Justified Review: "The Lord of War and Thunder"
Alright, maybe Justified is not purely a week to week show.
Just when we thought that we knew what Justified was going to be as a television show and got over its bland episode 2 and 3 growing pains, the writers throw a big wrench in to this week’s episode “The Lord of War and Thunder”. After last night’s episode there is simply no way to ignore the story line that was developed over 90% of the show, but not concluded.
If nothing else, Raylan Givens gem at the end of the show to his father, “I got you out of jail. At the very least, I’ll get you back in” signals we will hear from Arlo, Helen, Stan Perkins and his mute nephews at some point in the future.
The main point of this week’s episode was clearly to introduce Arlo, explain the challenging relationship Raylan has with his father and provide a longer term storyline/crime to follow. What was odd about the episode was how we were constantly jumped around from scene to scene to tell the story AND the writers inexplicably tried to weave in a little police work with the stake out.
While the scenes and story with Raylan “undercover” as an out of work landscaper tracking a fugitive were fun and well done, why exactly was the story in the episode at all? It had absolutely nothing to do with the building narrative between Raylan and Arlo and the significance of the fugitive wasn’t explained at all (likely because there isn’t one).
Would the episode have been worse off without these small scenes? I’d argue it would have been better because some of the other scenes wouldn’t have felt as rushed. The story was still well explained and I feel like I was able to follow everything that was going on, but several of the scenes were about 1-2 minutes long. Felt rushed.
Nevertheless, the story did work and Arlo and Stan Perkins are two villains/criminals that were fun to get to know and had a nice dichotomy between them. Eddie Jemison did a great job of basically playing his character from Ocean’s 11 (in case you were wondering where you saw him before), the squirrelish, unassuming con-man who will surprise you with his aggression. Raymond J. Barry played a different version of this type of criminal – the seemingly harmless old man who will beat you with a vintage Hank Aaron if you cross him.
As I mentioned last week with Alan Ruck’s performance as Roland Pike, the better the villains are, the better the episode works. This week provided a bit of a twist on that theme with two well played villains. However, the rub was the show kept us guessing as to who was the criminal and who was the victim.
Arlo smashes Perkins stuff; he’s the bad guy. Perkins hasn’t paid rent; maybe he’s the bad guy. Perkins HAS paid rent; Arlo’s pulling a rent scheme. Perkins just finished a six-year stint in prison and is dealing OxyContin. Arlo stole $75,000 from Perkins and took his OxyContin. Helen planted the OxyContin in Perkins apartment; she’s in on the scheme too?
Fun stuff and another departure from the predictability of episodes 2 to 3. Perhaps I’m beating a dead horse here – the show is 3 for 5 so far, after all – but I’m glad to see the show developing deeper story lines the past two episodes and surprising us with how they end.
The one thing the random fugitive stake out did provide was a phenomenal hook for the episode in the tremendous dialogue written to start the show. Chief US Marshal Art Mullen treats us to the following gems this week:
“He's probably not a candidate for father of the year. He shot a cop, among other things.”
“Then you're like some drunk looking for his car keys under a lamp because that's where the light is.”
There were a few others that aren’t suitable for print in a classy review like this one, but they certainly had me laughing and my interest was immediately heightened.
Last week, I gushed about the scene where Raylan hops in the back of the mobster’s car and rips off a sarcastic monologue giving them options as to how they want to die or be arrested. Tim Olyphant’s ability to deliver these sarcastic lines is something I hope the writers continue to explore in future episodes. His mastery of sarcasm was on display again this week with his initial interaction with Helen.
Raylan: Why can't you bail him out?
Helen: Those are the first words out of your mouth?
Raylan: I'm sorry, I'll start again. I see you're still smoking.
The way Justified and its main character, Raylan Givens, has progressed thus far reminds me of House. Dr. Gregory House is a medical diagnostic savant with a sharp tongue. Raylan Givens is a US Marshal savant with a sharp tongue who seems to find his way into more than his fair share of action, always ending up on the winning side. This is certainly a good thing as House is an enjoyable show (I'm sure the producers would be happy with success similar to House).
House is generally a week to week show, but with some longer story arcs to keep viewers interested for an entire season. Considering the similarities between Raylan and House and the first five episodes of Justified, if this is the direction that the writers are going, that’s a good one. The main difference between House and Justified so far is that Justified has not yet developed the supporting characters that make House an excellent show.
Certainly there’s time and opportunity to do so. If nothing else, Chief Art Mullen has provided us with great comedic relief, a la Wilson. Some of the villains like Boyd Crowder and Arlo Givens seem likely to play a recurring role, providing a foil for Raylan. What the writers are not taking advantage of, in my opinion, is developing Raylan’s supporting Deputy US Marshals. So far, Rachel Brooks and Tim Gutterson have not been interesting.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you prefer a neat and tidy single episode storyline or are you excited for a longer arc? How does the conflict of Raylan v. Arlo v. Perkins end?