tv review – FX’s Justified, episode 5.5

Poor Ava, poor Boyd. They can’t seem to catch a break, can they? Justified‘s fifth episode of its fifth season, called ‘All Shot To Hell’, at first made it seem like finally everything was going according to plan. The tense first few minutes of the episode saw Boyd take care of Lee and after that Boyd made sure he tied up every loose end and covered all of his tracks. It all went too smoothly and in the end Boyd’s efforts to get Ava out of jail didn’t pay off, thwarted by Danny Strong’s despicable prison guard. Even Boyd’s plan to get even with cousin Johnny, while at the same time becoming a big player in the heroin trade, didn’t pay off: Boyd keeps underestimating his kin, a man who’s not only vengeful but also just as smart and good at planning ahead and manipulating people. Walton Goggins, like always, did a terrific job: switching from calm to fierce in the blink of an eye. Boyd’s ruthless when pushed and if his scream at the end of the episode is anything to go by, there will be a reckoning.

The episode as a whole was one of misdirection. Just like everything seemed to work out for Boyd but didn’t, the Crowe family storyline and Raylan’s too gave the impression the plot was headed in a certain direction, only to make a U-turn at the last moment. Danny Crowe is proving himself to be a psychotic force of nature only doing what he wants, not caring if anyone gets hurt in the process (or even making sure they do). When Jean Baptiste took a stand, condemning Danny’s behavior, and seemed to come out on top, he instead got killed by Danny, who grabbed a shotgun and just shot him without thinking about it twice. Danny makes Daryl Crowe Jr. seem like an all-out nice guy, which speaks volumes. Meanwhile Raylan and Art were tracking down a mob henchman who was visiting Harlan to assassinate Picker, the man who killed mob boss Theo Tonin’s son and proved to be a very valuable asset to law enforcement. The chase led to the capture of Tonin himself and Raylan even got a break: a missing Marshal was put at last season’s airstrip shoot-out instead. While Raylan and Art both knew that information was incorrect, Raylan seemed to be in the clear and could have gone home relieved. He didn’t: he walked back into Art’s office and started talking.

It’s a testament to the show’s strength that, five seasons in, it still manages to surprise viewers and add new layers to characters. In season 1 Winona said Raylan Givens was the angriest man she knew, and we’re getting to understand that notion more and more. Beneath Raylan’s cool and laid-back exterior, there’s a barely surpressed rage, which seems to get out more and more. A line he says or a look he gives show you there’s a lot more anger where that came from, and you really don’t want to find out how bad Raylan Givens can get. While he was always trigger-happy, his darkness this season finally makes him really seem like his father’s son and a product of his environment. Boyd and Raylan seemed like to sides to the same coin during the previous seasons, but now it seems like maybe they are both on the same side of that coin. Timothy Olyphant really does an outstanding job, and I’m looking forward to see where he and the writers take the character this season and the next, which will be Justified‘s sixth and final season.

While there’s much to be loved about this episode, there are some things that don’t quite work: Strong’s prison guard is hammy, seemingly just there without any connection to the rest of the plot (but I suspect that this too is just misdirection), and Ava herself is just a damsel in distress this season, which is an understandable change due to her surroundings, but it’s a harrowing one because now she just isn’t all that interesting. She serves to develop the plot, but doesn’t have much more to do. The same could be said for Amy Smart’s character I’m not sold on as of yet.

Five seasons in, Justified is still one of the best show’s on television. The writers, directors and actors are all outstanding and clearly know where they want to take the show and its characters. While most of the previous episodes seemed like build-up and some parts about ‘All Shot To Hell’ didn’t quite work, the pieces are all set now and Justified isn’t holding back any longer. 8/10

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