The long-awaited, but inevitable return of Justified aired last night, and it was worth the anticipation. Raylan Givens probably accounts for about 37% of the total ‘swagger’ in all of television right now. The guy has got character, and he exudes a remarkable likability factor. Basically, he is so cool that I want to be his sidekick. I could make witty quips and get kidnapped, and eventually snag an unorthodoxly hot girlfriend, who doesn’t really compare to his girlfriend, but is a catch none the less on her own. She wouldn’t be “Hollywood Hot”, because she would have glasses or something, but she would be “Real life Hot” so it’d be cool.
The first season of Justified far exceeded my expectations. Raylan Givens delivered on every level and the show produced not one, but two of the best characters on television today. That first season ended with one of the best finales I’ve ever seen, and somehow season has not only managed to avoid being a let down, but actually turned out better than the first.
Last night that 2nd season came to an end in a ‘full circle’ kind of way, and I loved it. There aren’t many shows on anymore that can put you on the edge of your seat, but that’s wear I sat through the whole episode. The finale picks up with Raylan talking to Art about transferring to Glenco, which is a move to make Winona happy. Boyd requests a parlay with the Bennetts, and Loretta McCready disappears from her foster home. These 3 events set up the rest of the episode.
First, we learn that Winona is prego. This explains some of why she doesn’t want Raylan in the field. So perhaps we’ll see a little Raylan in the future, though more likely I think Winona either get killed, leave Raylan, or lose the baby before that happens.
Next, during Boyd’s parlay with the Bennetts he anticipates their intentions and sets up ambushes at both Ava and Johnny’s houses. This results in the death squads sent to each location being executed by the Crowder gang. The explosion we saw in last weeks preview killed not Johnny Crowder as we expected, but the Bennett’s men instead. And the assault on Ava’s house ended almost exclusively with Bennett clan deaths.
Almost – Dickie shot Ava before escaping.
Doyle receives a call from Dickie with the news while still at the parlay. This is Boyd and Arlo’s big “F U” moment with Mags and Doyle. The Bennett assault was a failure and Boyd now has the upper hand.
Next we see Loretta has not been kidnapped, but instead commissioned a ride to Harlan for a chance at revenge on the Bennetts for the murder of her father. Raylan learns of her intentions and heads to Harlan. This is when Raylan falls victim to Dickie’s baseball bat. When Raylan recovers consciousness he finds himself strung up by his ankle in Piñata position.
This is when things looked the worst for Raylan, that is until Boyd Crowder shows up with a gun and a whole lot of bad intention. He has just seen Ava’s gunshot wound and has some swift retribution planned for Dickie Bennett. After getting Raylan cut down from the tree, Boyd allows Dickie to live at Raylan’s behest in order to help find Loretta.
Raylan takes Dickie to play ‘Human Shield’ at the Bennett’s house. When he gets there Loretta is already inside with Mags and Raylan has to deal with Doyle. Doyle seems unconcerned with the danger posed to his brother and decides he has had enough of Marshall Givens.
This is about the time that Loretta, inside the house opens fire on Mags, shooting her in the leg. This gunfire causes Doyle’s men outside to open fire – hitting Raylan and nearly killing Dickie as well. With Raylan on the ground, Doyle decides to end the feud once and for all. This results in Marshall/Sniper Tim Gutterson blowing a hole in the Police Chief’s forehead…
This brings the entire Marshall service rushing in at Art’s command, who is there because of Winona’s plea for him to help Raylan. The injured Givens limps into the house to find the injured Mags at the end of Loretta’s gun barrel. After Raylan is able to talk the gun out of Loretta’s hand he sits down with Mags. And full circle we’ve come as Mags pours a couple of glasses of her famous Apple Pie drink and, like with Walt McCready, the glass for the drink proves to be fatal. This time however, Mags poisons herself. News of Doyle’s death and Dickie’s arrest, couple with Coover’s death and Loretta’s attempted murder, Mags decides it’s all too much.
The episode and season end with Raylan’s hand in hers, and the Bennett’s hold on Harlan County officially released. I don’t think many people expected Dickie to be the only Bennett to survive the season, but such is life. This sets things up for the 3rd season where we are sure to see Boyd reclaim the county as his own.
I truly believe this is be the best running series on Television and I already can’t wait for season 3…
And last night was no different. For those paying attention to the show they already knew going in last night we’d get to see the Bennett Clan’s ‘Everyone is Invited’ picnic. We knew Mags had something up her sleeve, but we just didn’t know what. We also knew going in that Carol Johnson, the representative of the mining company, who was under Raylan’s protection, had plans to buy out the Bennett land, and mine the mountain.
The episode kicks off with Mags and Loretta, doing what appears to be some ‘Mother-Daughter’ bonding. Mags is gifting Loretta a family heirloom, an antique hairclip when Coover busts in the room. Mags explodes at him about not knocking and proceeds to kick him out.
He doesn’t leave right away though, he stands outside the closed door long enough to hear his mother cruelly badmouth him to her apparent new favorite kid.
Coover is obviously jealous of the attention Loretta is receiving from his mother, as if she is part of the family now.
Shortly after this Boyd and Ava show up to the shin-dig, and are clearly not welcome. Local Police Chief (and Mags’ eldest child) Doyle Bennett threatens to remove them forcibly if they don’t leave, but Boyd persuades him to arrange a sit-down with Mags. At this point we still aren’t sure what Boyd’s endgame is, only that it involves Raylan’s father, and what seems to be the betrayal of his current employer – Black Pine Mines.
This is when Raylan and Ms. Johnson arrive. Carol goes to have her final discussion with Mags, only to find Boyd is also present. Carol is under the impression that Boyd has secured Arlo Givens land for her, when in reality, Boyd secured if for himself. Mags then looks at Black Pine’s offer and demands it be tripled. She also wants a stake in the company as she reveals to Ms. Johnson, with the land now owned by Boyd and the Bennetts, Black Pine cannot build the road they would need to transport the coal. Black Pine agrees to her terms and she sells out the county she’d been so adamant in defending.
After Raylan and Ms. Johnson leave, Loretta is called over to help Coover load some kegs into the truck, as he has only one capable hand now.
This is when Loretta notices Coover’s watch, or rather, her daddy’s watch. She is noticeably frightened enough that Coover comments on it. It is now obvious that he only put the watch on to let her know he killed her dad. She heads back up to the house to remove the dress Mags gave her and switch back into her old clothes. This is her letting the audience in on the fact she now knows that her father is dead, as she attempts to distance herself from the Bennetts. But she wants her father’s watch back.
Loretta shows up at Dickie and Coover’s house sometime later. She brought Coover a gift – a joint laced with formaldehyde. Coover seemingly passes out and Loretta begins to search the house for the watch. She first finds Dickie passed out face down on the ground. She then uncovers the watch and calls in her ‘Knight in shinning armor‘ for help.
This is when Coover enters the room and Dickie wakes up. Enraged she tried to drug him Coover attacks Loretta and little Dickie unsuccessfully tries to stop him.
Dickie’s attempt however does give Loretta time to escape out the front. Coover chases her down in the truck as Raylan, after doing a cell phone trace, arrives to find Dickie unconscious on the floor. Coover takes Loretta to the same mine shaft where her father’s body has been decomposing for some time. Raylan engages Coover again, and is losing again. Loretta picks up Raylan’s dropped gun and gets Coover’s attention long enough for Raylan to reach his backup piece and end Coover.
Upon hearing the news Mags shows up at the mine to see her son’s body being removed and learns that Loretta has been taken into protective custody. In an attempt to persuade Raylan to let her talk to Loretta, she starts to cry. Raylan is not moved, and upon seeing his unwillingness to budge, she abandons the plea and exits. That a Cold-Hearted woman.
While this episode may have, apparently wrapped up both the ‘Loretta’ and the ‘Black Pine’ story lines, Raylan’s killing of Coover is sure to elicit a swift response from the Bennett clan, meaning the last 4 episodes to come should hold a war in the making.
Even though Terriers got canceled after only one season, and now Light’s Out has suffered the same fate. Both shows were well done and original – so their fate was sealed early on. But just as it seems like good shows can’t survive in the wasteland of Reality TV, CBS Programming, and MTV – FX delivers us some great news: Raylan Givens will be justified for another 13 episodes. Fresh off the announcement they had won a Peabody, Justified was renewed for a 3rd season.
For those who have seen the show, it is probably no surprise that a 3rd season is impending, but in today’s television landscape, nothing original is ever guaranteed to last.
Regular readers of the site should already know my feelings on season 1 of the FX show Justified. I loved it. It was well written, excellently acted, and entertaining as hell. And it closed up with maybe the best season finale of any show since Dexter‘s fourth season. So far, through 4 episodes of it’s 2nd season we’ve seen a lot of new characters introduced, and what seems to be a promising new story arc. And while it’s been really good, it’s not been great. That is until the 5th episode aired on Wednesday night. This episode, titled Cottonmouth, is one of the single best mid-season episodes of any show I’ve ever seen. While premiers and finales are known for packing in a lot major events to kick off, or wrap up a story, here we see no less than 5 major plays made that will have effect on the rest of the season.
1. Arrested Development
Raylan visits Dewey Crowe in prison, at Crowe’s behest. Dewey is worried about getting shived and offers up a trade to Raylan – Info on the Bennetts for early release into a Half-Way-House. The scene opens with an absolutely awesome shot of Raylan sitting in the dark, the screen cap below does it no justice.
