Thursday, April 21, 2011

TV Episode Review: Justified “Full Commitment”

This week was one of “full commitments” indeed, though some developments might be better described as fallout or deterioration.  Relationships crumbled left and right tonight in terms of both their stability and their equilibrium.  Raylan rocked the boat with pretty much everyone but Wynona and Boyd, and I’d imagine he’ll get to the latter next week.  Raylan started to work on losing Tim as an ally in the marshal department tonight and seemed to have pretty much completed the job by episode’s end; Tim seems to understand somewhere inside that Raylan’s probably doing what’s best, but he’s also wary of him and more than a bit adversarial about the whole ordeal (as he has every right to be).  Meanwhile, the Bennetts have made enemies of everyone, with Doyle making especially certain Raylan knows where they stand, and Dickie only needs one button-pushing from Boyd (granted, quite a button pushing) to start stacking up bodies and restructuring some of his own relationships with the big players in town, including, tragically, poor Helen, who stood by the insufferable Arlo for one too many outings, at long last.

The only two things which seemed to stabilize by the end of the evening were Boyd’s criminal proceedings (though I can’t imagine that the death of Helen at Dickie’s hands is going to help with that stability any) and Wynona’s safety, thanks to Raylan (presumably) ridding their lives of both Gary and the indescribably slimy Duffy.  On the bright side, it was nice to see that the hard working common folk of Harlan County have a breaking point where no degree of intimidation can keep them cowering in their houses:  The Bennett General Store has been redecorated and renamed “Benedict” General by the good townspeople as a special thanks for Mags’ deal with the devil.  It was a surprising development given that as recently as last week Mags was threatening a man’s life for challenging her about that very deal in public.  Defacing Bennett property seems like a whole different animal that no one with knowledge of the Bennett ways would undertake.  In true Mags fashion, though, her tone as she paints over the graffiti is one of resignation and understanding—she isn’t exactly sympathetic to these people, but she seems to recognize that she’s taken something from them and there’s some inevitability to the mess she’s stuck cleaning up for it.  Doyle, of course, lacks his mother’s wiser worldview and in moments like tonight’s standoff certainly seems to be begging for an unfortunate fate much more than Dickie, who’s too pathetic and sad to really wish much vengeance upon (though the Helen thing changes that to quite an extent). 

Ultimately, Dickie seems like he’s going to be the first “insider” victim of the coming war(s), which he himself has probably set in motion with the shooting of Helen (I’m going to assume here based on the classic “flashes from the kitchen windows” shot to spare us the vision of her falling that she’s actually gone).  His new “band of brothers”, if you will, has been pathetic since he began to gather it last week, but the addition of “Bass”, a lumbering oaf who Dickie is pretty clearly adopting as a surrogate Coover, makes the group especially sad (and vulnerable, given his abilities with a gun).  I won’t pretend it wasn’t surprising when Dickie offed all but good ol’ Jeb when they refused to go along with him on a mission of retribution against the much more close-knit and intelligent Crowder Gang, but it certainly does seem like an inevitability that Dickie is meant to be alone in this fight, which almost certainly dooms him to come out at the bottom of it, barring some ironic protection from someone like Raylan (I’m hazarding a wild guess there—don’t ask me to support the theory).

Mags, on the other hand, already has a small militia guarding her vandalized store front, and that’s before Doyle pulls up with reinforcements and aggressive threats.  She’s promised Helen (think how important that could be now) and Raylan that she plans to keep her word about maintaining the peace, but I would have to imagine that would really be based on the assumption that someone else doesn’t break it first, and tragically, I doubt it would apply to her estranged son, Dickie, should he decide to take back his share of the family, uh, everything, by force.  How the war eventually erupts will be extremely interesting given how many individual interests are at a crossroads by the time tonight’s episode ends.  Even Raylan has less reason than usual to operate within the boundaries of U.S. Marshal Codes and Dickie has certainly given him a reason even more compelling than Wynona’s to toss the badge aside.   

