I thought Justified improved greatly throughout its first season, and showed much promise of in last week's premiere, finding the right mixture of episodic storyline and long-term serialization.
"The Life Inside," however, returned a bit too much to the procedural format I hoped the show had moved on from a while ago.
When not much of the week's story deals with the long-running plots - in this case, the Bennetts, the Crowders, etc. - one's enjoyment can depend on who the criminals of the week are. I can think back to season one and pick out the episode with Alan Ruck as the dentist as one of my favorites because he was so engaging as Raylan's adversary.
That didn't happen for me this week with Jess, Jamie and the EMT.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the story itself, and there were moments when crazy pregnant Jamie got me interested, but Jess Timmons and his EMT partner were a bit boring. The scenes in the house with just the three of them left a lot to be desired... but when Raylan and Deputy Gutterson showed up, and Gutterson shot Jess straight in apricot? That was a fantastic moment.Deputy Tim Gutterson got to spend the episode with Raylan, transporting Jamie to the doctor and then finding her and taking the aforementioned apricot shot. Boy, was I impressed with Jacob Pitts.
Like Erica Tazel, who got to shine a bit last week, Pitts was able to escape from the Olyphant shadow more than he could in the first season. The stone cold nature of both Gutterson's sniper shooting and his personality really have me enjoying him thus far. For any The Mentalist fans, it really reminds me of how well Tim Kang works off of Simon Baker.
While the episode's main plot didn't work for me entirely, the bits of long-term stories that were there definitely did. Let's start with Raylan, Winona, and their ridiculous relationship. They started the episode fighting about Raylan's wardrobe, or coffee, or maybe it was because Winona is afraid Raylan was going to leave Kentucky again. Nevertheless, they didn't seem like a healthy couple.
After a long day fighting crime Raylan came home and all Winona wanted to do was talk about the day, but that's not something Raylan enjoys doing. After getting it off his chest that he witnessed a man point a gun at a pregnant belly before getting shot in the head, Winona seemed happy with him. And Raylan might have even been happy with himself.
These two seem to be making strides in their second attempt at a relationship, even if Winona's husband Gary is going to fight to steal her from Raylan... again. But what about Ava? Is she no longer in the picture for Raylan? And why is she taking care of Boyd?
Speaking of my favorite coal miner:What is his deal now? He claims that he just wants to do his job and that his "outlaw ways are behind [him]," but are we to take this at face value? Can a man this crazy be content with a normal job? I'm not buying it for a second. My question then: is he up to something really evil? Or is he just really confused about life right now?
Finally, after making a splash in the premiere, there wasn't much of the Bennetts this week. What we did get was Mags Bennett being extremely creepy with little Loretta: I'm looking forward to our time together, Loretta. What a strange old lady.
Which makes me even more interested when Arlo and Aunt Helen tell Raylan to leave the Mags Bennett and the history alone. What that history is, and how it is revealed should be an interesting arc of this second season of Justified. I'm looking forward to seeing it all play out. Aren't you?
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.