"Justified" has been moving at a blistering pace in recent weeks, and "Fugitive Number One" is no exception, as a number of key players meet grisly ends, betrayal is the order of the day and the rules of Harlan County as we know it end up flipped on their head.
Because by that closing scene, Raylan Givens is essentially one of the most wanted fugitives of the marshal's office that gave him his star.
I'll get back to that plot point and my concerns with it a little later, because I'd be remiss if I didn't spend most of this review praising "Fugitive Number One" for what it was, another arresting stanza in what's proving to be a masterful sendoff for "Justified."
This show has always been in love with the idea of failing to outrun your past and the dangers of investing trust poorly, and while those ideas have hung over Raylan and Boyd for the series' duration, those same concepts have put bullet holes in several characters in recent weeks.
Carl and Mike (he said not to call him Mikey) both wind up the wrong end of a gun this week because they've given too much to masters they have no reason to trust. Carl's end is as sad as it is deserved, because he fails to finally turn on Boyd even after he's been arrested and his brother's life is on the line. Poor, simple-minded Mike's fatal clash with Katherine Hale is a bit of a tougher pill to swallow, both because of the increased brutality of the fight and because he extricated himself from Wynn's sway last week, only to have second thoughts at the absolute worst time.
Hell, even Katherine falls because she couldn't let go of the past. Honestly, if she had just married Markham, that money would have been hers. But her wrong-headed drive to avenge Grady put the proverbial fox in the henhouse (Boyd) and then led to her demise in the RV.
These scenes are brutal, and they drive much of the action in "Fugitive Number One," but they bookend a series of emotional gutpunches for those who survived all the bloodletting in Harlan this week. Whether it's Earl's realization that he's alone in this world and that he's probably the only person around who cares about Carl's end, Markham's silent seething reaction when Raylan informs him of Katherine's passing, or Wynn's shellshocked "I don't know where to start" as he sits between two corpses in his RV, "Justified" went out of its way to make sure the viewer felt some emotional gravitas amid all the gunplay.
This is a note certain other shows (I'm looking at you, "Sons of Anarchy") would always miss. While characters like Mike, Carl and Katherine might be something of bit players to us, they were real people to characters like Earl, Wynn and Markham, and their deaths should mean something.
Raylan is a step behind all the chaos this week, and his pursuit of Ava and Boyd might be further derailed as Vasquez (the stupidest man in law enforcement) has accused him of conspiring with Ava to steal Markham's mob windfall.
I'm of two minds on this one. On the one hand the idea of Raylan as fugitive, especially with Art pursuing him, is enticing. On the other, I have to wonder if this is a case of characters being dumb in service to the plot. While I enjoy mocking Vasquez, he hasn't really been presented as a complete imbecile until recently, and I'm not sure I really buy his rationale for calling Raylan in. The marshal hasn't been involved in as many "questionable shootings" as he claims, and Vasquez doesn't even know about some of Raylan's most damning decisions, namely the mob execution he was party to at the end of Season 4. I'm OK with Art being somewhat skeptical of Raylan, given that he knows more about Raylan's dirty dealings, but this feels like Vasquez is being pigheaded because the plot told him to be.
Of course, given all the moves and counter moves of the season, part of me wonders if Vasquez is crooked too, just like his spiritual predecessor in Simon Poole. With the way things are going this season, I guess it's possible. I'll reserve judgment and enjoy the ride for now.
- That Boon-Raylan showdown is coming, and I for one can't wait to see the creepy Colorado native go down. While he's been well positioned as a rival gunslinger for Raylan, there are too many other interesting threads for us to unravel in the series' final two episodes. He should be marking time in seconds, not minutes.
- While I'm not in the least bit surprised that Ava's plan is falling apart this quickly, how was she not found on that mountainside already? She didn't get much farther than where Raylan pegged her to be, and there are helicopters scouring the area, right? Did the helicopters just leave after Art called Raylan?
- That image of Boyd dipping his hat, a la Raylan, after killing Carl was kind of chilling.
- Tim Gutterson, Troll Emeritus, might be a worthy Web series for FX to consider after "Justified" is over. His constant ribbing of Raylan even in the most tense of situations has marked some of the season's best humor.
- So Markham has to blame Wynn for Katherine's death, right? Going to be interesting to see if Mikey's noble death inspires Wynn to avenge him or if the man Markham dismissed as a cockroach finally scuttles on out of Harlan.