New 2014 debuts continue as Justified returns for its fifth season. On the back of one of its best seasons, this first episode back is a wee bit underwhelming and definitely not for newcomers.
Let’s bitch it out…
I don’t traditionally have any difficulty following complicated narratives, but I’ll admit that the early scenes of ‘A Murder Of Crowes’ made me wish that we had a “Previously On…” recap. As it is, we’re almost immediately thrown back into the world of Harlan County and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Once we readjust back into the rhythms of the show, however, it becomes clear that this episode – or at least the Florida section – is telling a fairly straightforward story.
In reality the hunt for Elvis Manuel Machado (Amaury Nolasco) is little more than a case of the week that just happens to take Raylan into the orbit of the Florida Crowes, thereby setting up the season’s main conflict. As Alan Sepinwall notes, it’s a great opportunity to bring Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) back into the fold and it introduces his extended family in a logical fashion. Thus far I’m not entirely sold on Michael Rapaport as unofficial patriarch Darryl Jr (I like him as an actor, but the character doesn’t make a huge impression). I’m actually more excited to see Alicia Witt as sister Wendy – I’ve always thought she deserved to break-out and Justified traditionally does right by its recurring guest actors. Here’s hoping that Wendy’s paralegal work doesn’t dissuade her from accompanying her brother on his newfound criminal venture in Kentucky.
The flipside of the premiere is Boyd’s (Walton Goggins) journey north to Detroit with Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) after his drug shipment fails to materialize. I was definitely hoping for more interplay between Duffy and Boyd, but since Jere Burns is now a series regular, I guess I can give it some more time. Their journey into the city of 17% unemployment to meet with Picker (John Kapelos) and Sammy Tonin (Max Perlich) is pretty dark: not just narratively (boy do those bodies pile up!), but visually (the lighting contrast between the two story threads is immediately apparently). In many ways the trip feels like a comedic mobster film: there are jokes about lackeys on different floors, people asking about Boyd’s injured ear, a recurring gag about sex dolls and shout-outs to Canadian hockey/coffee legend, Tim Horton. The comedy is intercut with random acts of violence (Side Note: did Sammy completely lose his mind torturing guys? With chainsaws no less?!). The end result leaves the state of the drug business in Harlan in question as the Canadian mob (amusingly played by Will Sasso and Dave Foley) pulls out, forcing Boyd and Duffy to rely on Picker’s connections in Mexico to move forward.
Unfortunately for Boyd that’s not his only setback. He tries to buy Ava’s (Joelle Carter) freedom by bribing Lee Paxton (Sam Anderson), who, of course, takes the opportunity to try and humiliate him. Apparently he didn’t get the memo that Boyd is more prone to giving into homicidal urges this season (turns out Ava really is good for him). And so Paxton is dead – or really badly injured (I thought he must be dead but his wife suggests he’s not) – and Ava is no closer to freedom.
By episode’s end, ‘A Murder Of Crowes’ achieves what it needs to do to kick start the new season. It’s a bit of a rocky start in terms of pay-off (I like Harlan, so taking time away to visit Detroit and more specifically Florida isn’t ideal to me) and Rapaport remains an unknown quality, but it’s great to have the show back nonetheless.
- All of the mentions of family from Raylan’s Floridian partner Deputy Sutter (David Koechner) should have been the tip-off that he would avoid seeing Winona (Natalie Zea) and his adorable daughter. It’s so typical of Rayland to Skype with them rather than face them in person
- As soon as we see alligators and there’s a dead body lying around, you just had to know the two would come together. Anytime there’s a mention of feeding bodies to gators, I immediately flash back to Nip/Tuck or Live & Let Die. It’s definitely a bit of a Florida cliché (I bet the locals love it), but there you have it
- Finally, I should have seen it coming (and possibly enjoyed it less), but Raylan ruining Dewey’s naked game of Marco Polo and shooting his above ground pool is a delight. This show makes an art of making Dewey suffer
- Wade (to Raylan, as he enters Audrey’s): “Can I get you a blowjob or something?”
- Dewey (to Raylan): “You and Wade are the only two pussies in this whorehouse”
- Raylan (about the Crowe family): “I just figured they’d all be dead or locked up by now”
- “Could add you and Mr. Eyebrows to the list”
- Darryl Jr (proving his backwater racism): “I don’t trust anybody who speaks English as a second language”
Did you feel a bit underwhelmed by the Florida parts of the episode? Are you picking up with Michael Rapaport is putting down? Does Boyd seem more trigger happy to you than usual? Are you disappointed in Raylan for not visiting Winona in person? Sound off below
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX