Tag Archives: Art Mullen

Justified: The Fan Service Department Earns Its Time-And-A-Half

Justified Episode 6.4
Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

In a point amply covered in this corner in recent weeks, the final run of Breaking Bad represents the gold standard for every show like Justified in terms of trying to “stick the landing.”  But it’s a point that seems even more obvious this week as Breaking Bad returns to the forefront of TV consciousness with the debut of the wonderful prequel Better Call Saul.  As Justified tries to reach for that golden ring of permanent high acclaim in the eyes of history, we are all reminded yet again of what comprises the ultimate franchise and closing act.

And as last week’s column indicated, Sam Elliott’s Avery Markham character represents perhaps the ultimate “X Factor” in this calculation by Graham Yost and his creative team.  There had to be other elements helping to comprise the final campaign which was to be characterized by “Raylan vs. Boyd, Once And For All.”  Going with a potentially epic villain inhabited by an actor with the gravitas of Elliott would be a slam dunk to render any other season as a great one.  The final season, with the most important arc pre-established?  Well, that’s the meta-question of this season, now that last week indicated that Elliott is actually a man of much greater means and capabilities than Boyd at the present moment.

It’s fascinating to think that in Episode 6.4, The Trash and the Snake, that Art, the sidelined Marshall, may have been giving voice to this issue with his advice to Raylan to stay focused on the ongoing villain, Boyd.  If so, that was a ballsy decision by the writers and producers, because this was the episode where the show reached the point of no return in terms of the shape of the endgame.  Now, definitively, it’s Raylan vs. Boyd vs. Avery – and like the proverbial steel cage match, there’s probably only going to be one man walking out that door at the conclusion of hostilities.

On our FDH Lounge post-show reviews during Season 5, a constant point of discussion was the fact that the specifics of the direction seemed a bit hazy for most of the season.  There was so much going on with the Mexican cartel, Picker and what was left of the Canadian mob, the remnants of the Detroit mob, the Crowe invasion from Florida – to say nothing of the ongoing Raylan and Boyd storylines (Looking back, did the writers really have Raylan living in that seized federal mansion, or was that just a fever dream?).  Going into 6.4, there was some question as to what exactly Avery was up to and the motivations behind Katherine’s attempts at manipulating both sides in a conflict, but there wasn’t a great reason to be suspicious that we would be wondering for very long.  Well, in 6.4, we learned that Avery’s masterminding a land grab in the expectation of marijuana legalization in Kentucky and that Katherine is pursuing revenge on Avery for double-crossing her husband, even though he was a sad sack.  The opaque filter that seemed to be on our TV sets for all of last season is long gone and we can see clearly the motivations and goals of all of the key players.

At the outset of this episode, Ava and Boyd are talking the next morning in the wake of their, uh, “physical reunion” the night before.  They go their separate ways to take care of business, only to reunite at the end of the episode.  For Boyd, it’s a trip with Wynn Duffy – who reveals, this late in the game that he used to be an avid surfer, thus causing countless fans to hope for a Justified prequel built around this very premise – to locate the right explosives expert to take out Avery Markham’s pizza vault.  The colorful gent occupying that role, the Wizard, played in wacky fashion by Jake Busey, expresses himself very confidently and sets out to perform a test run with them on a similar vault in the area.  However, a cellphone mishap triggers an explosion and blows the poor man to bits.  Just when Duffy got the final fragments of Picker out from under his fingernails, another body ends up exploding on him (and Boyd!).

If anything, however, Ava has a more harrowing day than her fiancée/snitching target Boyd, since it’s spent with the menacing-in-a-faux-pleasant-voice Katherine.  As soon as Boyd sets out to meet Wynn, Ava leaves to meet Raylan in a stairwell and she provides for him the first details about Avery’s return to Harlan, including the tidbit about him being Ty’s boss.  This sends Raylan down a fruitful path, but also sets the stage for jumpy Ava’s fearful time in Katherine’s company when the crime queen is waiting for her in her hotel room.  Already suspicious about the circumstances of Ava’s release from prison, Katherine susses out her lie about having been out to take a smoke break.  Throughout the course of their day together, Katherine tries to bond with her about their shared experiences as strong women keeping from being marginalized by their men as she pokes at Ava’s psyche in an attempt to read her more clearly.  Katherine then produces some cocaine, indicating that she won’t take no for an answer, as the two ready for an audacious shoplifting scheme at a jewelry store.  In the wake of their triumph, as Ava has her guard down just a tiny bit, Katherine hints strongly to her that she finds the circumstances of the prison employee recanting the stabbing story suspicious – sending Ava reeling and prepared to flee Lexington before Boyd finds her.