Regarding tonight’s proceedings, I’m still no fan of the entire situation of distrust between Raylan and, I guess, now, the entire U.S. Marshal Department of Kentucky, but it did make for some fun and funny moments as he and Tim played a relaxed game of cat and mouse.  It might have played even better if the show had done a better job this season of opening Tim’s character up more and giving him more to do, but we know him well enough to make it enjoyable to see he and Raylan openly state their intentions for the situation and then try to act on them anyway.  Tim’s motivations seem a bit unclear at moments, though, given that he seems intent on doing his duty and more than a bit suspicious of Raylan and yet often leaves him to his own devices in situations where anyone who knows Raylan even casually would recognize he should not be left without supervision.  When Raylan asks him if he even wants to know the story wherein Raylan has solved the case he was supposed to keep his nose out of, Tim decides that he doesn’t, but again his reasoning seems unclear—he seems like a better man than to just act in his own self-interest (as in, avoid getting in trouble with Art for not doing his job) and he definitely doesn’t seem that interested in protecting Raylan’s interests.  While Art clearly hasn’t told anyone else what he knows, it seems clear at this point that the rest of the department doesn’t have much faith in Raylan.
In a rare breach of my blog's ethics, I'm including a promo photo here simply because it's hot.  I'm sorry and you're welcome.

I suppose then that for now Boyd is the man who has everything going his way—Arlo is happy to hop into bed with him in order to revive the ancient tradition he used to have with Boyd’s daddy of hijacking whatever caught their interest in and out of the county, but first Ava has to move over in that bed to make room for him because she’s wasted no time getting cozy with Boyd, demanding only that he not include running prostitutes as part of his business model.  Though I’ve loved Boyd openly as a character throughout the series, I certainly don’t love him as a human being, least of all given his open embrace of all things immoral over the past couple weeks.  It makes Ava a difficult character to sympathize with…again; she should have known better than to date anyone in the Crowder family and now she’s on her second sibling who is quite clearly no better a person than his brother was before she took his life.  That said, she contrasts interestingly against poor Helen whose last word of advice to her (or anyone) is that if you don’t know what’s going on, they can’t drag it out of you.  They can’t shoot it out of you either, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.  I doubt the parallel will extend to Ava’s death by season’s end, but who knows?  She seems to be a character who has run her course—there’s nothing inherently interesting about her as Boyd’s love interest, nor has she been developed in any interesting way this season in her own right.  Boyd meanwhile seems unlikely to end this season with any sort of fall—he’s gathered up too much momentum to just round a corner into a brick wall.  It seems a more likely transition that this season will see the undoing of the Bennett clan while Boyd slinks off quietly to his hiding place while the gun smoke settles.

Maybe I’m completely wrong, but the important thing to realize here is that before this season ends, we’re going to be treated to a lot of gun smoke.  And where there’s gun smoke, there has been gunfire.  And gunfire is really what we all enjoy best about this show, alongside excellent dialogue, a unique southern charm, outstandingly interesting characters, and like, four or five dozen other awesome things.  So with two episodes left and “full commitment” from pretty much everyone on the show to one thing or another—most of those “things” acting at odds with the “things” of other people, of course—I’d say the picnic table is set for a whoopty doo the likes of which even Mags has never seen before.  You bring the apple pie cider and I’ll bring my own mason jar to drink it out of and I’ll see you right here next week.

Overall Rating:  8.8/10

Great Lines, Interesting Moments, Whatnot and Occasionally What-Have-You:

Seeing Boyd’s swastika tattoo really drove the point home that the “old Boyd” has returned for good.  Nice touch.  Also made it even less acceptable that Ava is falling in love with him.

Tim always rises to the occasion of a bigger role in the proceedings: “I love this stuff.  This shit makes me hard.”
Raylan is not to be outdone though:  “Well then, we’ve both been warned.”

“Do you wanna go outside and check the perimeter or do I need to pretend to take a shower?”

I didn’t catch “The Bodyguard” reference right away, but well played.

“Do I look like the climb out the bathroom window type?”

Kudos to my close friend who pinned the assassins last week on Gary before tonight’s episode.  That guy should start a blog.

Mags’ gallows humor knows no boundaries:  “You did kill my baby, but I’m the one let him become a nitwit. Not that I’m takin’ the blame, mind you.”

“You bring one man to back you up?”
 “Yeah, well, I thought you’d bring more guys.” 

“I feel like I’m in the big chill.”
“Yeah but no one’s dead.” 

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