Over the course of a TV season, there are big arcs and mini-arcs, episodes that set ’em up and episodes that knock ’em down. And as I’ve said in the past, it’s the knock ’em down episodes get the most attention, because the payoffs are more satisfying than the hard work of getting to them. Befitting a season that’s poised to barrel through its final two episodes, “Measures” is mostly about establishing stakes and building anticipation, but it’s a testament to how good this season of Justified has been that even its table-setting episodes could be this entertaining.
It helps that right off the bat, out comes Michael Ironside from Justified’s vast stable of ace character actors, here playing one of a pair of Detroit hitmen whose interest in killing Quarles aligns with almost everyone in town. (And also Adam Arkin, son of the legendary Alan Arkin and director of several previous Justified episodes, turning up as Theo Tonin, Ironside and Quarles’ boss in Detroit.) With his size and commanding tone, Ironside is the type of actor who tends to intimidate everyone in a scene, but this show has set up so many titanic figures already—Raylan, Quarles, Limehouse, Art, etc.—that he’s made to look uncharacteristically weak, which is all the more effective since he and his partner enter the picture with a carpetbagger’s brash arrogance.
Where some previous episodes have coalesced around a dominant storyline or theme, “Measures” tends the garden, spending roughly equal time with all the major players and coming together only in unlikely allegiances or cliffhangers to be resolved in the coming weeks. Perhaps the biggest development involves the fate of the Bennett millions, which Dickie correctly surmises hasn’t been banished to the land of wind and ghosts and which he now intends to take from Limehouse by force. This is no easy matter, since the best indication of the money’s location—beneath the floorboards of a church—is a longstanding (non)urban myth and even if they get the location right, it’ll be no simple smash-and-grab job to get it. This will be about taking the fight to Limehouse’s turf at great disadvantage, but the tantalizing suggestion of Dickie and Boyd forming the ultimate alliance of adversaries levels the playing field a bit. The question remains: If Boyd and Dickie can come together for a common purpose—a big “if,” given Boyd’s lust for revenge—can either be trusted to split the proceeds and go their separate ways? Not likely.
The wildcard in this whole scenario is Quarles, who has been marginalized in a way that makes him both weaker and more dangerous than before. An attempted power play—stealing money from one of Boyd’s protected dealers at a time when Boyd’s reputation, in the wake of Delray’s death, is in question—backfires when he’s again outwitted by his hillbilly foe, who lures him into a trailer and has him Tasered into unconsciousness. The price on Quarles’ head is $100,000 dead, $200,000 alive, and if weren’t keenly aware of it already, Theo Tonin warns the opportunistic Duffy that the safe bet is best as far as Quarles is concerned. He’s a slippery customer by nature, and as badly as he’s been outplayed in Harlan—to the point where Boyd and his cousin couldn’t help but taunt him on his presumed way out—the kid stays in the picture. It’s not about doing business anymore, if it ever was; it’s about settling scores now.
After last week’s more disquieting showcase for Raylan, he spends much of “Measures” above the fray, calmly assessing the newcomers to town (and finding them “knuckleheads”) and partnered with Art, who surprises him (and delights us) by heading out into the field with him. The Winona cover-up that had driven a wedge between Art and Raylan seems to be in the rearview mirror for now, and Raylan is surprised that his boss appears genuinely concerned for his well-being now that Winona has left, fatherhood looms, and he’s living above a bar. (“The prospect of first-time fatherhood can make a man feel unmoored,” says Art.) Raylan has been called to action more recently—last week, when he challenged Quarles’ threat by shooting into his own apartment, and this week, when he manhandled the Detroit hitmen (“I’ll clean that up,” he says, in a great moment that drops into the credits). But Raylan has been doing his job with relative restraint lately, and it seems like Art has appreciated him for it.
For all its virtues, though, “Measures” boils down to that final line: “His initials are Boyd Crowder.” The third season has reached the top of the last hill—and with that, the writers have given it one big push.
- “You can’t have the Duffy without the Wynn.”
- A small grace for our bartender to anticipate Raylan’s lame morning-after apology about “heartlessly [accepting] the gift [her] feminine virtue.” Saves him some awkwardness.
- Love the genesis of that drug dealer’s samurai sword—“a dead officer in Okinowa” sounds taken more from a Quentin Tarantino film than anything resembling reality.
- Rachel makes one of her periodic appearances to join Tim in the field, though as usual—and this is no offense to Erica Tazel, who’s fine in the role—it’s a reminder of how underused that character has been from the beginning. Maybe the writers will figure her out next season.
- “Old age humbles us all.” Art schooling Ironside’s not-so-stealthy maneuvering.