If you’ll recall, Walton Goggin’s role as Boyd Crowder was not supposed to be a recurring one. Raylan kills his old friend at the end of “Fire In The Hole,” the short story on which Justified’s pilot episode is based, and creator Graham Yost intended to be faithful to the material. (Lest he tick off Elmore Leonard, who’s notoriously frank in interviews about adaptations that have disappointed him.) But Yost’s instincts as a TV veteran—or heck, his instincts as a sentient fleshpod, for that matter—led him to recognize how good Goggins was in the role, and he made the Raylan-Boyd relationship the fulcrum of the entire first season.
Nonetheless, that season ended with two questions: “Who is Boyd Crowder?” and “What purpose does he have in a second season?” The questions are, of course, related, but Yost and his writers haven’t been in any hurry to answer them yet. We know that Boyd isn’t entirely on the straight-and-narrow—it would likely be deflating it he was—but the show has been coy about how much he’s strayed or what his ultimate intentions are. For now, he’s back to working in the coal mine (which, as some have pointed out, gives him access to explosives), he’s living under Ava’s roof, and his newfound religiosity isn’t keeping him from throwing a few back at a bar on the edge of a dry county.
“The I Of The Storm” doesn’t necessarily clarify Boyd’s intentions, but it lays some important groundwork. The timing is smart, too: After two episodes that established the Bennett family as a major source of villainy in season two, we get some assurance that Boyd’s purpose isn’t diminished in kind. Quite the contrary, we can see the wheels in his head turning a little bit and a plan starting to formulate. If it were ever possible for Boyd to keep his head down and earn an honest living, with Ava potentially at his side, that outcome has been eliminated. Boyd’s proclivity to drink already puts him on the slippery slope, but his reputation as a criminal mastermind is a bigger issue, as crooks known and unknown come to him for consul. To quote The Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
The episode was yet more confirmation that Justified has become expert at integrating weekly cases into the overall fabric of the show. Here, it’s an “Oxy bus” hijacking that ends in one man getting shot in the head and the two perpetrators running off with a bounty in stolen meds. So a busload of criminals have traveled from Florida to Kentucky, only to be ripped off by more criminals, who are then targeted by Boyd’s dimwitted former associate Dewey Crowe, who was on the bus. (And with that, we have another theme for this season: Bad guys cannibalizing each other. Mags may live by a code—never talk out of school, never sell anything more destructive than marijuana, et al.—but the younger generation have no such scruples or loyalty.)
Dewey’s spectacularly stupid attempt to rob the robbers has the side effect of affirming Boyd’s wisdom in understanding the dynamics of a criminal situation. When Dewey tries to rope Boyd in partnering up on the job, Boyd sees the consequences clearly: The authorities will be looking for the thieves (and Dewey gaining possession of the drugs also gives him possession of the murder rap), and the thieves, in addition to being holed-up and paranoid, are likely working for some dangerous men. Dewey’s “successful” stick-up—posing as “deputy marshal Raylan Givens,” when the general store lacks for ski/hockey/catcher’s masks—makes him so toxic that Boyd looks like he’s ready to dash as far away as possible.
Boyd dodges any association with Dewey’s silly plans, but he can’t keep dodging forever. He also has to deal with a lowlife co-worker named Kyle who pesters him on the job, then pesters him again at the bar. No matter how strongly Boyd rebuffs him, Kyle keeps coming back until Boyd has no choice but to make himself really clear by putting him in a headlock and dragging him down the road. There’s a lot to Boyd’s scream at the end of the episode: It’s both cathartic in that he’s finally gotten to take some action and full of frustration over how impossible it is for him to go unnoticed and unbothered. He once chose the criminal path; now that path appears to choosing him.
Though an episode without Mags feels like it’s missing something—Mags, for one— her presence isn’t entirely unfelt, either. When it’s revealed that two of her three sons, Dickie and Coover, are behind the hijacking—leaving the third, Doyle, to clean up their mess in his role as a local police officer—the divisions within the Bennett clan start to sharpen. From moonshine to marijuana and now to prescription meds, the Bennetts are opening up to new vices with each generation, and it sets up a fascinating showdown between Mags and the Bennett boys. “The I Of The Storm” makes the thrilling suggestion that the criminal world of Harlan County is wide open this season, and the struggle for power among the young and unscrupulous will be positively Darwinian.
- Raylan’s relationship with Winona keeps twisting and turning. Last week, it was her chastising him for not committing to anything; this week, it’s her wanting to keep their relationship hidden, even though her husband Gary knows about it. Me, I’m waiting for the show to commit to that relationship, too. Currently, it’s in too much of a holding pattern.
- As if Harlan didn’t have enough of a criminal element, the “Dixie Mafia” of Frankfort looks likely to come searching for the guys who stole their drugs. This is going to be a very bloody season.
- Raylan doesn’t buy Ava’s reasons for allowing Boyd under her roof. He thinks it’s for spite; she claims he’s kin and can help her pay the mortgage, and he’s on a short leash. I suspect we’ll get a better sense of her (and Boyd’s) motives later.
- Hilarious scene at the general store, with Dewey doing absolutely nothing to hide the fact that he wants a disguise for a holdup and the clerk doing nothing to hide his amusement. “There’s always eBay.”
- “I’m deputy marshal Raylan Givens.” “I ain’t falling for that shit again.”
- Boyd: “I never killed any Jews, Kyle. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Jew.”
- Line of the night, from Raylan to Dewey: “I always figured you for a special kind of idiot, but what you’ve done in the past 12 hours is light years beyond any stupidity even I thought you capable of.”