Justified: Season 4, Episode 8
Justified has spent the last few weeks finding very interesting ways to brave the mid-season doldrums. Last week, it turned in a very interesting, moody noir one-and-done that tied in some more serialized elements that let everything simmer nicely. This week, the show puts a capper on one of its most important relationships, a gimmick that manages to mask another piece-moving episode. Without all of the Arlo developments, "Outlaw" would still be an incredibly strong episode in an incredibly strong season of this show; with it, it becomes one of the season's strongest hours.

The episode does a lot to intertwine some of the season's more disparate subplots, but it does all of that with style. Consider, for example, the scene in which Colt visits the drug dealer we met a few weeks back. He plans to kill and rob him to get money to pay off a blackmailer claiming to be Ellen May (who is probably Johnny, right?), and even if that plan worked perfectly, their conversation would still be a delight. But Mark, Tim's friend from a few weeks back, is in the bathroom, and Colt brings him out for a conversation about addiction and the future (Mark thinks he should get clean before starting a family, Colt agrees). This is all pretense to what we know is coming, and it isn't surprising when Colt shoots Mark dead; but it is heartbreaking because of the humanity Mark just exhibited. Just another example of this show knowing quite well how to handle death for maximum impact. A lot of bodies fall on this show, but Justified almost always goes out of its way to make you feel every one of them.

Meanwhile, Boyd is playing in deep waters, as sure as ever he isn't out of his depth. His Clover Hill "friends" need him to kill someone (calling him "the boy who takes out my trash") named Frank Browning, and Boyd immediately goes to Browning to try and finagle a better offer. That fails, and Boyd soon finds he's in deep with Wynn Duffy as well. He promised to deliver Drew a week ago, it seems, and Duffy has come to collect. So Boyd turns both situations to his advantage, sending Duffy's lackey (a fun, colorful hitman impersonating a cop) after Browning and one of the Clover Hill crew, attracting the attention of Theo Tonin's right-hand man Nick Augustine (who promises to reevaulate Boyd's place with the organization if he delivers Drew Thompson), and extracting a large payout from the rest of the Clover Hill boys.

The scene where Raylan comes face to face with the hitman is another Justified classic. Raylan, Boyd, and Ava all seem unsure of exactly what the "cop" is doing there, and Raylan seems satisfied to ignore him and teast Ava about her engagement to Boyd, who is undeterred by being in handcuffs and assures Raylan he can come to the wedding. But Raylan quickly deduces something isn't quite right with the situation, and when the hitman tries to draw on Raylan...well, we all know how that ends.

I've avoided it for as long as I can, but its time we talk about Arlo Givens. Early in the episode, ex-Sheriff Hunter Mosley decides to kill Arlo. Its obvious Arlo isn't drugged when he enters the room, but the show uses our knowledge of that against us. Yes, Arlo gets the jump on Mosley, but he doesn't win the fight, taking a shiv to the chest that looks fatal from the moment it happens. He doesn't die right away, though, because he still has to twist the knife in his son's heart a little more. "Outlaw" features one of the best performances Timothy Olyphant has given all season (and really, maybe, in the entire show). Raylan tries to pretend his father's imminent death doesn't bother him, but its obvious just how much it does. We all know Raylan's detachment is a studied one; he is more wounded by Arlo than he will ever admit. He goes to visit his father, and, with no hope that there will be any warmth or fatherly advice, asks him to at least reveal Drew Thompson so Raylan can have anything nice to say about his father to his unborn child. And instead, Arlo tells him "Kiss. My. Ass." That Justified manages to get as much emotion out of Arlo's death as it does, and to do so without softening or redeeming the character, is one of the crowning achievements of this season.

This episode begins with Raylan trying to get Mosley to take a deal and spill on Drew Thompson. Mosley scoffs at Raylan, telling him he only pretends to be a lawman as an excuse to let his baser instincts lose. He claims Raylan plays the part of an officer of the law, but really only because it fits his desire to enact violence against those who upset his personal sense of justice. As the episode ends, Boyd gives a speech to the Clover Hill folks, explaining that he is an outlaw, and they have stepped into his world. This season has tracked these two men, the lawman and the outlaw, as they both search for Drew Thompson. But it has done more than this. It has tracked the two of them as they question who they are, as they try to change themselves for the better. Raylan wants to become a better man for his son, Boyd for his new fiance. But each of them is getting involved more deeply in a mystery neither understands and both may regret. The two have a similar goal, and as each gets more set on that goal, they are more likely to come into conflict with each other. The lawman and the outlaw. Each wants to change. Each is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that change. The only question is what will happen to them if they are forced to go through one another to enact that change.

Grade: A


-So, Shelby is Drew Thompson, right? That scene between he and Ellen May underlined that quite nicely, unless it was a misdirect. In which case, it worked.

-"Do you have to leave?" "Not right away. Seein' me would just upset him." This is one of the finest pieces of acting from Timothy Olyphant in a season full of them.

-"They didn't send you up here to release your slurry. They sent me up here to bury you in it."

-"The Doctor says you may sleep the whole time I'm here, but we both know you're too mean to go out like that, so come on. Give me something."

-"Don't go. Closer. Kiss. My. Ass."

-"That's a big rock, isn't it? Now as acrimonious as our relationship has been lately, Ava and I discussed it, and you're still goin' to be on the guest list."

-"Jesus, I hope I got that right."

-"I am the outlaw. And this is my world. And my world has a high cost of living."
Tags: Justified
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