‘The Toll’ was quite a nice and compact episode that didn’t meander as much as some of its predecessors did. Apart from Ava’s plot strand everyone knows by now I hate because of its complete lack originality and impact on the main story, the rest of ‘The Toll’ was about the aftermath of an attempt on Allison Brander’s life during which Nick Searcy’s Art Mullen was wounded, so much so that he ended up in a coma. Raylan and company were looking for Art’s shooter, while Boyd, Wynn Duffy, Picker, Mike and the shadowy Katherine Hale were having a meeting regarding the missing half of the heroin shipment. Because captured mob boss Theo Tonin told the Marshals Picker was the triggerman they interupted this little meet, which wove the two plot lines together.
The result was an episode in which dialogue was at the forefront, an element Justified excels at. Picker was questioned and to save himself he mentioned he heard that Daryl Crowe Jr. was involved in the shooting of Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Mullen. Because Wendy Crowe called in and made it known that Daryl wanted to turn himself in under some specific conditions, Picker and company were let go again to resume their talk, with explosive results: back in the hotel room Boyd had rigged a pack of cigarettes which he lobbed at the increasingly hostile Picker, blowing him up and taking everyone in the room by surprise, which led to Boyd’s successful getaway. He made an offer to Duffy too: to give him half of the half of heroin and after that part ways. It was a wonderfully constructed scene, its foreshadowing just a bit too obvious to offer a real surprise, but at least it offered thrills.
Back on Raylan’s end he met with Wendy who turned out to be a lure: because Daryl was afraid Raylan would shoot him on sight he made sure Raylan wasn’t at the bureau when he turned himself in. The kicker: after he did so he had Kendal confess to the act of possibly fatally injuring Art, which allowed Daryl to remain a free man. While it’s great to see Michael Rapaport chew the scenery as the now devilish Daryl Crowe Jr. I still feel like this transition wasn’t earned, like I mentioned in last week’s review. More of a problem is the change of character in both Wendy’s case and Kendal’s. These two characters were determined to get out from under Daryl’s rule, only to now conveniently fall back in line. If anything Daryl’s actions from ‘Weight’ would have been the final straw, not the final push toward docillity. Wendy seemed like a strong woman willing to cooperate with her brothers up to a point and the season’s shown her becoming more independent with each episode. Because of it this development rang false. In any case: Daryl’s the one fully in charge now and we last saw Crowe in a threatening contest with Raylan that was a joy to watch. After that Raylan was off to the hospital to keep watch over Art, and back at the station Rachel was told she’d fill in for her fallen boss. An interesting development indeed.
‘The Toll’ was a focused affair and moved at a brisk pace. Ava’s clichéd story (now a woman of power after the Judith assassination) and some out-of-character moments kept it from being truly great. 7/10