coming. It is telling that his near death experience spent screaming like an animal while his fate burned slowly up the fuse above him did not cause him to count his blessings and escape with his life and his love. No, his narrow rescue only focused Boyd’s greed and made him precisely what Raylan predicted: reckless.

As we cross into the final third of the season, it’s the right time to size everyone up and take stock of where things stand, and let the characters do the same. Plus, before the finale proper kicks off, it’s a nice time to get everyone in a room and be reminded of why we like these people so much in the first place. Whether it’s Raylan meeting Boone, or Boyd holding court or Markham playing the room, there’s plenty of first class speechifying going on. That said, I had to smile along with Raylan when both Boyd and Markham, top tier word spinners that they are, got upstaged by Loretta. It obviously never occurred to Markham that it was the 18-year-old female that he needed to watch out for, and his fury won’t stay contained for long. Let’s hope that Raylan and Boyd aren’t so busy with each other that they both forget that they’ve agreed to help protect Loretta.

At this point, pretty much everyone is desperate. Markham and Loretta are desperate to own the legal weed business in Kentucky. Boyd is desperate to get to Markham’s money before it’s out of his reach. Ava is desperate just to survive. Raylan is desperate to end this thing and get to his family. With all due respect to Henry David Thoreau, I don’t think these men and women will handle their desperation very quietly, or live with it for very long.

Some closing thoughts:

—Really just one thought this week. If I have one complaint about this season, it’s that the show never did quite figure out what to do with Erica Tazel as Rachel. I had hoped that making her the Chief would fold her into storylines more organically but unfortunately she’s really still a plot device. I guess someone had to stay in the office and be exasperated at Raylan while Art is out doing actual Marshal work. I know it’s a show with a really large ensemble to juggle, so I can’t complain too much. I just wish I had more of an emotional attachment to a character that has literally been around since the first episode.

And now for some of the week’s best dialogue:

“When you phrase it like that, it’s mildly insulting.”

“Well, Mr. Mullen…”

“That’s pretty high on the list of things I wish I’d never seen.”

“You’re supposed to be the grownup.”

“In that case we’re probably gonna leave.”

“Here comes the douche-mobile.”

“If you feel compelled to show your gratitude, I sure could use a new purse.”

“You got more balls than sense, you know that, girl?”
“Isn’t that what they say about you?”
“It is.”

“I do not, no.”

“One thing that didn’t occur to me: dipshits not capable of pulling it off.”

“Let’s give him a minute. Maybe he’ll try it again.”

“What the hell is the ‘Ickey Shuffle’?”

Jack McKinney is a professional camera salesman by day and a freelance filmmaker, Paste contributor, and amateur prestidigitator by night (and occasionally weekends). You can cyber-stalk him on Twitter.

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