Meanwhile, Raylan takes Ava’s information and finds several ways to parlay it, first by figuring out with Tim that Avery is buying up Harlan’s land in anticipation that he will soon be able to expand his legal weed operation from Colorado to Kentucky.  The two also learn that Raylan’s old teacher was likely killed for her land and that suspicious fires are tending to be set on properties that Avery covets but is having a hard time securing.  In search of answers about the Bennett property, Raylan and Tim visit the last and least of the Bennett clan, Dickie, in prison.  He delights in stonewalling them, but accidentally lets a detail slip that indicates to Raylan that his mischievous young friend Loretta, not Avery, was the buyer.

This revelation sends Raylan and Tim to Loretta’s house (Wait, what?   Loretta’s house?  How much has she aged in the tiny span of this show’s timeframe?  #NitpickAlert), where they unsurprisingly find Ty trying to buy her land.  Loretta’s offer of a hot apple pie moonshine drink to Ty just before the interruption undoubtedly causes gasps nationwide, as viewers everywhere recall Mags Bennett’s favorite method of murder.  Raylan’s telling Ty to hit the bricks just as Avery joins the party – and every last card from the writing staff gets flipped over as Avery’s intersection into the main event of the season becomes official with his obligatory confrontation with Raylan.

Avery, in usurping Ty’s apple pie and asking Loretta to be his drink tester first, indicates his innate knowledge of the Bennetts.  He rattles off other relevant information about big-time area criminals through the past few decades and apparently tries to big-time Raylan by indicating that Arlo wasn’t important enough to be on his radar.  However, to a man with well-honed daddy issues like Raylan, insulting Arlo’s place in the universe isn’t going to rattle him a bit.  These titans of Harlan history go back and forth until Avery makes a “24 hours to get out of town” reference, harkening back to the cold open of the pilot, the scene that gave the show its name.  The fan service department was certainly working overtime in this episode, bringing back Dickie, Loretta and Raylan’s law enforcement “original sin.”  Avery takes his leave, but indicates firmly that the matter is not fully resolved, in his estimation.  Raylan’s plea to Loretta to be careful with these men apparently falls on deaf ears – the notion of Raylan finding somebody else too stubborn to reason with is delicious beyond all reason – and foreshadows potential tragedy with her.

Looping back to Ava’s legitimate AND drug-fueled paranoia about what Katherine knows, she calls Raylan in a panic.  Just as you’d expect, Raylan fails to take her concerns seriously, but he nevertheless tries to set up a meeting prior to her having to hang up quickly when Boyd comes back to the room.  He sees her packing, which she passes off as wanting to get back to Harlan as soon as possible.  However, so fearful of Katherine that she’s willing to try anything, Ava appears to be ready to confess her informant role to Boyd so that she can throw herself on his mercy and possibly work with him to undermine Raylan.  But before she can, Boyd tells her everything that he learned of Avery’s intentions – and it turns out that he has pieced together the same information as Raylan.  The new plan, he tells Ava, is to rob Avery as planned and then to execute the older man’s scheme: use the riches to pave the way politically for weed legalization in the state so that they can become big sellers.  Once this comes into place, he informs Ava, their dreams of living free and easy in Harlan will finally come true.

But, now with nine episodes remaining in the series, we the viewers are trained to laugh sardonically when anyone announces definitive plans for success.  With Raylan, Boyd and now arguably their most powerful common nemesis now locked in a three-way war, only one party will come out of this happy in the end.

