It takes a tragedy to bring out the best in Justified as ‘The Toll’ proves to be a knock-out episode that cuts to the quick.
Let’s bitch it out…Nearly everything in this episode comes back to Art (Nick Searcy) as a single action creates a ripple effect that affects nearly every storyline on the show. In the opening scene, Art is escorting Alison (Amy Smart) into protective custody when he gets shot by an unseen attacker. He spends the rest of the episode unconscious in the hospital while everyone else springs into action to find the shooter, bringing the Crowes storyline, Boyd’s (Walton Goggins) storyline and the complicated relationship that Art has with Raylan (Timothy Olpyhant) together in a deeply satisfying way.
With Art sidelined, Chief Deputy Kirkland (Shashawnee Hall) fills in – reshuffling the chain of command to keep Raylan by his side as Rachel (Erica Tazel) brown-noses and Tim (Jacob Pitt) aims to go after the Crowes. It’s obvious to us – and Raylan – that the Crowes are responsible for the hit (Raylan argued last episode that their flawed-logic thought process would equate an attack on Alison with retribution for Danny’s accidental death). Kirkland, however, thinks differently: an unseen Theo Tonin identifies Picker (John Kapelos) as the shooter, which means Boyd, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) all get picked up, too. This delays one of the most gratifying moments of the episode – Picker’s death by cigarette bomb – until the foursome resumes after spending time in the Marshal’s office. These scenes are a bit of a Macguffin since we know the four likely weren’t involved (they’ve got their own concerns to care about what’s happening with Raylan right now). By having them brought in, however, the writers establish a narratively expedient way of dispensing exposition; having these characters brought into the station quickly and efficiently establishes that Hale is known to people like DA Vasquez (Rick Gomez) and Rachel for all of the wrong reasons. Look for that to pay-off later…
Which leaves us with the Crowes. You can tell that Daryl Jr (Michael Rapaport) thinks he’s got the situation under control when he uses Wendy (Alicia Witt) to keep Raylan away when he surrenders and when he uses Kendal (Jacob Lofland) as a scapegoat for Art’s shooting. Raylan, naturally, isn’t fooled and the camera ensures we know it (their face-off in front of the elevators near the end of the episode says it all; there’s a great deal of emphasis on close-ups of Raylan’s hands in and around his gun). This confrontation is about to reach boiling point, just as Raylan promises. Here’s hoping that Raylan reacts in a smarter way than he did with Nicky Augustine. After all, Raylan’s personal vendetta is what got him into most of this trouble in the first place!
- In Ava’s (Joelle Carter) continuing prison nightmare, her post-Judith murder outlook initially looks really bad. Until, that is, everyone gives her their ice cream. Guess the old hag was less popular than anyone knew.
- I may have jumped and yelped when that cigarette bomb went off. I love this show’s propensity for sudden, unexpected bursts of violence. I also appreciate how Boyd made every effort to remain calm and eloquent, while Picker became increasingly irrational and angry. It seems to me that even if Boyd hadn’t blown out his chest cavity, Wynn would not have sided with Picker. He made things too personal and emotional.
- How awesome is the confrontation between Hale and DA AlvareVasquez? Initially I didn’t really know what to think of Mary Steenburgen, but now that she’s being given more to do, I’m even more excited to see more of her.
- Did anyone else groan when Rachel inquired who was taking over for Art? I don’t know if we were meant to be surprised by her (temporary) promotion, but I mean, come on! It was far too obvious and it made Rachel look like such a suck-up, goody-two-shoes.
- Finally, is it significant that we never see the shooter? I just assumed that it was Daryl Jr, but after giving it some thought, it does seem possible that Kendal was telling (a variation of) the truth when he confessed. After all, Daryl Jr did make him swear a blood oath. Still, I doubt Kendal’s that good with a gun…
- Art (discussing Raylan with Alison): “If I were to admit to hitting him, could you call it child abuse and take custody of him?”
- David (when Katherine calls herself a grandmother): “Really, a grandmother? ’Course both my grandmothers look like Edward James Olmos”
- Boyd (after killing Picker): “Now I don’t know a lot about a lot of things, but I do know how to blow shit up!”
Your turn: was this episode a step up for you? Who do you really think shot Art? Were you surprised by Picker’s grisly exit? Are you more intrigued by Katherine Hale now that her backstory is coming out? And how will Raylan execute his promise to ruin Daryl Jr’s life without killing him? Speculate away below
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX. Please note that there is a strong likelihood that there will be no review next week. If it doesn’t go up, I’ll double up for the finale.