Justified has a way of utilizing the characters' interplay as way of showing what the character means without the necessity of them having to come right out and say it – a point Winona (Natalie Zea) makes to Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), as the two are attempting to avoid the serious conversation of her pregnancy and Raylan's suggestion they get a house together.
The deftness of the dialogue comes up again when Karen Goodall (Carla Gugino) dodges Raylan's questions about her new surname, which not only leads to a question of the history between the two, but also serves as a little treat for fans of Elmore Leonard's work. For those unfamiliar, Karen Goodall, A.K.A. Karen Sisco, is another of Leonard's creations who was played by Gugino in her own 2003 TV series after being portrayed by Jennifer Lopez in the 1998 film Out of Sight. Though the episode doesn't come right out and say it, its safe bet that this Karen is the same one Gugino played in 2003.
Beyond the fun banter between Raylan and the women in his life, the main plot of 'Cut Ties' manages to do what early Justified episodes do best: tell a simple, contained story while expanding on the larger plot of the season.
The episode begins as Marshall Bill Nichols (Michael Harding) is killed by a greasy, wannabe Mafioso by the name of Terry Powe (Frank John Hughes), in an attempt to buy his way back into the Boston Mafia after testifying against the family and entering witness protection. Though little of it has to do with the goings on of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), or the recently introduced Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), it does serve as a nice palate cleanser from the season premiere – which was still picking up the pieces from the end of season 2.
'Cut Ties' also offers a rare glimpse into the dark side of Raylan's boss, Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), who utilizes a powerful interrogation technique against Terry that puts Andre Braugher's methods of securing a confession in Homicide: Life on the Street to shame.
Earlier, in the episode, Raylan paid a visit to Boyd, just before he could presumably put a shiv in the neck of Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies). While Raylan manages to get Boyd pulled from prison, and Dickie into isolation, the wheels in Boyd's head never cease to turn, and at some expense to his face, Boyd manages a tête-à-tête with Dickie that procures him the whereabouts of the late Mags Bennett's money.
With that information, we are introduced to Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who is in possession of Mags' money and also serves as Harlan County's homegrown threat for season 3.
Our introduction to Limehouse is one of the most gently persuasive threats to ever be on television. Limehouse makes clear he means business by butchering a pig while explaining his teaching philosophy to a young watchman who fell asleep during his shift. He then follows up that monologue with the threat of a Tyler Durden-esque application of lye to the young man's hand, as way of ensuring the mistake of one is learned by the whole.
Without touching a hair on the young man's head, Limehouse proves himself a real threat, and it will be interesting to see how things play out now that he's on Boyd's radar.
Two episodes in, and things appear to be cooking on Justified, as the episode ends with Raylan learning of the double homicide committed by Quarles at the end of the season premiere.
Justified airs Tuesdays @10pm on FX.