The cat-and-mouse game between Raylan and Boyd could potentially go on forever—partly because it’s never entirely apparent who’s the cat and who’s the mouse, and partly because neither one of them is willing to pounce. They simply bat each other around, because the bonds of the past are too great to crumble against the animosities of the present. We know that Boyd, for example, is as vicious as others in the Crowder clan—and several times as smart and diabolical—but when it comes to Raylan, he’s just a little less ruthless than his criminal instincts might otherwise dictate. Same goes for Raylan. There’s a reason he didn’t shoot to kill that night at Ava’s place: No matter how much Boyd repulses him—the guy is a neo-Nazi terrorist and armed bandit, after all—they have a history together that’s far too complicated to satisfy Raylan’s quick-draw M.O.
There were a lot of great scenes in tonight’s stellar hour, but the two big ones between Raylan and Boyd—which we’ve been waiting since the pilot to see, despite Boyd turning up briefly a few times—were the standouts. Raylan comes to prison to pump Boyd for information on the masked man who came blasting into Ava’s room with a sawed-off shotgun, figuring it was a Crowder seeking to avenge her husband’s death. What happens is kind of a shock: Despite being the one who’s incarcerated and under interrogation, Boyd is in complete control of the situation. He knows how to get under Raylan’s skin, and for once we see Raylan’s much-vaunted anger boiling to the surface. It’s not a pretty sight, seeing this hero who so coolly dispatches his adversaries reduced to someone that weak and easily provoked; he knows Boyd is manipulating him, but he can’t keep it from getting under his skin.
At the same time, when Boyd later says, “I’m honestly trying to help you out,” I think we have to take that at face value. And when he talks about the roots of Raylan’s troubles—watching his father abuse his mother as a child—Boyd is doing a more emphatic variation on Hannibal Lecter’s “Are the lambs still screaming?” speech to Clarice in The Silence Of The Lambs. He knows Raylan better than anyone we’ve met so far, and that gives him a degree of leverage that no one else has over him.
Boyd also hits us with the great and unexpected revelation that Ava wasn’t the real target of the shooting. Raylan was. That means, heading into the back half of the season, Bo Crowder and his boys will be gunning for Ava (once he’s out of jail in a few months, that is), and the drug cartel from Miami will be after Raylan. This clusterfuck of hitmen and vigilantes stands to be the stuff of very exciting television, and “Blind Spot” seems to be the right time for the serialized material to pick up momentum and start to eclipse crime-of-the-week stuff. (Then again, the show could downshift from here just like it did the episode after the pilot.)
The brilliant opening scene sets up a nice parallel to Raylan’s later showdowns with Boyd. Once again, a Crowder takes a threatening posture, but here it’s Johnny, whose order for Bo at the local hardware store represents a not-so-subtly veiled threat to Ava. (Plastic sheeting, duct tape, a chainsaw, and a shovel big enough to “dig a nice hole in rocky ground.”) The owner’s wife has no trouble reading between the lines, but Johnny, like Boyd later, is performing a kindness. He means to scare the hell out of Ava, because he knows she’s in real trouble if she doesn’t get out of town fast.
In other developments, we meet a couple of mismatched hitmen from the Elmore Leonard school—one green, the other creepily self-assured—and Sheriff Mosely, a loose cannon in cahoots with the Miami cartel. Mosely’s conversation with Raylan over his beef with the Crowders was another riveting highlight, with Mosely detailing how Henry Crowder (“the one good Crowder”) raped and strangled a 10-year-old girl. It also throws us off the scent: We’re not surprised when he goes overboard questioning Johnny at the bar, because of his beef with the Crowders, but we don’t associate him with the hit on Raylan until the big reveal. (Which I didn’t see it coming, at least.)
And finally, after weeks of good-naturedly tolerating Raylan and his various missteps and flaws, it was nice to see Art blow his stack over Raylan’s canoodling with Ava. Movies and TV have us expecting a tense relationship between a renegade cop and his commanding officer, but there’s a little more to it here than that. Art clearly likes Raylan and appreciates his instincts, but this is such a blatant insult to his authority that he can’t chalk it up to “Raylan being Raylan.” Nick Searcy has been quietly impressive throughout the series, and his outburst seemed utterly consistent with who Art is—a solid, reasonable man who can only be pushed so far.
• The more time Justified spends with her, the less convinced I am by Joelle Carter’s performance as Ava—it’s a little too Hollywood Southern—but I liked her speech about why she stayed with Bowman for as long as she did. (“He didn’t beat me around the clock.”)
• “I’m gonna have to get a new bed. Unless I keep this as a conversation piece.”
• Another thing about Art’s blowup: He lays out in stark terms the problems with Raylan’s fling with Ava. For as long as she’s in Kentucky—and she wouldn’t leave even if the terms of her probation were flexible enough to let her go—is he really prepared to be the one to protect her? And with hitmen shooting for him, what kind of protection is that?
• Seasoned hitman on why the sawed-off shotgun is his favorite weapon: “They can’t match it, no matter what they tell you on the CSI.”