And maybe not even one party.

As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time.  Past webcasts for Season 6 can be found when searching the Justified category on this site.  Additionally, here’s our Season 6 preview and our 10-hour Season 5 “box set” containing a season preview, review and analysis of every episode.


Justified: 8 Mile Runs Through Harlan

Justified Episode 6.3

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

After a penultimate campaign panned by critics and fans alike for struggling to live up to the super-high standards of the show, Justified surprisingly electrified its fanbase at the end of Season 5 by throwing its cards down on the table at the very end: the final run would be defined by the true Raylan v Boyd mega-battle that we’ve been awaiting all along.  Then, as is always the case in the offseason, casting news began hitting the Internet.  Given that few – if any – prestige dramas are more adventurous in how they challenge the audience to view established names (think Margo Martindale, Will Sasso, Mike O’Malley and Patton Oswalt among others), it’s always a fun parlor game to imagine how they’re going to be deployed.  One could easily imagine some interesting twists from Garret Dillahunt’s character this season and the first two episodes unsurprisingly began to confirm that notion.

But Episode 6.2’s brief tease of Sam Elliott’s new bad guy character Avery Markham portended something much bigger altogether: a menace with the gravitas to rival Boyd and bedevil Raylan.  Granted, part of this aura came from spoilery hints on the Internet about him being the boss of the TigerHawk Security crew and, potentially, armies beyond that.  But – a week after the episode named “Cash Game” – there was the sense of Graham Yost and Company figuratively pushing all their chips to the middle of the table.  Frankly, after some of the dissatisfying twists and turns of Season 5, most observers had written off Justified in terms of being able to catch Breaking Bad and other dramas considered to be the very elite in TV history.  It would take a game-changing gamble, leading to a historic final season, to sufficiently reverse this perception and it seems that Yost and his creative team are subscribing to the notion of “go big or go home.”  Well, they’re going home one way or another at the end of this season, but hopefully you get the point.  Interject Markham as a gargantuan villain adding layers of drama to the Raylan/Boyd endgame and you’ve got the kind of final season that we’ll be prattling on to our grandchildren about endlessly.  Get it wrong by disrupting an epic mano-a-mano confrontation with the muddled chaos of a third entity too big to be ignored but insufficiently relevant to the ongoing story – well, then you’ve landed on a more disappointing tier.  Not “Dexter”-level – it’s too hard to imagine this show sinking to that point – but still well short of the promise we all felt when Drew Thompson was apprehended at the end of Season 4.

So where did Episode 6.3, Noblesse Oblige, start leading us?  Fortunately, down an incredibly promising path.

At the top of the cold open, in the immediate aftermath of last week’s Boyd-and-Ava celebration when she informs him about the true importance of the Pizza Portal, the two are thoroughly intoxicated.  As an impatient Raylan is texting her for a meeting, Ava deflects to Boyd by saying that she’s been called into work.  Instead, she returns home for an impromptu meeting with not just Raylan, but Rachel and AUSA Vasquez.  They are unimpressed with her early-morning drunkenness and they warn her that she’d better start feeding them useful information about Boyd posthaste.  In an episode where Ava and Boyd were displaying vintage versions of their personas, you can imagine the restraint and dignity with which “classic Ava,” who was also drunk off her ass, greeted this demand.

Rachel and Raylan end up sticking around Harlan in pursuit of the source of Boyd’s explosives.  Raylan theorizes that his old coal mining associate Luther might be furnishing the goods, but some poking around reveals that Luther’s son Tyler is the real culprit – and in true “Justified World” fashion, he’s doing it in legally shady style.  The old man takes the blame for his idiot criminal son, thus leaving Raylan no closer to tying the filched Emulex back to Boyd.  Rachel’s ongoing frustration with the pace of Raylan’s investigation is present throughout the episode, foreshadowing that our hero’s going to have his customary “few problems back at the office” before the curtain comes down on The Mess in Kentucky.

