“Are you going to have peace of mind when this is all over?”-Elstin Limehouse
“I don’t believe in fate. I can’t believe in fate, not anymore.”-Boyd Crowder
This will be a shorter write-up than usual so I thought it deserved two opening quotes. Frankly, point for point there is less to analyze this week. With all the excitement last week, it’s understandable that the creative team would give us a bit of a respite. Only on Justified would an episode that features several multi-person standoffs, a couple of shootouts, and, if I’m not mistaken, a quintuple cross (the rarest of animals in the wild world of negotiations) be considered a respite. Yet even with all that going on, compared to last week’s outing this hour felt positively leisurely.
Until the end, that is.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about what worked. Abby Miller held up her end of the Emmy process with a performance that may be the coup de grace of an already stunning season. Her early scene with Mykelti Williamson’s Limehouse is a quiet triumph. Both characters show sides that are variations of what we’ve seen before but stray just enough to expand our view of them. Limehouse, for instance, is as slippery as they come when he is out and about in his hill kingdom. Behind closed doors with the women he protects is another story. His respect seems genuine even to the point that the hat he wears so proudly as part of his finely tuned image is graciously removed even in a whore’s presence. Have we ever seen Elstin lie to a woman? I think not.
Ellen May is a different story. In fact, she truly seems to be from a different story. She stands apart from every other character on the show and this episode is entirely about that separation. Every other character in this episode is actively trying to affect the outcome of their life. Whether it’s Boyd and Ava bargaining for Ellen May in order to silence her, Raylan and the marshals trying to get there first or Elstin trying to outwit both sides, everyone is trying to control their own destiny.
Except for Ellen May.
Only Ellen May, the bottom rung on the social (and moral) ladder has the inner peace and fortitude to accept that her life will unfold as it is meant to. I know this is just a weekly television recap on a website, so I am not, at this late date, going to start pretending that there is some great statement about the plight of the modern man to be found in hour-long chunks Tuesday nights on the FX network. Even if there is, I doubt I am the guy to find it.
That said, Justified does like to raise questions about the lives we make for ourselves and the paths we choose to follow, particularly how far we follow the paths that others (often our parents) choose for us. To this uneducated observer, it does seem curious that the only character who is calm within the storm and who seems able to gracefully accept that whatever path she is following must automatically be the right one is the only character on the show with unknown parentage. Ellen May is, for all purposes that we’ve been privy to, an orphan. Her only baggage is her own, and she packs light.
The dialogue is as dependably solid as ever with an “intuit” here and an “eccentricities” there, but let’s face facts; you could throw a dart at an episode list every season, submit whichever hour you hit and win a writing Emmy. So this week I’ll just put the highlights in the closing thoughts and we’ll move on to the bad end of Colton Rhodes.
Joelle Carter has gotten better by the minute going all the way back to the pilot, and she skillfully walks a tough line in this episode. We have to believe that there is murder in her heart when she snaps at Limehouse for letting Ellen May go free and later we must believe that her true heart is the one that can’t pull the trigger. As Elstin said, we are the choices we make. It’s the usual lovely work from Carter and what really sells it is the small crack in her voice when she apologizes to her true love for being too good a person to save herself.
Colt has no such illusions.
Ava’s choices were contradictory enough to save her soul but potentially doom her future. Colt’s decisions were always a straight line to oblivion. In his final moments, he tells Tim that most of Tim’s friend Mark died back in Kandahar but he is, of course, talking about himself. It was only a violent shell of a man that walked into Boyd’s bar 12 weeks ago and every step he has taken since has been toward the grave. To the show’s credit, this is one duel that isn’t romanticized. There are no clever quips or cool lines, just pitiful resignation and sudden violence.
To Ava’s credit, before she faces her own fate, she offers Boyd her condolences. It’s only fair since some of the sins Colt paid for were hers. After all the wheeling and all the dealing, Boyd and Ava are down to only one choice: get rid of Delroy’s body before the marshals get to it. I know I’m pulling for them.
Pretty soon they may be the only couple in town.
Any other week and this would be the end of the review, but this week’s episode ended on a coda that is somewhat separate from the episode proper and I want to discuss it as a separate event.
Before last season’s finale, I was talking with some friends about how we thought the Quarles storyline was going to play out. At the time, I said that I had a bad feeling that Raylan was going to kill Quarles, but not before Quarles killed Winona and her unborn child. My reasons for this were simple. First, Quarles had degenerated into a drug-crazed lunatic with hyper-violent tendencies. Given a bit more time and space, he probably would have been a serial killer. Second, I just can’t imagine the show having a running storyline with Raylan pulling part-time dad duties. I just can’t. Slowing down the pacing and moving Winona out of state got us through this season, but at some point that baby is coming out.
Or is it?
The final scene of the week was one of the most chilling moments in show’s history. A character who we love who is carrying the child of our hero just had a chair delivered by a hitter that works for the most dangerous criminal in America (I would say “The World” but I don’t want to anger my fans in the Ukraine). I have a very bad feeling that Winona and little girl Givens are never getting up out of that chair.
I desperately, desperately hope I’m wrong because, well, I’m human most of the time and that shit is just too upsetting to think about. On the other hand, the idea of a season-long re-enactment of Man On Fire with Raylan working his way up to Theo Tonin does hold a certain appeal.
I never thought I would say this about Justified, but on some level I am really not looking forward to next week’s finale. What can I say? We all have tough choices to make.
Some closing thoughts:
-Two weeks in a row with an Apache reference. Love it.
-“You want the whole list, or just the good stuff that I underlined?”
-“That is so sweet, saying it like I don’t already know.”
-“Not if you’re secure in your political views.”
-“It’d be weird if you liked me.”
-“I don’t see how that invitation has anything to do with my request.”
-“You lost. Give up. Go home.”