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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Justified: "The Gunfighter"

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.

Yeah, Justified doesn't so much inspire eloquence as much as it leaves me with jaw hitting the floor. After blitzing through Season 2 over the long weekend, I wondered how the show would handle the void left by Mags Bennett's absence. Smartly, they don't seem to be leaving it up to one big bad to handle it. Instead, The Gunfighter introduces a few potential roadblocks for a wounded Raylan to cross paths with.

Of course, the most promising is Boyd Crowder, whose burgeoning criminal enterprise is threatened by his team's lack of manpower and experience. After Boyd winds up in jail for assaulting Raylan, Devil and Arlo seem poised to lead the gang down a ruinous path. It was fascinating to see a recovering Ava take charge in Boyd's absence, smashing Devil upside the head with a frying pan and coolly explaining why she did it.

(Also, how chilling was it to contemplate that Boyd got himself thrown in jail to get his revenge on Dickie Bennett? Walton Goggins is always a thrill to watch, especially when he's portraying Boyd as several steps ahead of Raylan and the law.)

The Gunfighter also features more of the Dixie Mafia, which when last we left was mostly concerning itself with the real estate deals of Emmett Arnett and his associate Wynn Duffy. But now a higher-up from Detroit (Neal McDonough) is here to get Arnett's deals back in order. By the end he's demonstrated a calculated violence that promises to make him a great foil for Raylan.

Justified always seems to balance long-term story arcs with self-contained stories, and here the latter falls to Fletcher "Ice Pick" Nix, a cocky quick-draw artist hired by Arnett to steal the money he needs to pay off Detroit. In a few short scenes Nix made a lasting impression, and his inevitable gunfight with Raylan was one of the tensest and most interesting the show has pulled off.

Season 3 of Justified is off to a great start. My only regret is that I can't watch this season in a weekend. Waiting a week to get back to Harlan is going to suck.

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