Since there were so many interesting and entertaining events during "Loose Ends," I was surprised at my own reaction when it ended. I wasn't amazed, which has been my feeling following a number of Justified episodes during this middle stretch of the third season.
It's been great, but during the majority of season two and the first three or four episodes this year, Justified was indescribably awesome. That level of quality is hard to achieve in back to back seasons.
"Loose Ends" was very good though. Ava's rise, Boyd's speech, everything to do with the land mine, and Raylan wrestling with Limehouse about Quarles were all fantastic in their own right, but it seemed more like an episode that was setting the scene for episodes down the road than an hour of pure entertainment in and of itself. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Ava's rise to power has been brewing for quite some time now. Ever since she decided that she was okay with Boyd's ways, and we could tell she was willing to get involved herself, it was obvious that at some point she would take an even larger role in the criminal activity.
The fact that she is going to take on the prostitutes in Harlan is interesting for a couple of reasons. It proves that she truly is ready to take on a leadership role in all of this madness, and it also shows that she still has a heart. You can be a bad guy - or girl - with a heart. Ava killing Delroy to protect EllieMay was proof of that.
I really see this story line as paying off in future seasons, with the hope that Ava may become a true adversary for Raylan in season four or five as she breaks bad-er as time goes on.
As the beginning of the hour went on, I said to myself "there hasn't been nearly enough Boyd Crowder as of late." Thankfully we were treated to much more of him here, and that speech he gave to the town's people was nothing short of awesome. Walton Goggins is just fantastic.
The way Boyd cracked the entire place up, and then got them cheering for him by the end of his speech, it was a pleasure to watch. The guy is electric, and I can't wait to see what he does next.
While Ava was dealing with Delroy's mess and Boyd was rallying the town's people, Raylan was on a mission to figure out more about Robert Quarles...even though Art specifically told the Marshal they were done with the Detroit native.
Watching Raylan make the rounds - getting Tanner's name from Boyd, using a truck driver to act as an ATF agent to scare Sherriff Napier, following Napier to his non-existent meeting with Tanner, and finally to the site of the land mine - was a whirlwind of activity, but led to the very entertaining scenes in the shop.
Between the simple fact that the guy had a land mine set up in his shop, and the reactions to it by Tanner and Errol, that scene was chock full of excitement. I thought it was going to be extremely fortunate for Raylan that this occurred, because he was going to get a ton of information out of a dude afraid to die by land mine, but then Tanner had to go and get all tired and sweaty.
It was definitely frustrating when Tanner dropped the gun and armed the mine. I wanted Raylan to get all the info! Of course Limehouse is no help either...unless you are in need of knowing the sociology of baked goods.
Although he wouldn't help Raylan out with his Quarles situation, I loved Limehouse's interactions with our favorite Marshal. He stood firm on what he believes is best for his people, and he tried to get Raylan upset. Upset Raylan got when the country bumpkin started talking about his momma. It was nice to see that type of emotion out of our man Raylan. Just because he could care less about his dad, it doesn't mean he's not emotional about family.
With Limehouse's reluctance in helping Raylan out, it's becoming more and more obvious that the Marshal is going to need even more help from Boyd Crowder to take out Robert Quarles. It's kind of ironic that although Raylan really isn't in bed with Boyd - like Quarles claimed - he is going to need the criminal's help to take down the man from Detroit.
Or maybe he won't. The final four episodes of the season will tell us. What did you all think of "Loose Ends?" Did it clean any up? Or did it just create more? What was your favorite part of the episode? And what do you think of Ava taking on the prostitutes?
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.