After a stunning conclusion to the events of last year, which saw US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) shot, the Bennett family mostly wiped out and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) return to his life of crime, what could Justified possibly do for an encore? How about return just as solid as ever?
Let’s break down the season three premiere…
It’s important to get one thing off the table right away: no one is going to replace Mags Bennett (Emmy winner Margo Martindale). Neal McDonough’s Robert Quarles, the new crime boss from Detroit, is a welcome change of character from some of our more southern fried tweakers and drug-runners, but he doesn’t yet have the scope or the magnetism of the Bennett matriarch. Don’t get me wrong: I think he’ll be an interesting addition to the cast (those eyes!), but for now he seems fairly straight laced.
Much of what happened in the premiere was wrapping up events from last season and setting in place new storylines. Justified has often had a narrative structure wherein they do several case-of-the-week style episodes in the early part of the season, but it all comes together for the final batch of episodes (traditionally in a crazy shoot-out wherein one of the principal characters are shot). So on one hand, this episode acts a bit like a stand alone as Raylan must contend with his injury and a hired gun running around. At the same time, this episode helps to set the stage for future storylines, most notably with the introduction of Quarles as the replacement for the Dixie Mafia, the organized crime syndicate in Harlan County. He easily plays outgoing boss, Emmit Arnett (Steven Flynn) against hired flunky Fletcher ‘The Icepick’ Nicks (Dexter‘s Desmond Harrington in a nice one-off) to seize control as the Marshal service runs around following false leads.
In between we catch glimpses of what’s happened in the wake of the demise of the Bennett clan. After her suicide in the season finale, Mags’ weed is poached by Boyd and his crew, which includes dumbass Devil (Kevin Rankin), Raylan’s pop Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) and Ava (Joelle Carter). I’ve never felt that Ava has a role to play aside from ‘hot property’ for a different male lead each season (Raylan in season one; Boyd in season two), so it’s nice that they’re growing her character a bit. I was particularly fond of the way she took control of the group after they discovered that the Bennett weed was rotting and Boyd instructed them to burn it lest the authorities discover it. When Devil refused, Ava hit him in the face with a frying pan. Oh Justified – it’s good to have you and your random acts of violence back.
The premiere ends with a few promising stories in progress: in addition to Quarles’ power move (killing Arnett and his secretary Yvette), Boyd ends up in prison where he has easy access to Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies), who will soon be made to pay for shooting Ava. Next week brings the arrival of the other Big Bad in Mykelti Williamson, meaning that Justified is hosting a mini-Boomtown reunion (google and buy it).
- Winona’s (Natalie Zea) pregnancy is progressing nicely, forcing Raylan to grow up a tad. These two have great chemistry and although Zea is still a utility player of sorts, she can do comedy as well as the rest of them. Case in point: suggesting Palmolive or Jiffy Pop as potential names for the baby.
- I’m hopeful that shady security salesman, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) will have a larger role to play in Quarles’ plans. Not only does Burns play up the creepy used car salesman vibe, but I swear that that ‘stache is a character unto itself.
What do you think of the premiere? I’m not used to having Raylan sit out of the action, so let’s hope that he heals quickly and gets back into it next week. Until then, keep your hats on.