With “Raw Deal” Justified moves into the second half of Season 5. From this and previous episodes, you wouldn’t expect it to be this far along. Normally by about now the series has set a clear course for all of its various plots. It’s getting there, albeit a bit slower and vaguer than usual. Clear overarching narrative aside, “Raw Deal” is still a fun enough episode of Justified, with a surprising consistency of tone across its more segmented elements. Let’s just take a quick inventory of what goes down. Raylan finds himself dueling with a one legged hacker in something resembling The Fugitive. Boyd finds himself racing to Mexico in order to outbid Cousin Johnny for the right to smuggle cartel Black Tar Heroin. And Ava finds herself something to do while she spends time in the clink…that makes it sound much nicer than it is.
We may as well start with Ava and her joining with the Holy Mother crew. On the surface it appears she is going through a Boyd like moment of conversion, into a vaguely matriarchal religious group that made me go ooo Top of the Lake: Behind Bars. The Holy Mothers message may yet have a role to play but the important information is that she is the mule for all the drugs in the prison. Funny enough, Ava knows a guy who can get them a good deal.
Pushing Ava into the prison drug trade at least gives her something to do, and helps tie her in thematically with Boyd’s thread. And since we have not been shown legal follow up, I’m just going to assume Ava will be on the inside for “awhile” (legal terms y’all). There is a vigor to the plot movement in this thread, just as quickly she is brought in to a mule job dose she move to disrupt the trade and take it over. The Holy Mother warns her of the life she has had to live doing this. It should be a warning but it’s more a foreshadow of Ava’s eventual fate. Trying to take over the drug trade is a ballsy play, but you might as well live and die a queen than just be a peasant.
With how “Raw Deal” is structured, Ava’s power play seemed doom to fail. Boyd finds himself stuck in Mexico handcuffed next to Cousin Johnny waiting to see who will out bid and kill the other. As they sit outside Mr. Yuen’s rather nice estate, Boyd claims to be at peace with his inevitable violent end. Goggins gives the sense that Boyd has no fear of death, just that it’s always a little bit farther down the lane. Death may not be that far away with this cartel business. Boyd will likely meet this fate in the final season, but his fate seems sealed with the Crowe’s getting trigger happy on Mexican territory. Bodies are never buried deep enough and dead Americans on their side of the border is not good for business(-ah).
It’s a moment of triumph for Boyd, he finally gets to kill the cantankerous Cousin Johnny. It may not have been as eloquently officiated as he’d hoped, exploding into a hail of Bullets thanks to the dumbest Crowe. Still it’s a moment of triumph for Boyd and with all that behind him and the necessary bodies likely in the dirt, what could go wrong?
The Crowe’s getting purposely trigger happy could lead to some interesting things. Perhaps they turn on Boyd as part of an immunity deal and replace Boyd as the final boss. At the same time their fates seem just as sealed as Boyd, they know where the bodies are buried. The Cartel may not know they were there buy Boyd dose.
Justified executes sudden violence much better than Sons of Anarchy. In the biker drama, violence has really numbed me to it all, inJustified, the majority of sudden violence is either an extreme release of emotion or black humor. Boyd doesn’t get quite the melodramatic satisfaction but the requisite black humor is easily found in the random adventures of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.
In season 4 you could get the sense that the series, really kind of liked Raylan Givens. It was an unapologetic love for this asshole and his constant violence. Season 5 has pulled that back just a little bit, it and we still see that Raylan is a good person and on the balance more useful than not. However, he isn’t getting off scot free. That’s the most interesting part of his plot in “Raw Deal” how he is faced with the consequences of his actions. Art now holds him in nothing but contempt and means to no longer speak to him. Raylan has been put on walk-in duty and other menial tasks as punishment for that whole Nicky Augustine episode. It pushes the two parties into a game of chicken. Art’s resentment and loathing vs Raylan’s willingness to leave Harlan and the Marshal’s service. His being on vacation could make for a couple of interesting episodes, how do you do Justified when you aren’t a Marshal any more. At the same time, one can’t see this as an attempt to quickly get to resolution and forgiveness which is inevitable.
The real meat of Raylans thread in “Raw Deal” may not wind up on a best of Justified list but it certainly has its moments. “Raw Deal” best moment comes when hacker TC Fleming not only jumps out of a window and to a pull to freedom, but on ONE LEG. In hindsight this may be burying the lead. Overall it’s a novel way to attack Raylans manhood, pushed into a situation where guns are not that useful. TC himself isn’t really that bad, he’s a dick but made kind of tragic by his ride with Rayland at the end of the episode. Seeing all these Marshal’s forced to deal with IT guy Chris (whom may be a dick) also created for some nice light comedy.
Bits at the End
· With Boyd working with a Cartel, now more than ever FX needs to do an Avengers style crossover between Justified-The Bridge-Sons of Anarchy. Crossovers are all the rage, you could literally make it fan fic.
· Also here’s a teaser for the upcoming Fargo miniseries.