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'Justified' recap: Here comes trouble

April 14, 2011 |  9:00 am

JUS-ep210_20110203_PG-0032 After three episodes of ever-increasing tension, “Justified” turned it down a bit this week, if only because pushing things any further likely would have resulted in Dickie Bennett setting off a nuclear bomb in Harlan or something. “Debts and Accounts” isn’t as good as the last few episodes, but it’s a necessary one, letting the audience in on how the characters are feeling about everything that’s happened and getting them in place for the big finale to come. Not a lot actually happens in terms of plot movement in “Debts,” but by the end, it’s hard not to feel like everybody’s in grave danger.

To that end, let’s sum up where all of the characters sit at the end of the hour.

Mags: Mags Bennett’s deal with Black Pike has gone through. She has money to burn, and she’s decided to leave behind the world of crime as best she can. She’s handing off giant bags of cash to Helen and weathering the cruel words of people who come up to her in the diner and tell her her sons will have to die because of how she’s betrayed the people of Harlan by selling out. But Mags is less of a presence here than she has been, though she’s still terrifying. She’s mostly just trying to make sure that everything is on the up and up, though that means cutting off …

Dickie: Dickie finds himself the recipient of his mother’s wrath, as she blames him for the death of Coover, no matter how little that makes sense. He went against the family, she says, and that means he’s not a part of her life anymore. As she makes the family legit, Doyle’s going to be the only Bennett son to prosper, while Dickie will take over the family’s criminal operations. Mags is washing her hands of the drug trade, and she cautions Dickie that he needs to stay out of everything but the marijuana business because, well, she’s given free rein of Harlan’s criminal world to one …

Boyd Crowder: Boyd’s been wrestling with which side of the line he’ll land on all season long, and in this episode, we finally get to see him in all his terrifying, bad-guy glory. After Mags all but hands him the county on a silver platter, he begins to consolidate his power as quickly as possible, overthrowing a local card game, calling on the cousin he put in a wheelchair to help him out and just generally drawing up plans to wreak havoc and make money off of being one bad dude. Walton Goggins is terrifying here, as Boyd realizes his full power, but he’s also unexpectedly tender, as something about his new enterprise stirs something in Ava, who finally plants the kiss on him that’s clearly been coming all season. But if Boyd’s trying to batter the other criminals of Harlan into servitude, Dickie’s having none of it, setting up a potential war between the two. And that war will almost certainly involve …

Raylan: OK, Raylan’s probably not going to get directly involved in a war between Dickie and Boyd. But it’s hard not to imagine he won’t get caught up in the crossfire. Wednesday night, Raylan deals with the fallout of the last few episodes, particularly in regard to how he helped Winona cover up her theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He’s wrestling with what it all means, and he finally comes to a realization: He loves her. And he’s finally willing to change his life for her, to move to Glynco and get involved in a much less life-threatening job. He’s had enough of dancing around just what Art knows about the Winona situation (and Art lets on exactly how much he knows without saying anything in specific in the episode’s best scene). He’s maybe even had enough of putting his life on the line. Winona’s reticent, for whatever reason, but she changes her tune after she and Raylan run into …

The mysterious gunmen: Two men follow Raylan from the marshal’s office to the spot where he’s dropping off Winona so she can finally begin the process of getting a divorce. He goes back to confront them, and they go on their merry way. But they return at episode’s end, firing on Raylan and Winona and forcing them into some sort of machinist’s shop. The gunmen, of course, are unable to get Raylan, and he protects his girlfriend in the end as well, but he doesn’t get a chance to find out just who sent the two men. Mags? Probably not, since she reaffirms what sounds like a Bennett-Givens truce with Helen. Boyd? That’s almost certainly not it. Dickie? Like he has those kind of connections!

No, I think those two gunmen are one of the season’s long-suspended shoes finally dropping: The Dixie Mafia is in town, and they’ve got no time for anyone else who might be horning in on their game. They’re the only organization that would feel at all comfortable with eliminating a marshal (and could deal with the federal storm that would come down upon them if they did), and they have ample reason and motive to get rid of Raylan before moving on to the Bennett boys or Boyd. This could feel cheap, since bringing in yet another adversary for Raylan might seem a bit too abrupt. Instead, it feels like yet another problem that Raylan’s been putting off all season has come to make his life torture.

And I haven’t even mentioned some of the other great scenes in this episode, like Raylan’s pep talk to Loretta, designed to get her to leave the social worker’s car and enter the foster home she clearly doesn’t want to go to. Really, what Raylan says to her there could stand in for the lessons of this season as a whole: Sometimes, you do things you don’t want to do because they’re the right things or because you care about the people involved. And sometimes, you just hang on for dear life and hope for the best. After “Debts and Accounts,” it sure seems like everybody’s hanging on as best they can. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

Photo: Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) finds himself stalked by two mysterious gunmen. Credit: FX

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--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me at twitter.com/tvoti)

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