As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Justified S03E01 – The Gunfighter

Posted by Hedwig on January 18, 2012

Note: I wanted to try my hand at episodic TV commentary, and JUSTIFIED seemed the right show to start with. I’ll try to write up each episode in the season, and to have the write-ups online before Friday evening. I will assume that people reading this have either seen the episode or don’t mind being spoiled. 

The second season of Justified made good on the promise of the first one, and ended with the perfect goodbye for a great villain, Mags Bennett. Her exit left a bit of a vacuum, but there were enough threads left dangling – Boyd, Dickie, Wynn Duffy etc. – to make me look forward to the new season.

The first episode left me cautiously optimistic. The opening drags a bit, but establishes what it needs to – Raylan’s hurt but getting better, Winona didn’t leave, etc. – before starting the set-up for season three.

One thing that Justified doesn’t get nearly enough credit for is structure, and this episode offers a great example. After some scenes establishing that Boyd has the Bennett weed and others showing some gangster in trouble, we get a scene that introduces sadistic baddie Fletcher Nix – great name, by the way, the nihilism’s right there – and which serves a dual purpose: it establishes Fletcher as calmly murderous, and introduces both the rules of his “game” and the generic outcome (answer: not good for his opponent). The third to last scene mirrors this scene neatly: again, here’s Fletcher, his opponent (Raylan) and a third party (Winona). Again, the game is set up, the count down begins. Obviously, we know the outcome will be different, but I’ll admit I had no idea just how Raylan would get the upper hand, and his solution is both simple and brilliant. Meanwhile, previous scenes had heightened the stakes by emphasizing that Raylan’s injuries meant he’s not by far as good a shot as usual, and by reminding us several times that Winona is pregnant.

It would have been a great scene to end on, but there are two more to come. The first I’ll get to later, and reveals who the real new big bad is. And the last? Well, that resolves a question left hanging from a much earlier scene, in which we see Boyd Crowder coming to the station, getting into Raylan’s face about not letting him get his revenge on Dickie, and then attacking him. It’s a startling moment – Boyd is capable of vicious violence, as we’ve seen before, but he’s also smart, and this attack seems pointless, even counterproductive. The final scene reveals the purpose, however: attacking a Marshall gets you to federal prison, but not for too long. Just long enough to, oh, say, pop in, kill a dude, and pop right back out – which certainly seems to be Boyd’s plan.

Boyd can afford to go to prison for a while, it turns out, as Ava’s holding down the fort, and shows in this episode just how skilled she is. First she defuses a situation that could have gone really, really bad, especially for Devil. And when she shows Devil what her “ornery” looks like in a later scene, ooo-boy. I don’t generally condone violence, but her handling of that frying pan was the definition of bad-ass. I’m very curious to see what they do with Ava this season: last season showed her slow conversion to the criminal life, and I think it’ll be interesting to see her assert her authority in the Crowder gang  – and I hope the writers won’t wimp out and go down the Margaret Schroeder route with her.

Finally, let’s talk about Mags’ replacements. Fletcher is amusing (and his voice mesmerizing), but he’s basically already been beaten – of course, this was the case with Boyd too, in the pilot, so you never know*. And the big bad, it seems, will be the slick mobster Robert Quarles (got this from the A.V. club, hope it’s correct), who enlists Wynn Duffy in this episode after coolly shooting Duffy’s old boss and his secretary. I’m not impressed yet – the casually-talking-about-scenery-while-plotting-murder thing is a bit overdone by now – but that might just be because Margo Martindale left some very big shoes to fill. Shooting people is one thing – call me back when you bash in your sons hand because he disobeyed you. However, I’m willing to give Neal McDonough and his blue eyes a few episodes to get more menacing.

Overall, a promising start, with enough of the typical humor, a welcome return of both Tim and Rachel, and plenty to look forward too.


*I hadn’t read other reviews before writing this, but now that I have, it seems Fletched might be dead after all. We’ll see, I suppose.


2 Responses to “Justified S03E01 – The Gunfighter”

  1. Kaj said

    Excellent! I’ll be reading this.

  2. Hedwig said

    Thanks for reading, Kaj! Good to know at least one person will notice if I slack off 😉

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