But the true greatness of 6.3 comes from Boyd’s growing interactions with the targets of his intended larceny.  Ty Walker’s initial visit to “Cousin Johnny’s Old Bar” crackles with pure energy, as the writers seemed to channel Deadwood somewhat in putting flowery prose in the mouth of Dillahunt.  In what passes for a rap battle in the rural stretches of the Bluegrass State, Boyd defiantly runs his yap right back with the trademark element that he could bottle and sell as a cologne, Elegant Menace.  Thwarted, Ty ups the stakes by arranging for Boyd’s abduction from the bar later on and without waiting to ascertain whether Boyd had been scared off, he deploys the third measure – a visit to Ava with the man now confirmed as his boss, Avery Markham.

Scornful of the obvious surveillance job that Ava had pulled on the Pizza Portal and its bank vault earlier, Avery drips with danger as he implies the consequences for her and Boyd.  When Boyd comes walking through the door and meets Avery, the older man reminds him that they met when Boyd was a young child – and Avery and Bo were the Alpha Dog Criminals down in those parts.  Brushing aside Boyd’s apology for coveting his money stash, Avery twists the knife by explicitly threatening Boyd and Ava if they visit the Portal again and he sneeringly dismisses Boyd as being the same kind of criminal wannabe that he was decades earlier when they first came face-to-face.  Later, Boyd vents angrily to Katherine and Wynn about the situation that they led him into, but he still vows to rob Avery and kill him to avenge the humiliations.

At this point, it’s way too early to judge whether Justified is making the right move by interjecting what may be its greatest villain yet into the final season, with the Raylan/Boyd confrontation expected to define the campaign.  But it’s going very well thus far and the action will only accelerate as Raylan’s investigation begins to overlap with the activities of Tigerhawk Security.  And, frankly, Yost and the rest of the creative committee deserve credit for not playing it safe and keeping other dominant bad guys off of the canvas in the final run.  Avery Markham is here and he carries with him every bit the gravitas that you’d expect from a Sam Elliott character – only as a bad guy and that makes the reverse polarity from his celebrated character archetypes that much more effective.  He’s a bad, bad man and based on a thrilling start to the season, that’s a good, good thing for viewers.  Maintaining a coherent narrative through the final 10 episodes of the series will be vital and could take this show to a place of top-level critical appreciation that could have seemed lost forever in the aftermath of Season 5.

As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time.  Past webcasts for Season 6 can be found when searching the Justified category on this site.  Additionally, here’s our Season 6 preview and our 10-hour Season 5 “box set” containing a season preview, review and analysis of every episode.

Justified: Sam Elliott Is Here And He’s Not Messing Around

Photo Courtesy Of FX Network
Photo Courtesy Of FX Network

 Warning: Spoiler Alert

In the world of sports, the “advanced statistics” crowd that has sprung up in recent years will tell you that there’s no such thing as momentum.  We can agree to disagree about that – and you can mark me down as at least a “partial disagree” – but hopefully even these analysts would concede that their theory bears no relation to the world of television.  Momentum can be a fragile entity, especially when a program is coming off of a fitful period, and as we covered last week, Season 5 certainly fit that bill.  But even the harshest critics – and there were a great many people who went over-the-top in venting their disappointment – were pleased with the final segment of Season 5, which really served as an early Season 6 preview more than anything else.  It indicated in no uncertain terms that Raylan and Boyd were finally going to drop the frenemies act and throw down once and for all – with Ava as the fulcrum, still with Boyd in some form or fashion while she secretly serves as a federal informant.  Episode 6.1 picked up right after those developments and delivered a barnburner, arguably the best season premiere in the show’s history.  So the biggest question going into Episode 6.2, Cash Game, was actually on a meta level: would the momentum sustain itself to the extent that we might already be speculating about this season as one of Justified’s best?

Well, while this episode didn’t feature any adrenaline thrills on par with Dewey Crowe’s violent end or Boyd and his crew pulling off that bank heist, any fair observer would have to conclude that this hour of television did indeed keep that snowball rolling.  The primary purpose was to continue to set the table for the final season and the additional characters that will populate it, but the hour was still full of satisfaction for any true fan of Justified.

