What’s the real cost of employing Raylan Givens? One of the things I like most about Justified is that while Raylan is an effective lawman—tough, dogged, all that jazz—he’s not some phenomenon, like so many other TV antiheroes. He’s not what Racialicious’ Tamara Winfrey Harris recently dubbed the “White Dude Super Detective.” He’s not one of those “sure he’s a pain in the ass but we need him because he gets results” types. First off, he’s not that big of a pain in the ass—he’s more of a mild but persistent nuisance. And his boss and co-workers don’t really need him, as effective as he often is. It’s more that they’re all stuck with each other, and making the best of it. So when Deputy Marshal Rachel Brooks loses a suspect because she failed to call for backup, Chief Art Mullen is unswayed by her “But Raylan does it all the time!” excuse, because he’s not really in the market for more Raylans. “He’s a lost cause,” Art scolds. “I still have some hope for you.”
After two knockout episodes to kick off season four, Justified slips just a tad this week, as the season’s two main storylines—the Waldo Truth/Drew Thompson mystery and the Crowder/St. Cyr stand-off—settle in, and begin to repeat their big beats. In terms of advancing the plot, “Truth And Consequences” doesn’t deliver much, beyond confirmation that Billy St. Cyr is, in fact, a true-believer, who’s being manipulated by his more pragmatic sister Cassie. We also learn that the not-dead Drew Thompson was involved in a long-dormant FBI investigation, and that his “widow” Eve Munro (played by Julia Campbell) is in danger from the Tonin crime family unless she gives up what she knows about Drew to somebody—be it the feds or one of Tonin’s gun thugs.
Of course, Justified is only ever marginally about its long-form storytelling; it’s more about memorable scenes between colorful characters. And while “Truth And Consequences” doesn’t have any scenes in same league as last week’s two showstoppers, it does feature a smattering of moments that reveal Raylan Givens at his best and worst.
The best is the scene between Raylan and Randall, the ex-con boxer ex-husband of Raylan’s bartending ladyfriend Lindsey. Early in the episode, Lindsey explains that she and Randall used to be a grifting team, with her cozying up to marks and Randall taking them down—until Randall got too jealous of her flirting with their victims, and boiled over once too often. When Raylan goes to see Randall at his gym, the two have one of those winding, fraught-with-not-so-hidden meaning conversations that any Elmore Leonard adaptation requires. They talk about the different regions of Florida, and how the fight game has changed now that all the youngsters “do that Brazilian stuff, maybe a little chop suey.” Meanwhile, Raylan lets it drop that Lindsey told him all about her past while they were “in my bedroom,” and Randall lets it drop that he served time in prison in part to protect her. With their territory sufficiently marked, the two men make a date to have a fight. Only Randall doesn’t show, apparently because he’s busy tossing Raylan’s flop and fleeing with Lindsey. This is quintessential Raylan: cocky, sure he’s got the upper hand, but undone by macho pride and a sexy dame. (“I was pretty bad… still am, sometimes,” Lindsey coos, shirtless.)
Close second for best scene would be Raylan and Tim’s visit to Eve Munro, who it turns out is a psychic (or “certified spiritualist,” according to Deputy Marshal Tim). Tim has some fun with Eve’s powers, telling her that they’re looking for her fugitive ex-husband and joking, “You don’t see him somewhere around us…?” Then when Eve gets a psychic flash that Raylan’s about to blunder into a dangerous situation, Tim cracks, “He does somethin’ stupid every day. Can you be a little more specific?” But when an ominous man approaches Eve’s house, the two Marshals are all business, calmly telling Ms. Munro, “Gotta room without windows? Go there,” and then telling the intruder to move very slowly as he pulls out his credentials. (“Don’t shoot him unless it seems appropriate,” Raylan says to Tim, coolly.)
It turns out that the man is FBI Agent Barnes, who claims he’s there because the Marshal Service’s reclassification of Drew Thompson as possibly alive has the bureau routinely re-checking old sources and leads. But Barnes isn’t being entirely truthful: He’s also being pressured by the Tonin clan, who are threatening his family (possibly because of some as-yet-undisclosed past transgression), via animalistic thug Mason Goins. The rest of this portion of “Truth And Consequences” plays out more like a stock action movie: Mason kidnaps Eve, Eve misdirects Barnes to the gym where Raylan is supposed to fight Randall (but how did Eve know Raylan would be there?… more on that in a moment), Barnes tells what he knows before shooting himself in the head, and the Marshals bust in on Mason and save Eve in the nick of time, just before Mason does something unspeakable. It’s all very exciting, but conventionally grim, highlighted mainly by the casual cruelty of Michael Graziadei’s Mason, as he pulls a gag from Eve’s mouth and promising “I’m gonna piss on that sock before I put it back,” then tells her not to worry about how long she’s going to live but “how slow you’re gonna die.”
