Friday, February 25, 2011

TV Episode Review: Justified "I of the Storm"

This week’s episode of Justified did a nice job of reaffirming my pre-existing feelings about this season, which in a nutshell would be “more Boyd, more Bennetts”.  Boyd got more screen time here than he has in the rest of this season all together, but it still felt like we were only getting a taste of what’s going on behind that hollow voice and slumped demeanor.  He’s a fascinating character study at this point—how he’s fallen so low is clear, but what’s going on inside his mind is still mostly a mystery (I mostly believe him when he tells Raylan he’s not involved in anything, but his fierce warning to Dewey to steer clear of the Oxy situation still had me wondering whether he’s back into the criminal world).  His actions are largely unexplained at this point, which made for some really great drama in this episode since he certainly did become a man of action by the end of it.  He feels like a ticking time bomb for the majority of the evening, but it’s very unclear what’s making him tick.  Even more intriguingly, I’m not exactly certain what it is that eventually set him off, either.

The Bennetts played a comparatively minor role again this week in the proceedings, at least in terms of what we got to see.  The hijacking of a load of stolen Oxycontin (that’s right, a robbery of a robbery) turns out to be the work of Dickie and Coover who are right proud of themselves until Doyle gets wind of it in the worst possible way—through the two men Dickie hired, just before Doyle kills them both to cover his moron brothers’ tracks.  It’s an interesting development not because it’s any sort of surprise, but because the family dynamics are becoming clearer.  There was no doubt that mama was in charge of things, but Dickie’s wry, off-kilter demeanor when we first met him made me think maybe he was the decision maker among the brothers.  Clearly I was wrong about that (it’s still pretty clear that Coover is nothing but muscle though).  Doyle certainly doesn’t take his role as an officer of the law seriously, but he also doesn’t appreciate having to kill men in cold blood just to cover his family’s tracks because they can’t resist an “easy” cash in when they see one.  Doyle warns them not to do anything like that again without consulting him first, and they look frustrated but unlikely to disobey him.  I’m wondering whether the family’s ultimate undoing won’t be the rivalry between caution, organization and a very, very weird code of ethics (Doyle and Mags) and recklessness, short-sightedness, greed, and very, very weird behavior (Dickie and Coover).

Also of interest regarding the Bennett clan is just how widespread their reach and power seems to be—they hire a couple of men to knock off the “Oxy Bus” (Ava sarcastically tells Raylan she knows what that is—am I supposed to be familiar with these?  The South continues to bewilder and charm me with its mysteries.  I still don’t want to live there though.) without getting their hands dirty, Doyle has at least one CI working for him who tips him off immediately about Dewey’s hilarious escapade, and Doyle feels confident enough not only to try and redirect the blame for the bus heist towards Boyd, knowing his past and Raylan’s suspicion of him, but he also feels momentarily emboldened enough to reach out to Raylan when he believes (based on bad CI info) that Raylan stole the Oxy from Dickie’s hired hands and that maybe he can bring Raylan’s criminal interests into the Bennett fold.  That last item is a big, bold move, even given that he had reason to believe Raylan actually was guilty—you’re talking about sweet talking a US Marshal whose word will carry a lot more weight than yours will and who brings a lot of leverage with him if he turns down your offer.  The fact that Raylan clears up his worldview quite quickly (and with his usual deadpan humor—it’s a great moment when he opens up the back door of the cruiser, asks the CI if he’s the man she saw, and slams the door on her before she can even finish responding, and then repeats the whole act again when she provides more info than he needs on Dewey Crowe) puts Doyle on his heels, but Raylan isn’t ready to bark up that tree just yet.  It certainly puts Doyle on high alert though, and will certainly change the precautions he and the fam have to take against Raylan going forward.  Raylan does go at least so far as to point out that it’s pretty clear that Doyle’s mistaken intention was that of one drug pusher reaching out to what he thought was another one in order to make some sort of connection, possibly of the business variety.

It’s a wonderfully clever twist which keeps with the show’s tightly knit collection of rogue characters that dumb, ne’er-do-well Dewey Crowe can be the catalyst that changes the entire relationship between the major players with a single, moronic act.  It lends a bit of uncertainty to the meaning of tonight’s episode—I had assumed that Raylan would be the “I of the storm” since, well, he pretty much always is at the center of whatever shitstorm is raging in the criminal world of Kentucky.  But Dewey really proved to be the key element that set things off tonight:  He’s a part of the initial stealing of the Oxy from a “pill mill” in Florida, he witnesses the killing of the ringleader of that charade, and then he steals the same Oxy again from Dickie’s crew, making it thrice stolen goods by the time he feeds it to two floozies at Audrey’s bar in exchange for a personal show.  All of that wouldn’t amount to much in the course of the show except that his interference leads to Doyle shooting two men his brothers hired (which I don’t think will just go away for good—Raylan witnessed it, after all), alerted Raylan to Doyle’s involvement with drugs indirectly, and brought Boyd into a clear state of heightened distress which eventually leads to him taking all that pent up tension out on Kyle, who looks harmless enough but claims to have killed people himself because some people are expendable, for some reason he doesn’t get a chance to explain.  In other words, Boyd reaching a tipping point with Kyle, possibly because dealing with a dummy like Dewey all day tends to grate on one’s nerves, has clearly put Boyd in a very bad place by episode’s end.

Kyle and his buddy, Pruitt, have apparently had their eye on Boyd ever since he got hired at the mine they work at.  At shift’s end they play a little game of good miner/bad miner to try and get Boyd to have a drink with Kyle and then remark that he’s going to be a “tough hog to tie” when he tells them he prefers to drink alone.  What they want him for isn’t clear, except to say that they clearly have heard about his exploits as a master criminal who also happens to be a master organizer, whatever other exaggerations of his legend they may have heard along with it.  Boyd’s practically imploding into himself in a state of depression by the time Kyle tracks him down at the bar, and for me, at least, it’s a hard thing to watch—Boyd is nothing if not spirited and self-sustaining, so it’s odd to see him lethargic and shrunken as a human being.  It makes it cathartic for Boyd and viewers when he responds to Kyle’s adamant desire to make Boyd some sort of offer by headlocking him through the window of his car and driving down the road a piece with Kyle’s head pinned in his lap and his legs trying to keep up with the pavement rushing by beneath his feet.  He finally gives Kyle a good elbow out the window on a tight turn and has the humanity to stop and check on him.  He looks torn in that moment, but what he’s torn between or deciding about is a mystery for now—he looks a bit regretful, but something has also clearly awakened in him and that thing might not be something someone like, say, a US Marshal would completely approve of.  It’s a tantalizing place to leave us for an entire week, especially given that Boyd is screaming with the sudden release of pent-up frustration and at least for a moment seems murderous as he offers to introduce Kyle to Jesus Christ personally before throwing him free of the car. 

So it seems like Raylan has his work more than cut out for him from here on out—Doyle has exposed the Bennetts just enough so that they’ll be extra cautious from here on out (judging from the preview of next week, I don’t think Mags is too pleased about any of this week’s developments in the family business), Boyd is off and running in an as-yet unknown direction and could have Ava tied up in it before all is said and done, and meanwhile it turns out Wynona doesn’t have much faith in the long-term viability of their relationship, just when poor Raylan was starting to feel comfortable that things were on the mend.  He takes it all in stride, but that’s just his way, and as a collective whole it all seems to suggest that he really is the essential “I” in this week’s title, and that it’s a storm he’s going to have his hands full riding out.  It seemed like a bad omen, too, that Raylan was without his hat quite often this week, although I hear (thanks for the heads up, AV Club) that could be because Elmore Leonard isn’t such a fan of it.
Overall Rating 9.1/10

Great Quotes, Interesting Moments, What Not and Occasionally What-have-you: 

I love that Dewey is not too proud to pay for a shot with coins "there's some pennies..."

He also gets an uncharacteristically observant shot in at Boyd:  "For a guy who's supposedly changed, you sound an awful lot like you always did."

Tim's explanation of why he took the shot on Jess Timmons last week is outstanding:  “I can’t carry a tune, don’t know how to shoot a basketball and my handwriting is barely legible, but I don’t miss.”

"That's why I don't go to church," Raylan says when Arlo tells him there were some bodies found on a church bus.

Arlo's pleasure at discovering Raylan is running around with Wynona is a hoot--the characters have such a natural chemistry that the ribbing Raylan takes at the hands of Arlo here is a blast to watch.  

Dewey's stupidity in buying a ski mask is a nice little humorous aside for the show--they continue to find such natural, realistic ways for Dewey to exhibit his low IQ.

Great moment when Raylan Givens announces to Dewey's two lady friends that his name is Raylan Givens.  One of them says "Another one!"

Doyle mentions to his brothers that their little stunt could shake up a "hornet's nest" with the "boys up in Frankfort".  I assume we'll get to know more about them soon...

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