[This is a review of Justified season 5, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
As Justified has documented quite well over the years, there're many perks to being U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (not the least of which is getting to look exactly like Timothy Olyphant, which, no doubt, has to make life a little easier) that help to balance out some of the less pleasant aspects of being a lawman in a place like the fictionalized Harlan County.
For one thing, he's always ready with the right thing to say, and when the situation isn't going to be made better with a jaunty comeback or persuasive threat, Raylan's proven he can handle himself without having to say a word. And - as he mentions to Hot Rod Dunham (Mickey Jones) during 'The Kids Aren't All Right' - his badge makes it all legal.
Now, this verges on questionable behavior, as the whole point of being a marshal isn't necessarily to threaten to kill Tennessee drug dealers making ill-advised business arrangements with a couple of Kentucky teens, but it certainly can be part of the job. Is it a perk?
Well, that's tough to say (after all, he does mention the paperwork that comes with using his firearm when confronting Jay and Roscoe, played by real-life brothers Steve and Wood Harris), but pretty much everyone can agree that living in a criminal's house, drinking his wine, and driving his Mercedes (with its exquisitely expensive stereo) would be considered a definite perk. Not only is the palatial home – complete with its own bowling alley – of Detroit moneyman Charles Monroe (Xander Berkeley) a far cry better than the tiny cramped space above a college bar, but it also does a great job of annoying the hell out of said criminal. All in all, it sort of sounds like a win-win for Raylan.
But, perhaps not surprisingly, being Raylan Givens is more than a series of perks or entertaining run-ins with criminals, cops, and women like Amy Smart's social worker, Alison. At this point in the series' run (which will now be its penultimate season), it is pretty clear Raylan has some deep-seated issues when it comes to the notion of family, or even those he feels he has a responsibility to – which, on one hand, apparently extends to Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever), as the words "me and mine" come up when Raylan works to square things between Hot Rod and the young pot dealer. On the other hand, Raylan's been avoiding his ex-wife and their newborn daughter, despite being a stone's throw from them last episode.
For an episode that has nearly as much going on as the season premiere, 'The Kids Aren't All Right' also manages to wiggle in a few ideas about how the responsibilities of family are never too far away. And while the parallels between Raylan and Boyd's storylines involving enigmatic women further confusing already complicated situations wound up being a nice way for the two of them to thematically share some screen time, it was the idea of Raylan shacking up in Monroe's house that resonated the most. While he admits there are some "red flags" with his past, he tells Alison that "doesn't mean I'm not capable of change."
Right now, living in luxury of Monroe's house, it certainly looks like Raylan's capable of some change, just not in the direction he needs to be going. The comfort and stability of Monroe's house is temporary and, to a certain degree, we can see that Raylan knows it as well – that he's just jumping further away from the reality of his life as a way to avoid the messiness of it all.
Knowing he's going to have to face up to being a father – which means coming to terms with the memory of his own father – may not be Raylan's ideal situation, but so far, it makes for some fairly compelling television.
Justified continues next Wednesday with 'Good Intentions' @10pm on FX.
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