While last week’s cold open began with the woman who, ideally, serves as Raylan’s endgame, his baby momma and ex-wife Winona, this show kicked off with Raylan’s brief Season 1 flame Ava – now a reluctant informer for the Marshalls – being scared by noises from her barn.  But the fear that pistol-totin’ Ava felt from the unknown was nothing compared to coming face-to-face with the man that she must betray, her fiancée/ex-fiancée/whatever Boyd.  She asks him not to show up unannounced in the future, a request that she does not realize will only spur him to think that something is truly off between them.  Later, her discovery of papers that he planted out there leads her to think that she finally has something that Raylan will find acceptable – when it turns out that Raylan simply thinks that Boyd may have set her up to test her and he gives them back to her.  She subsequently goes on the offense with Boyd, accusing him of endangering her legally by planting evidence stolen from the bank robbery in her possession.  After earlier professing that he would follow Ava anywhere in order to have a life with her, these words are distressing to him, but there’s no real sense that he regards her as a potential snitch.  It’s clear at this point, however, that she is nowhere near being close enough to him to gather sufficient evidence to keep her own neck out of the noose.

The actual “bounty” of the bank robbery is the narrative thread holding this episode together.  Pursuit of answers regarding it leads Raylan and Tim to the office of Calhoun, a greasy, in-over-his-head realtor working with Walker and the sharpies at Tigerhawk Security (is the former Blackwater being paid for obviously inspiring this firm’s identity?).  Throughout the episode, Calhoun plays dumb with Walker about the contents of the file, because he knows that he would not be allowed to live if these tough guys realized the extent of the documentation of their activities that he had recorded.  Of course, now Boyd is in position to squeeze Calhoun for extortion money since he knows the contents of the file.  Boyd was not nearly so prescient about the value of the materials early in the episode during a confrontation with the awesome Wynn Duffy and Katherine Hale, confronting them bitterly for sending him in under false pretenses.  Additionally, late in the episode when Ava pays Boyd a visit at his bar to begin the process of cozying up to him in earnest, she leads him to discover that one of the land claims in the file is of enormous interest because of another bank vault stored underneath it – and so begins the process of truly uncovering what’s up with Walker’s attempts at land acquisition in Harlan County.

Walker’s clash with stubborn landowners in the cold open carried a real undertone of menace, even as the woman in the nice couple seemed (deliberately?) to be a pleasant, Bizarro Mags Bennett.  His later encounter with Calhoun’s associate Joyce was equally chilling, the kind of scene on Justified in which an innocent victim usually ends up with a bullet to the dome – but not here.

The viewers are introduced to Walker’s crew, highlighted by a semi-dim giant named Choo-Choo, who is thwarted in predictable if amusing fashion when he attempts to tail Raylan and Tim.  Fans who are reluctant to invest in this season because of any disappointments that they may have suffered in Season 5 would do well to study the final scene, with the undertones of conflict yet to come between the Marshalls and Walker’s guys.  These aren’t the goofy swamp Crowes – they are world-class, military-trained badasses and they are an interesting insertion into this final campaign with the Raylan vs. Boyd clash that’s coming.  Speaking of which, our lead anti-hero and anti-anti-hero sparred verbally a bit, each holding a few cards close and deploying a few others – but in a conversation less threatening than FX’s clever promo department had assembled.

From the Tigerhawk crew came in passing a reference to Colorado, which strongly implies a tie-in to Colorado legal weed kingpin Avery Markham, the long-awaited Sam Elliott character who shares an interesting scene with old flame Katherine in this episode.  If Markham is the Big Bad behind Walker and the Tigerhawk company – a development not confirmed officially on-screen yet – then the heat’s getting turned up in Harlan way sooner than later.  And that would put Katherine in the fascinating position of sending Boyd in to rob her very dangerous beau – who displays immense menace and mouth-watering potential for mayhem in that single scene.

