As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Justified S03E06 – When the Guns Come Out

Posted by Hedwig on February 28, 2012

(note: I know, late. I have excuses, but no really good reason, so I’ll spare you)

Ryan McGee posted a much-discussed article on the A.V. Club bemoaning the new trend toward serialization and away from self-contained episodes. I don’t quite agree with him though, because there are plenty of shows like THE GOOD WIFE, MAD MEN and, yes, JUSTIFIED (an example he mentions) that manage to achieve a perfect balance between having a season-long arc and offering satisfying episodes. Don’t believe me? The boyfriend was away at a conference last week, and missed Thick as Mud, yet I could explain to him what he’d missed in two sentences:

-Limehouse was lying about the money

– Boyd and Quarles had a confrontation, in which the latter offered a partnership that the former refused.

That’s it. Dewey’s plot, which was the meat of the episode, is connected to all kinds of different things (his escape from prison had to do with the money, for instance), but didn’t really have a big influence on the on-going plot.

This week’s plot-of-the-week was more intricately connected with the overarching plot, seeing as it involved the rivalry between Quarles and Boyd. Two people from Quarles’ oxy clinic-on-wheels raid the oxy clinic Boyd set up in Aunt Helen’s house, which means Raylan gets roped in (it’s quite artful, really, how they keep getting him involved in things that aren’t necessarily Marshall business), and Boyd needs to think of a riposte.

There was one witness: a prostitute/oxy thief/addict. Through her, the show explored a theme that’s already come up multiple times this season: violence against women. The girl gets beat up several times by her pimp (William Mapother, so soulful in ANOTHER EARTH, not so much here), and has basically no resource – even Raylan can only protect her for a while, and only through threatening violence himself. Earlier, we found out just how badly Arlo treated Raylan’s mother, and that Limehouse’s holler was a refuge for white female victims of domestic violence. Through it all, what’s most striking is just how matter-of-factly it is depicted and discussed, a “normal” though unfortunate part of life rather than something shocking. Let’s not forget that one of the two main female characters, Ava, was also a victim of domestic violence, and that she was only able to escape by becoming violent herself.

The other big theme that’s slowly arising is how to wield and keep power. We see different “leadership” styles, and some are definitely more intimidating than others. Mapother’s simply cruel and violent, using some classic abuser techniques (“see what you make me do?”  etc.) and we see that it doesn’t work: the girl he mistreats  eager to disobey him, despite her fear. Boyd used rhetoric, but found out that backing down from the things you preached can be deadly. Quarles adds blatant sadism to the proceedings – we still have no clue who the guy he keeps chained to a bed is, but he’s definitely to be pitied. We have yet to see whether this is a good technique to inspire loyalty: will Wynn Duffy be scared and intimidated into following him, or look for the quickest way out.

Which brings me to Limehouse. Sure, we’ve already seen two underlings “fail” him (the boy in the second episode who fell asleep on watch; the man in this episode who, as it turns out, incited the raid), but I still think he has the best grasp on his man. And we’ve seen how: he knows the threat of violence is a more potent incentive than violence itself, and he frames everything in terms of loyalty not necessarily to him, but to the holler itself.

I haven’t talked much about our putative hero until now. Frankly, the parts finishing up the Winona thread weren’t all that interesting to me. What was rather interesting was Quarles’ assumption that Raylan and Boyd are in cahoots: it’s not strictly true, but based on the past few episodes, it’s not such a strange conclusion. Boyd did point Raylan toward the crooked prison guard, after all, and tonight he took advantage of the fact that he and Raylan were after the same people to have him clean up his mess. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen once their purposes are at odds again, for a change.

Line (and line-reading) of the night: “Shit. I didn’t bring a knife” – Raylan.

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