[This is a review of Justified season 5, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]

The world lost an incredibly gifted and unique voice in 2013 when Elmore Leonard passed away at the age of 87. Leonard’s contributions to the written word left a multitude of unforgettable characters, and even more remarkable scenes wherein the voices of those characters leapt off the page. They were astonishingly charming, witty, and intelligent – even when those delivering such winning dialogue weren’t.

What Leonard did was transform the cadence of his characters’ speech and interactions into its own art form, the rhythms of which will be instantaneously recognizable decades from now. Of the many praise-worthy elements Justified has delivered season in and season out, perhaps the most laudable is the way that particular Leonard-ian essence comes through in some of the best dialogue heard onscreen today.

That distinct interchange between individuals is usually never more captivating than when it’s in the hands of Raylan Givens and/or Boyd Crowder – the show’s two foremost experts on delivering clever remarks with the kind of effortless cool that’s reserved for those who’ve ostensibly sprung from such a rich literary voice. Theirs is a manner of speaking in which the tone of their voice is never calmer or more collected than when they feel threatened, or, better yet, are doing the threatening. That sort of thing is a rare treat and though it happens frequently here, it never loses its luster.

Case in point: ‘Good Intentions’ starts off with Raylan doing all sorts of things he shouldn’t be doing in the home of a criminal outfit’s moneyman with a young woman he just met who is, of all things, the social worker for Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever).

But that’s not even the most interesting part. The most interesting part happens when Raylan’s lured outside the house by a cocky, hirsute man with a shamrock tattooed on his neck.

At the time of the confrontation, the audience has about as much information on this fellow as Raylan does – which is to say: not a lot. It’s easy to assume he’s there on behalf of Monroe (Xander Berkeley), as a threat to the marshal for seizing his property, but anyone who’s watched Justified with any kind of regularity already has some suspicions as to just what this bearded fellow with the bat is doing there. It turns out, the guy’s name is Henry Granger (Scott Anthony Leet), and he shares a complicated past with Lorretta’s social worker Allison (Amy Smart).

Before we get any of that information, however, ol’ Henry and Raylan have a chat comprised mostly of some thinly veiled threats and attempts at extracting information that’s so clever and nuanced, it doesn’t matter that the two are only partially on the same page – that is: Raylan’s sure Monroe sent him, but Henry doesn’t have a clue who Monroe is.

The exchange here is so good one almost forgets that the dialogue isn’t merely a conversation showing the marshal at his badass best, it’s also sowing the seeds of Allison’s potential deception – the one that only occurred to Raylan once Rachel (Erica Tazel) brought it up.

As an episode, ‘Good Intentions’ leaves plenty of questions hanging over where Raylan an Boyd’s respective stories are headed, especially now that the season has built some intrigue around new characters like Mara (Karolina Wydra) and the Florida Crowes run by Michael Rapaport’s Daryl. Plot points have been brought up and left to simmer, while Raylan Givens and Boyd seemingly go on the hunt for more. It’s been a busy season so far, and if this episode is any indication, it’s only going to get busier.

Justified continues next Tuesday with ‘Over the Mountain’ at 10pm on FX.

Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX