For most of the show’s run, Raylan Givens’ and Boyd Crowder’s dealings with the Kentucky criminal hierarchy—Raylan as lawman, Boyd as outlaw—have consistently placed them somewhere in the middle. There have always been idiotic, smalltime criminals nipping at their heels, and the pair’s encounters with such bumbling lowlifes have generally driven the show’s episodic plots. But there have also been the would-be emperors, either those with deep enough roots in Harlan County—like Bo Crowder and Mags Bennett—or those with powerful enough connections to criminal organizations elsewhere—like Robert Quarles and Nicky Augustine—to present Raylan and Boyd alike with formidable opponents who can sustain the more serialized storytelling. Part of the genius of Justified has been in how it achieves that balance between criminal threats both challenging and comical. Indeed, one of the many, many reasons that the second season is held in such particularly high regard is how it presented the extreme ends of Justified’s villainous spectrum in a single family, with Mags the ruthless crime lord on one end and Dickie the dumbass psychopath on the other. And yes, we’ll have more on tonight’s triumphant return of Dickie Bennett in just a little bit.
As a general rule, Justified builds its seasons from the top down, with the actions of a powerful but ultimately vulnerable main villain driving each season’s endgame. This year, on the other hand, has been an attempt to build the serialized story from the bottom up. “Weight” builds on the success of last week’s “Wrong Roads” by starting to bring this season into tighter focus, as tonight’s episode suggests just how lost Boyd and Raylan have become. They are still employing the same methods that brought them so much success when dealing with Harlan’s most powerful outlaws, when really, their foes this season have been those trying to rise up from the bottom.
And there is nobody, but nobody, closer to the bottom of the Justified heap than one Dewey Crowe. It had felt like the season lost track of him after his traumatic, mostly botched execution of Wade Messer, consigning Dewey to background work as one of Boyd’s newfound enforcers, but it turns out Dewey was just biding his time all along—at least, that’s what he tells himself in the wake of his rash, panicked decision to drive the heroin car away from Danny and DEA Agent Miller. As is so often the case with television’s most lovable Neo-Nazi murderer, there’s something oddly sweet about Dewey’s demands. Unlike Boyd and Daryl Jr., he has no interest in being a king. He just wants the money that was swindled from him by those who could barely be bothered to pay attention to him, much less respect him.
As it happens, even stealing half of the heroin shipment isn’t enough for Dewey to command Boyd’s undivided attention. Boyd’s frustration with Daryl’s fumbling attempts at power plays already boiled over in “Wrong Roads,” and now, Boyd has taken Daryl’s talk of family to heart: If a Crowe is doing something stupid yet again, then just let the Crowes deal with it. It’s a sensible decision, but it also reinforces the precarious situation in which he now finds himself with Wynn Duffy and Mr. Picker. “Shot All To Hell” emphatically established Boyd Crowder as the absolute ruler of Harlan County, but every attempt since then to expand his kingdom has been a fiasco, suggesting he is little more than his “local attributes.” The Crowes represent a foreign presence that he can only occasionally control; indeed, the one Crowe he could easily manipulate, the Kentuckian Dewey, has become just another unpredictable, idiotic wild card under Daryl’s tutelage. The Crowes are a threat precisely because they are so much stupider and less powerful than either Raylan or Boyd; they have been presented as essentially a parasitic infestation, an invasion of the swamp creatures.
Indeed, the fundamental issue that Boyd confronts in this episode is that, over the past season or so, he has developed a set of skills that are ideally suited for dealings with those more powerful than he but are wholly inadequate for confrontations with the powerless. He can size up a potential business partner like Wynn Duffy or Mr. Yoon and hit upon the ideal arrangement. But people like them or the succession of Detroit mobsters that Boyd has negotiated with have already achieved sufficient success to be able to see crime as a business; they show some ability to consider their long-term interests, and Boyd is all about selling the dream of the glorious, prosperous future. That doesn’t work on people who have failed, for whom their criminal activities are as much a matter of pride as anything else. Boyd is adept at locating the leverage he needs to conclude a deal, but that doesn’t work on the likes of Cousin Johnny, the Crowes, or Hot Rod’s enforcers Jay and Roscoe, none of whom think they have anything left to lose.
That’s part of the trouble Boyd runs into tonight with Albert, who was willing to stab himself twice out a twisted love for Ava, a love that could not allow anyone else to ever have her again. What could Boyd possibly do to change the mind of somebody that lost in delusion and self-loathing? But that’s just the rational argument: Boyd’s expression gives away the deeper issue as a broken Albert explains, “I love her, but I don’t have the power to make her mine.” Boyd recognizes that that statement is just as true of him as it is of Albert. Here, more than anywhere else, Boyd has to face up to the limits of his control; Ava might have already told him that she could not see him anymore, but the reality of that situation doesn’t sink in until that point.
