Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Everything That Rises Must Converge: Justified, Season 3, Episode 12
By Chris Ryan
I think we knew from about, um, the fourth second, with the Oxy-fueled threesome, that "Coalition" was going to get a little dirty. "Check me out, all gangsta and shit." Indeed.
Boyd's got Quarles locked up in a trailer belonging to two delightfully named prostitutes — Cat and Minerva (Minerva!) — Frankfurty/Dixie Mafia muscle with connections to Theo Tonin in Detroit is on its way to pick up the off-the-res bad man and absolutely nothing can possibly go wrong at all in the "Coalition." Great season, Justified!
Just when you thought it was safe to count your 200 grand in blood money, in limps Dickie Bennett with his proxy, Errol. It's not long (actually it's no time) before Boyd has a plastic bag over Dickie's head, Arlo is howling for blood, and Errol is halfheartedly arguing for clemency. But it's Ava who saves a battered Bennett from joining his mama on the great mountain in the sky. Everything has a price. Even that bullet wound in Ava's chest.
While Errol draws the Crowder crew a treasure map to the Bennett fortune that Limehouse is hiding (in a bank, of all places), Quarles does a fairly decent Willem Dafoe impersonation (he was awesome in Cocoon!) and somehow manages to find himself delivered from the bondage of Cat and Minerva's house of the holy.
Raylan, as he has been for most of the season, is just a step or two behind Quarles. He arrives at "Audrey's" (which is really "Ava's") and utters the exact same thing I said the last time I found two prostitutes and a gun-toting thug chained up in a trailer: "You know what the two saddest words are in the English language? 'What party?'"
After hooking up with his State Trooper buddy, Tom Bergen, Raylan sees Ava and Arlo looking really, totally inconspicuous at the bank where the Limehouse/Bennett fortune is being stashed. You can tell Ava means business because she's wearing her "I mean business" coat. And you can tell Arlo is thinking about robbing the bank because he is acting like a guy thinking about robbing a bank. "Strange bedfellows," mutters Raylan. Hey, brother, don't I know it: Try recapping all of this.
While Boyd makes yet another side deal with Wynn Duffy, Quarles makes his way to Noble's Holler to have himself a meeting in a really nice oak-paneled conference room. Just kidding, he's in the cold storage hog palace of Limehouse, who obviously has his butcher's knife with him. This thing isn't even intimidating anymore; it's basically like Linus's blanket.
Despite the fact that everyone from Limehouse to Raylan seems hip to his criminal master plan, Boyd seems dead set on blowing up some stuff and robbing the bank. Though his benching of Arlo and Ava suggests he thinks something might be up.
Raylan confronts Limehouse, albeit laconically, and we finally hear what we've sort of known for a while now: "I know it [the money] ain't there. Don't try to tell me it is." Turns out all this puppeteering on the part of Limehouse is a gambit to clear out the competition and ensure his own crew's survival. This all comes out soon enough at Johnny's, where Errol admits there's no loot, and the endgame, on the Limehouse end, is to get Boyd back in prison.
Problem is, nobody told Arlo. And in all this planning and safeguarding, nobody, not Raylan, not Ava, not Boyd, thought about Arlo and how he was barely hanging on to it all. Off his meds, the Givens patriarch is dead set on proving, manically, that this lion still has some roar.
After some more panicked phone calls and side deals and beatings and threats, all roads lead — where else? — back to Loretta's adopted home in Lexington. I was excited to return, since it was the setting for my favorite scene of the season (in the fourth episode). Dickie has come for his inheritance and finds Raylan waiting for him with a loaded weapon and an even more lethal assessment of his character: "You keep thinking you're tough. So you're going back to prison to be reminded you ain't. You're just stupid. You're just a stupid, craven, hillbilly piece of shit. Hell, maybe getting tossed around like a pool toy in the federal pen is just the remedy you need." Scared straight.
As if this withering summary of Dickie's life wasn't painful enough, Boyd Raylan then takes away the one thing he had going for him: his good leg.
After all this ugliness, we are blessed once again, for only the second time, with a glimpse at what is, perhaps oddly, my favorite relationship on this show: Raylan and Loretta. Safe and sound in the Lexington Marshal's office, Loretta learns she's a rich girl, provided she doesn't blow it on Van Halen playing her birthday party. Looks like Mags Bennett really did have an inheritance after all.
The brief moment of grace is snuffed out like a bunch of Oxy inflamed in tinfoil. The money problem is over; the blood feud rages on. And it finally hits Raylan where it hurts — his badge. Quarles escapes from Boyd's guns and Wynn's car bombs, but not before gunning down Tom Bergen, setting up a no doubt bloody, vengeance-filled season finale.
For the first time this season, for the first time in the run of this show, I felt like the writers of Justified sold us out a little bit. The last two episodes have basically been variations on the same scene. The settings change, the song remains the same. This whole chase for Dickie Bennett's outrageous fortune got so confusing and circuitous it almost became comical. And it never felt like the stakes were nearly as high as the characters seemed to think they were. Of course, Justified is somewhat about people trying to get rich and how Raylan is there to mop up when they die trying. And maybe it's more in light of the majesty of Season 2 that a lot of this season's proceedings felt a bit light. The second season felt like the fight for the soul of Harlan, the fight to not be your father, the fight for your future against the pull of your past. This just feels like a bunch of entertaining people chasing some MacGuffin bag of money. At one point, Limehouse, Greek chorus-like, intones, "It's funny how that money brought together all those wayward personalities." What was a wild goose chase for the characters also felt that way for this viewer.
Which isn't to say it's not a wildly entertaining goose chase. The placid bluffing of the first two acts of "Coalition" perfectly gives way to the tension of the third.
Dickie seemed more or less nonplussed with everything that's gone down this season, so it was a great little surprise to see Jeremy Davies pull a little flinch when he first encounters Boyd in Johnny's bar.
On a show where the bread and butter is tough talk and tougher locales, it might seem odd to point it out, but seriously, doesn't the haircut up the "prick" meter a couple of notches on Sheriff Napier? Same goes with Dickie's patchwork beard-and-stache.
We didn't see a ton of Raylan this episode. That will no doubt change in the finale. While this season has largely been about the power struggle between Boyd, Limehouse, and Detroit/Quarles, it's still a show about Raylan. Expect him to not only settle his account with Quarles, but also with his father and Boyd. All this game-playing has finally cost someone his life.
MVP: Errol. Shocker, maybe. But I thought Demetrius Grosse was fantastic. Just the little eyebrow raises here, shrugs there, eating a snack on the precipice of disaster. Subtle and perfect.
Villain of the Week: Quarles. There is no competition. "The idea is to get better." Yeah, I don't see that happening again. Ever.
F-Yeah, Ava Crowder: "I haven't forgotten; he's not forgiven. Nor has he hobbled out of here alive yet."
Best Line: "When he asks me — and he will — where Robert Quarles is, does Theo Tonin sound like the kind of man to whom you'd like to say, 'I'm sorry! But he escaped from a disease-ridden whore factory up in Inbred Holler!" —ALL YOU DO IS WYNN, WYNN, WYNN. (Silver medal to: "You should stick with it. They pull back the curtain and it turns out the guy's kind of a pussy," from Raylan.)