Again, this episode didn’t pack the repeated gut-punches of the season opener, but it played the role that was necessary – and it will go down in history as one of the better ones for Tim Gutterson witty banter, which is not insubstantial.  Until last season, Justified was always predictable – in a good way – about varying the pacing as needed throughout the season.  Given the vast sea of developments yet to come in the final 11 episodes of the series, the benefit of the doubt is completely appropriate in terms of anticipating how quickly we’ll be back to edge-of-your-seat developments.

As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time.  Past webcasts for Season 6 can be found when searching the Justified category on this site.  Additionally, here’s our Season 6 preview and our 10-hour Season 5 “box set” containing a season preview, review and analysis of every episode.


Justified: The Last Ride Begins With A Bang

Courtesy of FX Networks
Courtesy of FX Networks

Warning: Spoiler Alert

With an amount of fanfare distantly trailing the final-season debuts of other “New Golden Age of TV Franchises” Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy and – in all likelihood, later this year – Mad Men, Justified has returned to FX for its final ride on Tuesday nights with Episode 6.1, Fate’s Right Hand.  In the Justified season preview here on the site, Jason Jones alluded to this phenomenon, one that must expected by now for a program trapped in the public’s consciousness in the No-Man’s-Land of being much more badass than Mad Men and more contemplative than Breaking Bad.

Not helping matters, it must be noted, was an uneven fifth season that was ambitious in scope – expanding from the tight canvas of the Bluegrass State to such locales as Canada, Mexico and Florida for the first time (well, Florida for the first time since the pilot) – but was Adam Dunn-esque in its split between tape-measure home runs and anticlimactic strikeouts.  Following on the heels of Season 4, which most avid fans peg with Season 2 as among the best in the recent history of television, in all fairness Graham Yost and Company were going to have a very tough act to follow – and they did succeed in setting up storylines for the final season, as will be discussed below.  But the frustration of the fanbase in various crevices of the Internet was echoed in the ratings, which dipped by more than 25% from the Season 5 debut at various times before rallying at the end of the campaign.  Having said all of that, the faithful were enthralled for the most part by the season’s conclusion, which had not been telegraphed: the looming final confrontation between the show’s lead characters, US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens and longtime frenemy Boyd Crowder – with Boyd’s now-former fiancée Ava Crowder caught in the crossfire as a reluctant informant on The Man Who Buttons His Shirts All The Way To The Top.  And after a long nine months, here we are, ready to see where this epic journey picks up as the end looms near.

[Side note before beginning the actual review of Episode 6.1: while I am new to TV reviewing in this format, I have been covering this show – and others before this such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men – in webcast form as part of The FDH Lounge “nothing is off-topic” brand since the beginning of Season 5 with NJATVS veteran and FDH Lounge Senior Editor Jason Jones.  Here is our 10-hour “box set” containing all of our Season 5 content, which we are continuing through Season 6 as a dual-branded entity with NJATVS – starting with our Season 6 preview.  I am very happy to be contributing to this site, where my FDH Lounge colleague Jason has been doing a great job with his reviews, as has my old friend Jeff Sack and it represents tremendous synergy between our ventures under the cooperative banner of The 21st Century Media Alliance.]

The cold open began with poor Winona and the baby down in Florida, wondering where Raylan was.  Apparently nobody hipped them to the fact that Raylan’s on his way IF AND ONLY IF he nails Boyd Crowder to the wall first.  Given Boyd’s slippery nature, that ain’t going to be easy, so Raylan starts his quest by walking into a bar in Mexico that, quite frankly, looks like the same set used for his Season 4 living adventures (nitpick alert)!  When the Mexican law enforcement official that our beloved deputy marshall is buttonholing doesn’t want to cooperate, Raylan simply waits for him to get in his car, so he can ram him with his own car, throw him in the trunk and somehow cross back to the US unscathed.  And yet that incredible sentence seems more likely than by-the-book new/temporary boss Rachel and AUSA Vasquez not batting an eyelash at the tactics that they have to know must have been employed.  Perhaps we shouldn’t delve too deeply into the realism of a very interesting start to the season.

