With a title like ‘Slaughterhouse’, how could we expect anything other than a bloodbath for the season finale of Justified‘s third season? I wonder, then, how many people were disappointed that the episode was less of the epic shoot-outs we’ve come to expect from the show instead opting for a much more resigned ending?
Let’s bitch it out…
I should clarify my statement: I don’t mean to suggest that there was something unsatisfying about the episode. Anything but, actually. It’s just that the show so often shoots from the hip when it delivers an episode like ‘Slaughterhouse’, in which everything feels as though it is inevitable. The result is a much less visceral experience.
But that doesn’t mean it was bad. Not at all.
If anything I would return to that word: inevitable. This season has deftly juggled a whole host of villains: Neal McDonough’s Quarles chief amongst them, but also Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies), Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and, perhaps mostly ambivalently, Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson). And we’ve spent a great deal of time watching them put their plans in order, take out competitors, or be taken out by themselves by Raylan (Timothy Olyphant). And through it all, there’s been a sense that all of these stories will not only converge, but that they will inevitably lead to certain types of narratives.
If you go back through my recaps for the season, you’ll see that I’ve been waiting for Limehouse to make his big move almost as early as his introduction in episode two, ‘Cut Ties’. We’ve been waiting for Quarles to self-destruct since he began taking oxy in ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar’. And then there’s the case of Dickie Bennett’s missing $3.2 million dollars in ‘The Devil You Know’, ‘Measures’ and last week’s ‘Coalition’ which we knew would need to be recovered at some point.
Of course, what we didn’t know was that it would end with Quarles, Raylan and Quarles facing each other down in Noble’s Holler and Limehouse taking off Quarles’ arm with a cleaver.* Yikes! And that doesn’t even address Limehouse betraying Boyd by revealing to Raylan that Crowder shot and killed Devil, thereby dooming him to serious jail time.
*Though in retrospect perhaps we should have guessed the disarming was coming considering how often we saw Limehouse cutting things up, and how frequently we saw Quarles sticking his arm out to use his Taxi Driver gun.
In the end, however, all of these events felt a long time coming. Quarles was always destined to die – he was simply too crazy to continue and there was no way he would be allowed to escape back to Detroit and Theo Tonin (Alan Arkin). In hindsight, Limehouse has continually mentioned that he simply wants to be left alone, so it makes sense that he would arrange to continue with his illegal activities and leave the showy stunts (election rigging, oxy selling) to the dumber, more obvious criminals. And Boyd has been too aggressive with his criminal expansion this season so it seems reasonable that he would be caught and charged with something.
The ‘X’ factor, then, is Arlo Givens (Raymond J Barry). It’s clear that he’s never quite fit in with the rest of Boyd’s crew – and his stunt locking up Ava (Joelle Carter) last week further pushed him to the outskirts. Initially it didn’t make sense that Arlo would have killed Trooper Tom. But by episode’s end, when it’s revealed that he was protecting Boyd – that’s the real kicker. Although Arlo and Raylan have never had a close relationship, the idea that Arlo shot and killed “a man with a hat [who was] pointing a gun at Boyd” (i.e. he would shoot his own son to protect a criminal) is heartbreaking. Especially after earlier confessing to Raylan that he wasn’t a great father. Although I’ve never been a big fan of Arlo as a character (I liked his relationship with Helen more), this was a strong episode for Barry, which is fitting since it might be quite some time before we see him again and by then he’ll be in an orange jumpsuit next to Dickie Bennett in the pen.
- The scene when Ava(Joelle Carter)realizes she has to let Boyd go was also well done. I especially liked her line “I just want more time”. Perhaps because it’s from Raylan’s perspective, but their reunion after Boyd is released (after Arlo takes the fall for killing the Trooper and Devil) is less charming.
- Also less charming? When Ava beats up Ellen May (Abby Miller) after mistakenly believing she gave incriminating evidence about Boyd to Dickie or Limehouse. Interesting how it’s only taken a few episodes to turn Ava into a woman-beating pimp like Delroy. The real culprit? Boyd’s cousin, Johnny (David Meunier), who’s nursing a vendetta against Boyd for getting him shot and paralyzed. Should be interesting when Boyd returns next season considering Johnny thought he got him put away.
- Everyone catch the brief glimpse of Rachel (Erica Tazel) and Tim (Jacob Pitt) during the manhunt for Quarles? I seriously don’t know how Justified can make such excellent use of their villains and do such a horrible job with their supporting protagonists.
- How happy was I with that Winona (Natalie Zea) cameo at the end? Answer: A lot. Even though it’s unclear what role Raylan will play in his baby’s life, it’s nice to know that Winona is somewhere out there, raising their baby (even if it seems that Zea will no longer be on the show).
- Raylan (after Quarles takes his gun): “Just so we’re clear I’m going to want that back.” Quarles (fishing a second gun from Raylan’s waistband): “And this one?” Raylan: “That one you can keep.”
- Quarles (seeing that Limehouse hides his fortune inside pigs): “Oh shit, it’s a piggy bank!” Hands down – line of the night.
- Winona (after Raylan complains about having to drink water): “I offered you milk and apple juice.”
- Raylan (about Quarles): “Know what they’re saying at the office? I’m disarmed him.” Winona: “It’s pretty good.”
So that’s it for season three. What did you think – was it better, as good, or worse than season two? What was your favourite episode of the season (I would probably put ‘Watching the Detectives’ and ‘Coalition’ up there with my favourite episodes of the series). Were you surprised by any of the deaths – Quarles, Errol (Demetrius Grosse) – or how these characters ended the season – Arlo imprisoned, Boyd free? Sound off below
Justified has been renewed for a fourth season by FX which will likely begin next January (2013).
I finished the season a few hours ago. I think I liked season two better than season three. No organization in my mind, so here it goes:
•I knew Mags would have to die, but I didn’t salivate for it. I was genuinely sad for her. Unfortunately, I was just tired of Quarles’ Oxyrage. Frankly, I was a little bored with the car jacking, too. I prefer my villans lucid.
•I didn’t like the “rent boy” torture. There has to be a better way to portray Quarles as straight-up crazy than blurring the lines between homosexuality and violent predatory behavior. It’s a tired trope for me, although Neal McDonough definitely acted the part well.
•Like you said, they still haven’t figured out what to do with Rachel and Tim. Maybe the actors had other jobs that made it difficult to keep them in the story. Who knows, but since it didn’t happen, I can’t give it a pass like last season.
That said, I still enjoyed the season a lot. Most of the characters have become more layered than what they were in season one, and the actors are really digging into it. I love the plot twists, but I really love that I laugh out loud every episode!
Now I have to decide if I will pay out-of-pocket for season four. I just haven’t gotten hip to the DVR situation.