As for Ava, tonight keys into the essential hell of her existence. Previous episodes had indicated that she might have “allies” and “enemies” in the prison, but her deadly confrontation with Judith reveals how meaningless those distinctions are. The nurse Rowena is an untrustworthy accomplice, one who forced Ava and Boyd to arrange the murder of an old man whose wife overdosed on drugs that she helped supply. But she wants Ava to kill Judith as retribution for forcing Penny to end the pregnancies caused by the sexual favors she had to supply to the guards. Questions of guilt and innocence here are irrelevant, a point that Boyd inadvertently makes when he tells Albert that Ava is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit, when the only reason she was in that position is because Boyd helped her beat the rap for a murder she did commit. “Weight” sees Justified offer its clearest point about its Ava storyline. The prison is not so much an immoral place as it is a profoundly amoral one, a place where even the most basic precepts of right and wrong give way to the daily fight for survival. Inmates like Judith construct their little communities to offer some semblance of sanity, but all anybody ultimately cares about is saving her own skin. Ava hesitates tonight and tries to negotiate a better deal with Judith, but she makes the same mistake that her fiancé does: You can’t negotiate with the terminally desperate.
That brings us back around to the one and only Dewey Crowe. This episode can’t quite match the giddy heights of the last Dewey-centric episode, the third season’s “Thick As Mud”—alternatively known as “The Ballad Of Dewey Crowe” or “Dewey Crowe In: Kidney Trouble!” That’s because the earlier episode ingeniously had someone else provide Dewey Crowe with a specific mission to fulfill: namely, steal a bunch of money to buy back his allegedly purloined kidneys. Here, Dewey is making it all up as he goes, which means his story must inevitably run out of steam as he recognizes just how utterly out of his depth he is. Indeed, it’s only because of Raylan’s attempt to get Dewey to think rationally—always a dicey proposition where Dewey Crowe is concerned—that the man even comes up with the plan to pay a visit to his one friend left in Harlan County. Dickie Bennett’s return after nearly two full seasons away is a joy, as Jeremy Davies makes the character just as unhinged as ever. The childlike glee on Dewey and Dickie’s faces when they set eyes on each other is almost enough to make you forget that the former is a wanted heroin smuggler and the latter is the man who tortured Raylan and killed his stepmother.
Not that Raylan has forgotten either of those points, as his confrontation with Dickie bristles with a hatred that has long since gone beyond mere rage. The marshal must know that Dickie Bennett has only called him to the prison to mess with him, that he has no plans of intentionally giving away any information about Dewey’s whereabouts. But then, Dickie is such a consummate moron that he’s certain to unintentionally give something away, as Raylan swiftly recognizes the very fact that Dewey would go to Dickie limits the possible places he could have gone next, and none of them are likely to be all that friendly to the associates of a known shithead like Dickie. Dewey’s idiocy means that his big gambit was always likely to be a problem that took care of itself, so where does that leave Raylan?
The debrief with Art makes it clear that Raylan has done far more harm than good, as his intervention has left a Crowe dead, allowed the others to go free, and possibly endangered the life of Alison. Again, we come back to the difference between a top-down and a bottom-up threat. Raylan’s cowboy antics have a certain value when they help save the lives of innocents, finish off dangerous psychopaths like Robert Quarles, or capture internationally wanted crime lords like Theo Tonin. But when Raylan is no longer punching up, when his conduct amounts to bullying a bunch of would-be outlaws like the Crowes until they incriminate themselves, then there’s really very little point to him. Justified changed the rules of its game this season, and neither Boyd nor Raylan has fully realized that fact. And, if the preview for next week is any indication, somebody else is about to pay the price for Raylan’s terminal obstinacy.
- Good news, everyone! It turns out Agent Miller didn’t die when Dewey hit him with the truck, and he’s now recuperating his broken pelvis in the hospital. Last episode left his fate ambiguous—and, honestly, I’m surprised that Danny didn’t just finish him off after Dewey sped away—but I’m glad of the possibility of another Eric Roberts guest spot, and I’m pretty sure most of my analysis of that scene still works with Miller injured instead of dead.
- Speaking of Danny, the guy finally gets to put the 21-foot rule to the test, and he falls into a ditch, stabbing himself through the jaw. It’s hard to imagine a more fittingly pointless end for a vile psycho like Danny. If anything, it’s a nice way to balance out the scales after his arbitrary execution of Jean-Baptiste, an act that is only brought out into the open tonight. Really, there’s a lot of good stuff with the Crowes that I didn’t get a chance to get into, but I’m guessing Daryl, Wendy, Kendal, and even Dewey still have a few moves to make between now and the finale. Whether any of those moves end up being even halfway intelligent is another matter entirely.
- “You got to make sure, Raylan, that you do it in a way so that the rest of you keeps on following your hand right up your ass, right up there, all that shit you’re so full of, Raylan, and then what you’re going to do is you’re just going to wink out of existence forever.” “Proud of that one, aren’t you?” “Yeah, it’ll do.” I’d be willing to give this episode an “A-” for that exchange alone. And I’m glad to see that Dickie Bennett has pointedly avoided the prison barber throughout his incarceration. Speaking of hair…
- “You know, Duffy, I really do not understand this fascination you hold for Boyd Crowder. What is it, his hair?” Meanwhile, Wynn Duffy is bringing in mysterious crime boss Mary Steenburgen as his consultant. If the main villain of this season inexplicably turns out to be Mary Steenburgen... eh, I’m not going to complain.