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'Justified' recap: Nest egg

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“The Devil You Know” spends too much time getting the chess pieces into place to be a wholly terrific episode of “Justified,” but the chess pieces here are so much fun to watch interact that seeing them get shoved around isn’t so bad. Yeah, it’s a bit predictable that Devil isn’t able to get one over on Boyd. (Did we really think he would?) And, yes, it makes too much sense that the giant cash haul Dickie and everybody else are after doesn’t exist anymore. (It’s only a little over $40,000 now, not the $3 million that was once there.) But this is an episode for making sure all of the right gears are turning and all of the right characters are bumping up against the perfect foils. Something big is coming, and so many schemers are plotting against one another that it’s hard not to be a little impatient for the fireworks to come.

One of the things that holds this episode back a bit is the fact that it spends much of its time dealing with wrapping up loose ends from Season 2. Since we get to spend more time with Jeremy Davies as Dickie Bennett, this is still pretty fun, but in a season where we’ve got a lot of great potential conflicts hanging out there already, it’s a little disappointing to devote so much time to chasing down what remains of the Bennett fortune. Now, this probably had to happen, given all of the time we’ve spent on the interests of various characters in that fortune, but the way it had been dribbled out bit by bit in previous episodes was preferable to the way this one dredged it all back up.

On the other hand, that’s closer to the way real life rolls along. We don’t always finish up stuff cleanly or clearly. We don’t always get rid of it as easily as we’d like. All too often, the past keeps coming back in ways we don’t really understand. In some ways, that’s a major theme of this show, too: The past these people share is a past they can’t let go of and can’t shake. It’s a past that keeps reaching up and dragging them down. Families have long histories in Harlan, and those histories become entwined in ways that seem borderline incestuous when you start to think about it too hard.

This is why an outside agitator like Quarles can make a little headway but still can’t take down someone like Boyd. In terms of smarts, the two men are probably just about equal. But in terms of organization, Quarles—with the backing of the mob—would seem to have the upper hand over Boyd, with his collection of rapscallions and renegades. And yet the way that family blood in Harlan is so thick is something Quarles hasn’t yet adjusted to. He thinks that finding his way into the county’s criminal circles will be as easy as buying off someone like Devil to find the weak links in Boyd’s organization, then having Devil bump off Boyd. But Boyd’s got something stronger than Quarles has in the bond he has with brother Johnny. There’s no way Devil can get what Quarles wants, because there’s no way he can get Johnny to flip on Boyd, particularly when the two are close. In fact, it’s debatable he could have gotten that when the two were feuding.

It’s family ties that get Dickie in trouble, too. The crooked guard who wants the Bennett fortune springs both him and Dewey (with Dewey flopping about hilariously on the ground in a body bag) to take him to Limehouse and get the money back. Naturally enough, none of this goes as easily as the guard expects, so Dickie ends up wandering Harlan, tossed back and forth between various opposing groups while Raylan tries to figure out just what the heck is going on. I liked that this episode brought Rachel along for the ride, as I always like when she and Raylan get to share a little screentime, and I thought the way the episode played off of unconscious racial biases in regards to her dealings with Limehouse and his crew was fascinating. But at the same time, this was another episode where Raylan was as much an actor as a reactor, and it’s always frustrating when our hero is thrown off his game and forced to chase around in other people’s footsteps.

If nothing else, the episode served as a great travelogue of the world this show has built over the past two seasons. Heck, we even got to take a look at what Loretta McCready has been up to since the end of Season 2. (I like the way the show underplays her bitterness about the hard lot she’s drawn in life, even as it always lets you know it’s there, lurking just behind her eyes. Well played by Kaitlyn Dever.) The show simply has so many characters at this point that it’s probably a function of the story that certain episodes play a little like greatest hits packages, in which we catch up with certain members of the ensemble, and miss others entirely. (If Art and Tim were in this episode, I missed them because I blinked.)

So we end the episode with Dickie realizing that his nest egg isn’t much of a nest egg at all. (I’m choosing to believe Limehouse in this instance, as we’ve been given little to indicate that he’s lying, though I see some who disagree with me on this.) And we find Quarles trying to sew dissension and getting shot down—literally—by an empowered Boyd Crowder. It’s great that this is a show with so many fascinating and fun supporting characters, but, all the same, I don’t want it to lose sight of the man in the cowboy hat who forms its center. There are some great Raylan moments in tonight’s episode—like when he runs over the guard twice—but they’re few enough and far enough between to make me hope that there’s a plan for Raylan to get proactive fairly soon.

Related:

'Justified' recap: Sharks in Harlan

'Justified' recap: Wily Boyd Crowder

Complete Show Tracker 'Justified' coverage

Todd VanDerWerff
http://twitter.com/tvoti

Photo: Rachel (Erica Tazel) and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) stop by Limehouse's place while trying to figure out what's happening with Dickie Bennett. Photo credit: FX

 
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