Last week it seemed like Justified was ready to go all out. Pieces were set, the cliffhanger raised the stakes, and now… nothing. ‘Shoot The Messenger’ tried very hard to be entertaining, but wound up just spinning its wheels for most of its running time. The Crowe family idiots (Dewey and Danny, that is) kidnapped Boyd’s bartender to extort some money from mr. Crowder, which of course didn’t quite pan out and instead led to the Crowes playing soldier for our favorite Harlan County crime figure.
Why did Boyd need the Crowes? Because he had put his faith into an old skinhead buddy. This guy’s sister would protect Ava in prison, and everything would be totally fine. Well, of course it wasn’t that simple, and instead of creating a safe place, Boyd had guaranteed Ava would be greeted with hostility; the neo-Nazis considered the Crowders traitors to the white race for doing business indiscriminately. Seldom did Justified feel this unoriginal and tacky: the prison scenes were full of clichés, bland, and the show’s ability to give its unique spin to familiar material was sorely lacking. The tension was also undermined by a strange absence of severity: a group of skinheads cornered Ava in the prison yard and took a shank to her hair, but next time we saw Ava her hair was just unevenly cut. Hardly anything shocking.
What also didn’t satisfy was the follow-up to Raylan’s confession to Art, a conversation we weren’t privy to. We do know that Art’s suspicions are now confirmed and that the revelations were quite upsetting to him: the episode opened with Art throwing a punch and knocking down Raylan. But that’s it. Both of the characters didn’t bring it up again, which fits their dynamic, but it’s a shame nonetheless: the whole ordeal is much more interesting than the storylines pushed forward this episode. What could’ve been equally as fulfilling was the plot strand of Tim and Rachel immediately knowing Raylan and Art had been in a fight, but even that part of ‘Shoot The Messenger’ got sidelined, which made a touching scene between Rachel and Raylan at the end of the episode fall flat.
‘Shoot The Messenger’ wasn’t Justified at its best. It was an unimaginative episode with only one purpose: establishing the Crowe/Crowder connection. It did so in the most roundabout way. 6/10