Justified, Season 4, Episode 10: “Get Drew”
Written by Dave Andron and VJ Boyd
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
The notion of Justified‘s fourth season as being driven by a central mystery has been a flawed premise all along, as it turns out. For a few episodes now, there’s only been a small number of possible candidates for the position, and since he was revealed to be Sheriff Shelby in last week’s outing, the entire back portion of the season will now be devoted to watching the Marshals, Boyd, and the Detroit crew react. And “Get Drew” suggests that this might well be a spectacular way to go.
First off, props where they’re due: we haven’t had enough Nick Searcy this season, but Art’s early scene, in which he recaps the Drew Thompson biography in the most hilariously self-aware fashion possible, has to be one of his best line deliveries ever. It helps that – besides being utterly hilarious and apropos – it’s a good time to get a quick recap on just who Thompson is and what he’s done, since he’s been at the center of the entire season despite the fact that his identity was only confirmed last week. In retrospect, the notion of Shelby as Thompson should have been obvious from the opening seconds of Season 4, since Jim Beaver is the only recurring player who’s the right age for the gig (and a fantastic, previously underused commodity, to boot) and the series has more than enough characters already kicking around without introducing crucial new players at this relatively late stage.
Art’s early-episode monologue foreshadows what turns out to be the season’s most quotable, dizzyingly self-aware episode. From Rachel noting that Raylan is “easy on the eyes” but is the only Marshal around who’d go so far as to break Boyd’s phone in half, to Boyd chastising Raylan for sticking to the wrong line of work (“You’d still get to shoot people and be an asshole, your two favorite activities!”), to Thompson calling Colt a “junkie pussy,” to Raylan accepting Johnny’s help after dismissing him as a “small-time asshole,” “Get Drew” is chock-full of characters accurately sizing each other up, and providing pithy descriptors to boot.
What’s really staggering about “Get Drew,” though, is the degree to which it validates Graham Yost and company’s decision to make the Thompson storyline the center of the season – and the means by which that validation is accomplished. I imagine it went a little like this: Yost, or Olyphant, or someone else on the Justified writing team learned of the Bluegrass Conspiracy and decided to reverse-engineer an elaborate backstory for a fictionalized version of that event that managed to fit snugly into the Justified universe. It sounds simple enough once it’s laid out like that, but it’s actually an immensely tricky thing to pull off. Overuse (or misuse) previously small players and it feels hopelessly forced. Make the stakes too low and the story feels too slight; raise them too high and risk making the proceedings look silly. Justified gets the balance right.
In a sense, “Get Drew” makes for the second get-the-pieces-in-place outing in a row, but it does so in a much more crucial fashion than “The Hatchet Tour.” This week, it’s made clear that the central conflict of Season 4 is not Raylan’s quest to uncover Drew Thompson, but instead his and Boyd’s dueling desire to provide for their respective futures. Raylan, who is still keeping his father’s death close to the vest, as evidenced by his scene with Boyd, has a kid on the way to think about, while Boyd and Ava are potting a suburban escape complete with a theoretical Dairy Queen franchise. For Raylan, delivering Thompson, a decades-long fugitive, might mean Art’s job; for Boyd, Thompson’s capture will mean a nice monetary package from Theo Tonin. They can’t both have what they want. With the added sting of Arlo’s death, not to mention Thompson’s dawning realization that death or capture might be his only viable way out, “Get Drew” manages to pinpoint and give life to the season’s most potent emotional undercurrents, especially those relating to the roads perhaps-regretfully taken.
Oh, and Limehouse is back. Noble’s Holler was one of the most fascinating avenues of last season, and for he first time we get a look at the mechanics of how Limehouse takes in (or doesn’t) the helpless. Folding Limehouse in has another purpose: it gives Abby Miller, one of the season’s most distinguished players, a whole lot to do. Best of all is the scene in which she “confronts” Ava with an excited embrace and a pledge to keep her word. With Ava and Boyd’s decision to give up Drew, it’s hard to imagine that goodwill surviving, which means the battle lines for the season’s last act have apparently been drawn.