Justified: “The Trash and the Snake”

TV Reviews
Justified: “The Trash and the Snake”

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.

“When you stray from the trail, Raylan, that’s when you get lost.”—Art Mullen

I said last week that it felt like the creative team was tapping the brakes a bit in order to slow down the unsustainable pace set by the first two episodes of the season. I was wrong. They weren’t tapping the brakes; they were shifting gears.

Now they’re accelerating. Hard.

In 42 minutes and change (which felt more like 12 minutes or less), we saw progress on existing storylines, new storylines added (then abruptly ended), a new mystery presented (then immediately solved), and a reshuffling of chess pieces that made me rethink a statement I made last week. More on that in a minute.

This week’s episode flew by with such momentum that at times it felt like the actors were just doing their best to hold on for the ride. Indeed, some scenes seemed like the actors were competing to see who could get their lines out the fastest. Thankfully, for the most part it worked, and I only say “for the most part” because two fan favorites returned for their “Bringing Back the Fan Favorites,” moment and the breathless nature of the night made their brief appearances seem even briefer than they actually were—which is a shame because they brought their A-plus game and reminded us once more why we loved them so much to begin with.

I was sad to see Dewey Crowe go, but I think I might have missed Dickie Bennett even more. Dickie has always been a wholly original and unexpected creation from Jeremy Davies, and his weirdness is at an all time high in what may be his final onscreen appearance. No other character in Harlan approaches Dickie for sheer strangeness, and that’s saying something, given the parade of misfits and miscreants that have ambled through over the years. Yet somehow Davies made the absurd haircuts, reversed intonations (his statements tend to rise like questions and his questions tend to descend like statements), flailing gestures and nasally mumble seem not only plausible but positively genuine. There is a particular type of homeless man that most people have probably come across at one time or another and you will recognize him instantly when I describe him. He talks at you, but to himself. He gestures wildly even when he isn’t speaking. He is wild-eyed but never seems to see you, even when looking straight at you. Most importantly, you wonder what his life was like before and what happened to him that led him to his current life of aimless wandering. I am convinced that Jeremy Davies has been playing that man’s origin story. And if there is moment that might complete his transformation from eccentric to full-blown lunatic, it might just be the realization that he was not only outsmarted for the thousandth time, but that this defeat came at the hands of Loretta McCready, the young girl that effortlessly claimed the only prize he ever cared about—his Mother’s approval. Even worse, it was the Bennett homestead that she craftily took from him. So she has both his legacy and his land. If this complete humiliation is to be our last view of Dickie, it is a fitting one.

I must confess, as soon as I saw Kaitlyn Dever’s name in the opening credits, I got a big smile on my face. She has long been a dependable and deep well of young talent for the show, and she doesn’t disappoint when they bring her off the bench. The writers get to have some fun putting Loretta into Mags’ shoes and playing with some of the show’s history. Even if Ty Walker doesn’t know what might be in the Mason jar he’s being handed, the audience certainly does, but Justfied has never been a show interested in doing anything purely for fan service. What seems to start out that way leads to an interesting character beat for Markham, as we get to see just how cunning an adversary he will turn out to be. This is definitely not a man to be underestimated.

Back to Loretta for a moment, it is interesting to watch the character age with the actress. Dever has lost a bit of her baby face and Loretta has apparently come of age and left foster care. Yet, even as she has turned slinging pot in high school into enough money to buy a farm, she is still lost and searching. She says her goal is the same as Markham’s, to hit it big in the legal weed business, but it’s all too obvious that financial success ultimately means little to her. What she really wants is approval from an authority figure that she cares about, but every time she sees Raylan all he does is berate her. It is strangely touching that Raylan simultaneously worries for her safety while assuming that she already has bodyguards on the payroll. I hope before this all ends that the two of them are able to finally reconcile the reality of their relationship. Loretta, as usual, loudly reminds Raylan that he isn’t her father while clearly hoping that he will eventually accept that in many ways, he actually is. If Raylan is still alive and heading to Florida at series’ end, I for one hope he comes to his senses and takes Loretta along with him.

I said last week that this season was unusual in that the “Big Bad,” meaning Markham, was set up as a foil for Boyd, not Raylan. It was only while re-watching last week’s episode when it aired that it occurred to me how wrong I was, and this week cemented my change of thought. As this season is a mirror for Season One, it needs a villain that fills the same narrative role that Bo Crowder did, a professional antagonist for Raylan and a personal foil for Boyd. For those two purposes, Markham seems tailor made.

For starters, Markham makes a nice stand-in for Bo since they knew each other, though the exact nature of their relationship still isn’t entirely clear. Much like Bo, Markham has an intense disregard for the generation of crooks coming up behind him, though Bo seemed less outwardly condescending about it. Regardless, Markham puts a lot of faith in the power of his reputation (as Ava so elegantly puts it, “He smells of sulfur”). Much can be inferred from how both Boyd and Raylan deal with Markham in their respective confrontations. Boyd, much as he was with his father, defers power with grace and is always careful to show appropriate respect, though it seems understood that his truthfulness is graded on a sliding scale. Though I’m sure that Markham doubts Boyd’s sincerity, he is undoubtedly used to smaller time crooks scheming away in the background and clearly believes that his small army of mercs can handle anything that the last Crowder can come up with.

Raylan takes a decidedly different tack.

As he was with Bo and pretty much everyone he meets, Raylan comes straightforward at full tilt and refuses to give an inch. Of all the crooks that have met Raylan toe to toe and been on the receiving end of his plainspoken assurances of consequences, Markham undoubtedly handles it the worst. Enraged doesn’t get there. Livid is in the ballpark. Thus and so our dynamic is set for the remaining two thirds of the season, and it is looking more and more like an interesting echo of Season One. If you recall, that season ended with Raylan and Boyd begrudgingly joining forces (to save Ava in fact) to defeat Bo, and then ending with Raylan having to decide whether to let Boyd go or not. You tell me—does that sound anything like where we may be headed?

Truly, it is pretty amazing to go back and watch the first season, particularly the later episodes, and marvel at how nicely the creative team has looped the show back onto itself. There are whole chunks of dialogue that they could re-use that would fit perfectly with where the show is currently. Compelling stuff.

Speaking of Boyd, it is becoming more and more evident that his love for Ava is a huge blindside for him. I honestly can’t tell if he is completely ignorant of the questionable details of her release, or if he is just so happy to have her back that he genuinely doesn’t care. Either way, it is going to become an issue for him and his colleagues and probably quite soon.

Ava, on the other hand, has a very clear future ahead of her, and it involves a nervous breakdown. Her situation is rapidly getting beyond her control, and the only real question is how much damage she will do when she eventually loses it. Joelle Carter continues to be handed stellar material, and continues to deliver. She may be even better than the exceptional work she did last week.

So much happened so fast this week that I’m still trying to process it all. As we arrive at roughly the one third mark of the season, it appears that the writers have suddenly realized how little time they actually have left, and are in a rush to get it all in. If it’s all this good, that’s fine by me.

Some closing thoughts:

—My biggest complaint of the week? No Choo-Choo.

—I like the idea that, really, for Katherine this is all about revenge.

—Though it doesn’t beat the audience over the head, the show does like to offer up social commentary, and making the end goal of Markham (and now Boyd) to go legal and legitimate after years of seeking to be the biggest, baddest criminals is a nice twist.

—Along the same line, leave it to Justified to find a modern version of cattle barons, black hats, and homesteaders. Both clever and relevant. Impressive.

—Fun little bit of business with Jake Busey as a cross between Eddie Izzard’s Roman character from the Clooney Ocean movies and Tom Waits’ Doc Heller in Mystery Men. Busey definitely got a hint of his dad’s loony gene but if I’m honest, I wish he had gone even bigger and weirder with it. Still, it was nice to have some wackiness to offset the graveness coming off the Markham scenes.

—The best subtle humor moment of the night was Wynn Duffy’s well timed exhalation of held breathe after getting Wiz all over him.

—I will never complain about a Nick Searcy sighting, but they have got to find more for Art to do than remind Raylan that he is dealing with bad men who would like to kill him.

Here are some of my favorite lines of the night:

“I’m kidding. I want Sigourney Weaver to choke me out with her thighs.”

“I’m assuming you mean the vault door.”

“Well, I ain’t talkin’ about your little white pee-pee.”

“What up, pimps?”

“To what do I owe these particular splinters in my asshole today?”

“Search your soul, numbnuts.”

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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