Once back home, Raylan participates in equal-opportunity arm-twisting, trying to flip (the great) Dewey Crowe and trying to leverage his old flame who he already flipped, good old Ava.  The latter encounter occurs at her new/old workplace, the salon to which she has returned.  She proclaims great fear at the task ahead of her and we the viewers can attest to that being an honest emotion, since she was acting very weird around Boyd back at her place.  Fortunately for her, Boyd attributes this to a type of post-traumatic stress disorder after her “Orange is the New Black” storyline last year – but he won’t stay in the dark forever, a fact that Ava demonstrates that she is acutely aware of in her later meeting with Raylan.

Meanwhile, with Audrey’s having been seized during his time behind bars, the released-on-a-technicality Dewey is on a search for meaning that begins with one of his former whores, now working as a diner waitress, and culminates in a reunion with the man he robbed blind last season, Boyd Crowder himself.  The master criminal’s master criminal finds a tangible use for his old friend the lovable idiot, by sending him as a decoy to divert attention while he returns to rob the bank that he had staked out earlier from the inside.  Unfortunately for Tim (feverishly working surveillance on Boyd down in Harlan County) and Raylan, they make the fateful decision to tail Dewey, who plows through a waiting roadblock and, typical of his usual ineptitude, causes far more damage to himself than any other entity.  When Tim and Raylan catch up with his now-wrecked tow truck, the search of his duffel bag turns up completely innocuous gear – indicating that they’d been sent on a wild goose chase.  Raylan, now under a court order to stay 1,000 feet or more from Dewey in light of their past legal history, delivers what turns out to be one last rough-up for the road in their relationship – more about that below.

And in a thrilling sequence that may well fit on the first tier of the show’s entire history, Boyd’s newly reconstituted crew pulls off that bank robbery in wild fashion – only to find out back at Boyd’s bar that the haul that they had been assigned to fetch by Katherine Hale didn’t even contain money, just some documents that we are led to believe will add up to a big pile of it.  Also at the bar, Dewey confronts Boyd about the lack of respect inherent in his marginalized role in the bank robbery.  Boyd insists that Dewey was indeed critical to the operation’s success and talks to him in a very friendly manner.  I must admit at this point that Boyd had me completely hoodwinked, as I was beginning to speculate about how Dewey might defy all expectations by becoming a critical player in Season 6, or at least somebody more important on the canvas than his entire history would suggest.  Then Boyd comes up and shoots him in the head and I’m left feeling like quite the silly goose.  Boyd concludes the episode by watching Ava in the dark as she tries to fall asleep.  Remembering back to how she successfully ambushed Boyd’s brother to escape an abusive marriage, Ava has resolved to try to act normal around Boyd to keep his suspicion at bay, but it’s clear that she’ll have to work at it very hard – and it’s equally clear that Boyd knows that something with her is not quite right.  Hoodwinking Bowman Crowder is one thing; hoodwinking his brilliant brother is quite another and she knows that deep down.

The show had other moments of consequence interspersed throughout, from a friendly Art-and-Raylan conversation reminiscent of the time before the Augustine revelation to the introduction on the canvas of Garret Dillahunt’s character Walker – a shady figure who shows up at the old Givens house wanting to purchase it in cash ASAP.  Raylan’s brutal dismissal of him sets the stage for the two men to become adversaries in this final campaign – as if Raylan needs one more!  This episode was a true pleasure from start to finish, devoid of the head-scratching moments in last season’s debut and it may well be the fastest-paced start to a season that we’ve seen yet.  Strap in, people, the creative team is in peak form for this final run.

Traditionally on Justified, at the end of the first episode of the season, coming attractions are shown for the entire year, not just the next episode.  If showrunner Graham Yost is to be taken at his word, although the time for finishing complete production is growing very near, final decisions regarding the endgame have not been completed – so the clips don’t foreshadow a specific climax, just the chaos along the way.  Two elements of great note: Raylan will again be confronting Dickie Bennett behind bars and Boyd will tell Ava that they have the chance for a great, long life in Harlan.  The latter note is of great interest, because it strongly contradicts Boyd’s plea to Ava to join him on the run in the very near future just before he robs the bank.

Now, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time.  We are very pleased to present our analysis here at NJATVS in true multimedia form.