[This is a review of Justified season 5, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
To say there's a tremendous amount of plot being doled out in these opening episodes of Justified season 5 would be putting things rather mildly. In fact, it would be safe to say the first three episodes and now, 'Over the Mountain,' have been making substantial efforts to distribute the plot in such a way that the series' writers can now begin the daunting process of reconciling everything that has been set up over the course of the past few weeks.
And, for what it's worth, an episode that's largely spent watching Dewey Crowe bungle the murder of Wade Messer (James Le Gros) on the order of his unwanted cousin Darryl (Michael Rapaport) also manages to deliver some idea of the larger story that's going to make this deluge of plots feel like they are taking the audience somewhere that's planned, deliberate, and significant.
Not that any of what's delivered tonight is terribly concrete, mind you. In fact, much of it is simply Raylan, Boyd, Dewey, and even Ava responding to the various tribulations their actions have caused by doing what most characters on Justified excel at: making more trouble for themselves and for others.
At one point, after Art and ADA Vasquez reveal that Wade Messer has been a CI since his release, and Raylan's assigned the unenviable task of locating him, Art matter-of-factly tells his deputy marshal he's sending Tim Gutterson along to assuage the chances Raylan will bumble "into some s*** that I'll have clean up later."
It's a pointed phrase that earns Art a patented Givens stink-eye, but it also factors in to his inquiry regarding the violent death of Nicky Augustine, and whether or not he thinks Raylan was somehow involved. Naturally, after Art has a semi-confidential chat with one of the Canadian drug-dealers (Will Sasso), he's well on his way to finding out.
The Canadian pointing Art to Picker and Wynn Duffy is a little paint-by-numbers, as it pushes the character in the direction he needs to go a touch too easily. But the payoff here isn't how Art finds out, but rather the way in which he'll respond, should he acquire the information it seems he's reluctantly about to track down.
While Art's off pondering whether or not he'll be cleaning up another of Raylan's messes, his marshal decides to escalate things with the Crowes in an effort to run them out of Kentucky. In the myopic fashion that has become his modus operandi, and no doubt using Allison as inspiration, Raylan removes Kendal Crowe (Jacob Lofland) from Audrey's – a move that was well on it's way to ending in a shootout, were it not for the cooler head of the youngest Crowe.
Meanwhile, Ava's still in prison and finds herself dealing with Albert (Danny Strong), an antagonistic guard who winds up on the receiving end of some punishment after finding out his would-be victim is protected.
All the while, Boyd and Carl find out that the source of cousin Johnny's newfound audacity is none other than Hot Rod Dunham. Frankly, it's a wonder the episode has time to muster up a terrific scene between Goggins and Olyphant that reminds you of just how good those two are at rolling dialogue off one another.
What's strangely appealing about this season so far is that, four episodes in, everything feels even more out of balance than when it started. Normally, that level of tumultuousness and ambiguity would be a serious concern, but Justified's writers have proven themselves as adept at cleaning up after their characters as they are getting them sullied.
With past seasons serving as rather convincing evidence, it stands to reason that all these storylines will be brought together before too long. In the meantime, we can all enjoy Ava's barbed quoting of Star Wars at Danny Strong's expense.
Justified continues next Tuesday with 'Shot All to Hell' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX