Justified, Season 3, Episode 6: “When the Guns Come Out”
Written by Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Dave Andron
Directed by Don Kurt
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
I’m out adventuring in Chicago this week, so this week’s review is a little more curt than usual.
If Justified‘s second season had an agreed-upon nadir, it was pretty obviously the two-episode mini-arc involving a certain Winona Hawkins and the theft of some money from the county’s evidence locker. It was one of the few times on the show that it felt like drama had been artificially concocted rather than arising naturally from the characters and their conflicts. So when “When the Guns Come Out” opens with an unexpected callback to that plot, it’s a little surprising – are they really going back down this well? Thankfully, with the revelation that the guard is the one responsible for the theft (and apparently gets away with it!), we get confirmation that we’ll not see any such mistakes repeated.
No, unlike on certain other genre-based dramas this week, the adults on Justified mostly behave like adults. For all that “When the Guns Come Out” gets right, the most gratifying might be the Winona/Raylan dynamic. Yes, she’s physically left, and they have seemingly irreconcilable differences, but they still share the responsibility of raising a child, and there’s still love there – so rather than anyone making an impulse decision, all parties agree that they’re at a somewhat unsavory impasse, and we leave it there for the time being. It’s both logical and refreshingly unhurried. Also great: Ava stepping up and helping Boyd out at a key juncture, rather than just being moral support or arm candy.
With that said, this week finds the show’s real bread-and-butter material – shitbird lowlifes doing dirt in shady hollers, and Raylan busting them in style – in sterling form. The scum-of-the-week, a lowlife pimp (William Mapother), isn’t the most distinct creation the show’s had yet, but Raylan’s pursuit of him does lead to an insanely badass showdown in a mobile office. As for the Big Bads, Quarles and Limehouse…well, it’s a slightly more mixed bag. Quarles’s tendency to keep the long game to himself while deriving massive amusement from watching events play out is incredbily entertaining. (Or, to use his words upon gaining what he thinks is a tactical advantage over Raylan: “shit, that’s awesome!”.) Limehouse’s scenes, though, suffer from being too much alike: lots of explaining his schemes to his underlings while holding meat-cutting implements in a threatening way. His scene with Boyd is great, demonstrating just how interesting Noble’s Holler is, but they really need to ditch the clunky expo-dump sequences.
Other than that little niggling point, we’re not even halfway through Season 3 and already things are getting admirably complex. The wait gets a little harder with each passing week.