‘Raw Deal’ is a very apt description of Justified‘s latest episode. Yes, the title refers to Boyd and cousin Johnny trying to strike a deal with a Mexican cartel, but it’s also very indicative of the dip in quality that’s plagued the last few of the show’s outings, this one included. ‘Raw Deal’ served up a “been there, done that” case of the week, more cliched prison antics and even some of the trite semi-competitive dynamic between Alison Brander and Wendy Crowe. It was a lot to sit throught to get to the slightly better parts of the episode: the moments with Raylan, Tim, Rachel and Art, and Boyd Crowder’s scheming. But even those segments were mediocre at best.
Everyone going into this episode was hoping for a climactic standoff between Boyd and Johnny, the conclusion to or next step in the troubled relationship of these two cousins. Unfortunately it wasn’t given enough screen time, with the two men having a few short scenes together before it was all put to an end. The stuff leading up to that was a mixed bag too. At the end of episode 5.6 Boyd had recruited the Crowes to be his muscle, and ‘Raw Deal’ started off with Boyd and company looking for Johnny. They didn’t find him, so next time Boyd saw his cousin was during an attempt to stay in business with the cartel: Johnny and Boyd both tried to come up with their best offer, trumping the other player. Unfortunately it was strangely devoid of tension, mostly because it wasn’t as big a part of the episode as it deserved to be and both men were too passive-aggressive. There really wasn’t a budding of heads, because everything went through the head of the cartel, a missed opportunity for some big emotions. Eventually it was made clear that Boyd and the cartel had struck a deal all along because Boyd had told them about Johnny’s past indiscretions, effectively rendering Johnny untrustworthy. The negotiations were just a ruse to draw Johnny out and deal with him. It was a nice touch, but it skipped over the most interesting part: Boyd pleading with the cartel. We got the cliff notes instead, which seemed like an easy way out for the writers, plus a half-baked resolution: when meeting up with the Crowes things escalated because psycho Danny Crowe started shooting at Johnny’s men, and subsequently Boyd just killed Johnny too. It could not have been more anticlimactic. All we are left with now is that Boyd and the Crowes are in trouble with the cartel because they killed Americans on their turf. Yawn.
This week Raylan was mostly busy with tracking down a hacker, a storyline that felt out of place and unneeded because it didn’t add anything to the overall narrative. It’s a questionable decision to throw in a plot strand like this, when there’s already so much in play that needs more proper fleshing out. There were a handful of scenes with nice banter between the Marshals, but other than that Raylan’s story didn’t have much to offer. At the end of the episode Givens did have another conversation with Wendy Crowe, trying to get her to leave her family behind and get away with Kendal (who was making his own plans to leave), but it was nothing we hadn’t seen before.
The least said about Ava’s story, the better. She’s trying to survive in prison and in order to not have to do sexual favors for a guard she made sure the guy supplying heroin to the inmates got caught. This opened up some opportunities for Ava though: could she be the new supplier? While there’s something to admire about the writers attempting to give Ava her own seperate story, the execution is lacking: there’s really nothing there we haven’t seen before but done better, and Ava really doesn’t have much to do other than just going through the motions. It isn’t compelling storytelling.
‘Shoot The Messenger’ wasn’t a good episode and ‘Raw Deal’ was even worse: everything feels aimless and uninspired. The next episodes really have to up their game to keep Justified from hitting rock bottom. 4/10