Once Raylan is back at the office, Arlo Givens shows up to return some of the money he stole, in hopes of having Raylan remove his ankle bracelet. The suspicions of Trooper Bergen about the missing Walt McCready‘s (murdered in the first episode by the Bennetts) government checks getting cashed, trigger Raylan to question Arlo about check cashing and gets a name – the now deceased Bowman Crowder. Raylan then proceeds to lock up his father. Now
2. The Dick Tase
The second event, and the one that has elicited an entire post over at Warming Glow, happens when Raylan goes to look into the check-cashing scheme in Harlan. The Crowder lead of course takes him to Boyd, who is not alone. Boyd is in distress, but chooses not to seek Raylan’s help, but instead gives him a name and sends him on his way. Raylan follows Boyd’s info to a man Winston Banks. Mr. Banks, who runs a religious ATV tour called “The Church of the Two-Stroke Jesus”, pulls a taser on Raylan once confronted. While being attacked however, Raylan manages to turn the attackers taser back on him…in the crotch.
This event leads Raylan and Trooper Bergen to believe that Walt is dead, most likely at the hands of the Bennetts, who are now in custody of Walt’s daughter Loretta. Combined with what Dewey told him, all signs point to the Bennetts being responsible for more than just slinging herb…
3. Always Be Cool
The third, and most exciting of these events revolve around everyone’s favorite Ex-Con, Boyd Crowder. This is where we see Boyd, being strong armed into robbing the coal mine, prove himself craftier than the average crook. Kyle and his cronies are determined to make Boyd part of their plan.
Upon learning that they expect him to kill Shelby, (Jim Beaver – Just one of many DEADWOOD alum to appear on the show) the manager at the mine, and suspecting they mean to end him as well, Boyd uses his cell to call the house, escaping the room to answer the phone. Boyd leaves the cell open and on the chair, bugging the room and hearing his suspicions confirmed as the others discuss their plans to end Boyd as well.
It’s around this time that Raylan pulls up to question Boyd about the Check-Cashing his brother used to do. Raylan immediately recognizes the ill-intent of Boyd’s guests and basically extends an offer of help. Boyd declines, passing up an opportunity to end the whole situation there. He has instead decided to rely and his own plan to sabotage the battery of the radio detonator they plan to use for the job, thus ensuring it doesn’t happen. When his cohorts though decide to move forward as planned anyhow, with out the battery, Boyd must quickly devise a new escape.
Once at the mine, as planned they break into the manager’s office, empty the safe, and grab the explosives. Boyd however loads some of the explosives into the cash bag. Once he takes Shelby into the mine, Kyle pulls his double cross and attempts to detonate the explosives. Which are in the money bag. Which is in his truck 5 feet away. In his attempt to kill Boyd and Shelby, Kyle instead blows up himself and his crew.
Well played Boyd.
Once home Boyd gives Ava $20k he kept from the holdup so she can fight off the bank from taking the house for a while. She is now an accessory to his crimes.
4. A Mother’s Love
While Boyd is explaining to Ava what went down at the mine, Dickie and Coover Bennett pay a visit to Winston Bank’s ATV warehouse to collect money owed them. Dickie then notices Marshall Raylan Givens sitting in the dark. Having now confirmed Raylan’s suspicion, they take off and empty-handed. Come morning over, they’re dirty Police Chief brother Doyle drops by their place with the family patriarch and mother: Mags Bennett. What transpires is something the likes of which haven’t been seen in Misery. Mags, enraged to find out that Coover and Dickie have been cashing Walt’s checks and raising the attention of the authorities, decides to teach a lesson to her dumber sons. Coover must now bear the brunt of his mother’s scorn.
Wow. Coover already blames Raylan for all his problems since he is an idiot, so I’m sure he’ll blame Raylan for this too. Oh, a mother’s love…
5. Lortetta’s Knight in Shining Armor
Little Loretta McCready. Heir to the vast nothing-ness left by her father, now taken in by the very people who murdered him. Earlier saved by Raylan when he whisked her out of the trunk of a child molester, she now is surviving how she see fit and doing what her Daddy taught her – Selling weed. Raylan, now convinced that the Bennetts did in fact murder her father, but with no proof as of yet, visits Loretta and to her delivers a cell phone. With the phone, this promise:
[quote]”I kicked a hornet’s nest last night. And things may start to happen, and I need you to know, if you find yourself in trouble of any kind, you can call me. I will drop whatever I am doing and I will come for you.”[/quote]
BOOM! If that isn’t a promise of some Epic Fricking Heroics playing out, then I don’t know what is. This season is really picking up now and I can’t wait for Wednesday.