The shooting of Tom Bergen and the escape of Robert Quarles has pretty much every character on edge, on empty, and carrying a full clip. "Slaughterhouse," the finale of Season 3: Praise the lord and pass the pork tongue.
Raylan is on one. Tom Bergen doesn't make it, and the Marshal is out to avenge his colleague's death, staring down Boyd, playing Harlan Roulette with Wynn Duffy, having another porchetta-themed, semiautomatic negotiating session at Noble's Holler and generally looking like someone who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and is ready to kill over it.
Boyd also has his hands full, getting Arlo back on his meds and having misty meetings on the bridge of sighs with Limehouse and his band of butchers. He's also haunted by a devil. Or rather, Devil. Boyd and Arlo put the mutinous crew member six feet deep earlier in the season, and now it's coming back to bite them in the ass, right when they need it least.
For his part, Quarles is making friends and threatening people. He's kidnapped a single mother and her two well-adjusted kids on their way back from a Christian rock festival and is treating them to threats of gun violence, personal anecdotes about his dead mother, and some serious Oxy withdrawal.
This being Justified, this isn't going to end up with some sort of multi-agency task force getting to the bottom of a case. It's Raylan Givens's one-man band, and when Quarles makes a request for his presence, solo, the Marshal obliges. Raylan pretty much willingly walks himself into being another hostage along with the two boys from the Christian rock family. And everybody — Pete, Mitch, Raylan, and Quarles — takes the DC Talk van up to Noble's Holler. Because that's where everyone seems to go when they are engaged in criminal conspiracy.
The showdown goes down — where else? — in the slaughterhouse, which we know because the episode is called "Slaughterhouse" and because A LOT OF STUFF HAPPENED IN THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE this season. It looks like Quarles is going to get money from ransoming Raylan back to the Noble's Holler crew, and then he is gunned down by an exiled Errol and has his arm cut off by Limehouse, who finally uses his butcher's knife for something other than a conversational prop.
With his dying wheeze, Quarles tells Raylan that Arlo was the trigger man on the Tom Bergen shooting.
In the end, Arlo, out of kinship or because he was conned, takes the fall for Boyd, claiming both Tom Bergen and Devil's murders as his own. (Only one was.) Raylan recounts the whole story to Winona, who is now pushing the limits for how many times someone can feasibly be seen in a nightgown. Even his funny office joke ("They say I disarmed him") can't bend her sisters-doing-it-for-themselves-spirit. Raylan is sent out into the Kentucky night, wondering whether Arlo would've pulled the trigger had it been him.
- Immediately you feel the improved scene dynamics when multiple characters are on-screen together. Having Art, Rachel, Tim, and Raylan in the same shot, working together (both as of characters and actors), is something that hasn't happened enough in Season 3.
- One of Justified's major themes is the push and pull people feel between the person they are, the person they were, and the person they are becoming. Boyd is the obvious example of this: hatemonger, Bible thumper, blue-collar grunt, convict, and crime lord (though not in that order of occurrence or importance). But don't let the hat fool you: Raylan has the same tug-of-war happening. This is a guy who comes from criminal stock, a lawman who barely operates within the boundaries of the law and someone whose personal grudges often get in the way of any kind of protecting or serving bullshit. "I ain't my father and I don't care to be confused with him," says Raylan while pointing two guns at Errol and Limehouse. Well, at least he knows that much.
- Quarles, as a character, probably lived about 40 minutes too long. I know that Justified is adept at the handling of episodic and serialized storylines within the same episode, but we didn't need yet another crazy Quarles suicide mission to make us believe he was desperate and crazy. This guy was naked, on Oxy, chained to a bed, and making prostitutes smoke drugs out of the barrel of a shotgun last week. We got it. The only thing Quarles the character did was reveal Tom Bergen's killer. Other than that, he could have gone up in flames last week and much of this episode would have remained intact.
- If the final scene between Raylan, Quarles, and Limehouse lacked punch, I thought the "till we meet again" moment between Raylan and Boyd struck the right chord. For Raylan and Boyd, this is a war, not a fight, and Boyd might have struck the deepest blow in "Slaughterhouse." Raylan and Arlo's relationship was obviously beyond repair, but to hear Boyd say, "He's not my crew, Raylan, he's my family," must have cut deep, if only because, as we are reminded in the very next scene, that's something Raylan no longer has.
- Unlike last season, which seemed to dip and dive into every general store, coal mine, town hall meeting, and pot farm in Harlan, Season 3 has felt, at times, a little claustrophobic. Or at least very much set in interiors. It was great to see some sprawling outdoor shots to give us a sense of place, outside of sets of Noble's Holler, Johnny's bar, and the Marshal's office.
- As always, I'm sad to see the end of the season, but unlike previous years, I'm not too bothered about seeing the back of Quarles and Limehouse. While I thought the Limehouse character had a lot of promise and Noble's Holler felt like a rich, undiscovered country to explore, Justified's creative team never really seemed all that invested in the character or plot line. Limehouse was revealed to have a heart of gold (even if it was swamped in mustard seed and vinegar) last week, when we learned he had given Mags Bennett's fortune to Loretta. But that's about the only clear move I could understand. The firing, hiring, and rehiring (?) of Errol, the various attempts to curry favor or plot with Dickie, Boyd, Quarles, and Raylan ... it wasn't the plot that was confusing as much as it was exactly clear what the point of the Limehouse character was. Maybe it was one villain too many.
- I'm not into prognosticating this show, but I am excited mostly to see what happens to Raylan's personal life. As a character, he's in a very unique situation: He's catnip to the ladies, a father-to-be and someone who regularly gets into Old West–style draws. That's a tough Facebook profile to sell. Now here's the thing, and I am totally speculating, but didn't Olyphant seem a little … bored over these last few episodes? I know, I know, Raylan is a laconic guy and you could land a plane outside his house and he'd barely adjust his hat. But I think, as a character, he needs some new challenges, outside of his nearly-every-episode confrontation with Boyd. That being said, I cannot wait to find out where the whole thing goes next.
MVP: Boyd. It's going to be quite a feat if Graham Yost turns Boyd into Season 4's main heavy since, despite everything, he has become so likable this season. Where I sometimes felt like certain characters seemed to change directions with little or no logic or warning, everything Boyd did this season seemed at one with the searching, lost-and-found-and-lost-again nature of the character. I thought Goggins — who occasionally forgets that he is, in fact, not on Deadwood, despite the preponderance of actors from that show — has been consistently great. Loved the delivery of the line, "Raylan, I hope you have enough respect for my capabilities to know that I would not blow up a car that I'm standing next to." If I'm still not entirely sold on Boyva (ugh) as a couple, I'm all in on Boyd trying to be the criminal patriarch with heart that his father never was.
Villain of the Week: Limehouse. At least he finally got to use the knife.
F-Yeah, Ava Crowder: "You don't threaten me! And you don't talk to anybody about anything."
Best Lines: Raylan: "You think it's true what they say?" Boyd: "Well, what do they say?" Raylan: "One bad apple spoils the barrel." Boyd: "Well, Raylan, even in a little town like Harlan, I think the apple barrel is obsolete."
But I leave you, this season, with the man who has, in so many ways, become my spirit animal: "I have a permit for that in my other pants." —Wynn Duffy