Or maybe the Barnes/Mason storyline just seems so plain in contrast to oh, I dunno, a dude with a snake in his face. Raylan’s involved with the two best dialogue-driven scenes in “Truth And Consequences,” but for those who crave freaky, grotesque Justified-style violence, it’s hard to top the pre-credits scene in which Colt and Jimmy plan to destroy the Last Chance Holiness tent—“Carrot didn’t work… time for the stick,” Boyd explains—and the pair get attacked by the St. Cyr’s loosed army of creepy-crawlies, with Jimmy getting bitten on the cheek by a rattler that Colt then shoots in half. Jimmy’s failure to die from this bite ultimately proves significant, helping Boyd realize that Cassie’s been secretly milking his brother’s rattlers, to make sure Billy doesn’t die when he handles them. This leads to the tensest scene in “Truth And Consequences,” as Boyd brings Billy a fresh, fully venomed serpent and challenges the preacher to hold it. After some hesitation, Billy goes for it. And he gets bit. Bad.
I have two problems with the Boyd side of Justified this week. First, as good as Walton Goggins is yet again as a lapsed evangelical with innate preaching chops, his big confrontation with Billy is essentially a repeat of last week’s, only with the addition of a snake. Also, it’s hard not to feel at this point that Billy’s overmatched. We’ve been told that he’s winning souls away from the Crowder vice dens—and we’ve seen how the St. Cyrs have touched Ellen May—but Joe Mazzello is nowhere near as charismatic as Goggins. For that matter, Goggins has done such a good job of humanizing Boyd over the past three seasons that it’s hard to see Boyd as a true malignant force in Harlan, whatever his rap sheet. (I’m certain that this season intends to re-establish that Boyd Crowder is no hero; but so far, he’s still too damn likeable.)
That said, Boyd’s face-to-face with Cassie St. Cyr is something to see. He suggests something untoward is going on between brother and sister (“Him and all his… serpents”), and offers her a payoff to leave town. She rebuffs his “30 pieces of silver,” but admits that she’s open to a conversation—“a more expensive one”—about the St. Cyrs taking it on the hoof. “You want us gone, you’re gonna have to build us a place to go,” Cassie says, asking that Boyd pony up for a permanent church facility, away from Harlan.
Cassie is an interesting character, because while she’s obviously an operator, with operator moves, it hasn’t been established (yet) that she’s insincere. Billy is clearly a bona fide Man Of God; who’s to say that all of Cassie’s scripture-quoting and hymn-singing isn’t legit in its own way, even if she’s also keeping one eye on the collection plate?
In fact, the true will of God—or some kind of supernatural force—is developing into an interesting motif here in season four. Like: How did Eve know that Raylan would be fighting Randall at the gym later that day? Is she legitimately psychic, or is Randall (and possibly even Lindsey) involved in the whole Drew Thompson affair? On the flipside, even though Cassie has been rendering Billy’s snakes less-poisonous, couldn’t that be read as God acting through a human agent, in much the same way that Boyd describes his crime family to Billy as “dark angels sent here to remind us that all men are human?”
As this season continues to explore the divergent paths of two take-charge sons of Harlan, it should be recognized that at this point in their respective lives, Boyd may be the one with the better sense of himself and his place in the universe. Raylan keeps bulling ahead, unchecked, like “Wyatt Earp” (in Rachel’s words). But it’s Boyd who can look the well-meaning Billy St. Cyr in the eye, and say, with true conviction, “Mistakin’ my own hubris for God’s touch, that ain’t religion, son. That’s called self-glorification.”
- The other major event in this episode is that Johnny Crowder goes behind Boyd’s back to talk to Wynn Duffy, offering to take out his cousin in exchange for a piece of the Dixie Mafia action. Stay tuned.
- Also, for those tracking the “What differentiates one violent man from another?” motif in Justified, it’s worth noting that both Johnny and Boyd turn their head when someone asks to speak to “Mr. Crowder.”
- What’s everyone’s take on Lindsey? Still on the grift with Randall, or involved against her will?
- File away for later: There have been reports of burglaries at the homes of several of Eve’s clients. That little tidbit doesn’t come to anything this week, but I’m betting we haven’t heard the last of it.
- I know dramatic expediency takes precedence sometimes, but if I’m an FBI agent with gangland ties, and I’ve just had a meeting at a federal marshals’ office, I might wait until I leave the building before I call one of the mobsters I’m tied to.
- Classic, everyday Raylan Givens assholery: When he arrives at the bar to meet Rachel, he taps her on the left shoulder while approaching on the right.
- This week on Raylan Givens’ Movie Club, he reminisces about The Dead Zone: “I saw a movie once where Walken shakes Martin Sheen’s hand, sees him start World War III.” (That Netflix account is really paying off for Raylan.)
- Art tries to get Raylan excited by the news that Drew Thompson’s name is part of a sealed federal witness warrant. (“If my stiffy lasts much longer, I’m gonna have to consult my physician.”)
- Art also skewers Raylan and Tim for losing track of a “suburban grandmother.” When Raylan protests that Eve Munro isn’t a grandmother, Art shrugs. “I know, but it sounds funnier.”
- For the past two weeks, Art has been treating Raylan more as a friend and colleague than an underling, but Raylan appears to have more of a sense of boundaries. When Art asks for his opinion about what’s going on with Rachel, Raylan says, “If I had one, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell the boss.”