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Tuesday, 2 of March of 2021

Justified – “Kin”

“You got a saw? You’re gonna need a saw.”

Justified Titlecard

NOEL: So, last week, Cory was all, “Best episode of the season.” I was sort of hesitant about that proclamation. But, Cory, if you’d like to make that statement again, I would not argue with you.

Twisty-turny procedural elements fed into the big arc about Drew Thompson. We’re closer to finding him, but only in the sense that we know he’s in Harlan, and that everyone under the sun is looking for this guy. Oh, and Ellen Mae is safe and sound. And was shocking violence and hill people. HILL PEOPLE, Y’ALL.

What say you, gents? Where do you guys want to start with this?

LES: Noel, you tweeted at me earlier this evening that I was going to be happy with this one, and you were not wrong. This was without question the best episode of the season, a veritable smorgasbord of Justified goodness that I’m almost at a loss to talk about how much of it I liked. Do I want to say how happy I am that Raylan and Boyd get to be in a scene together, and it’s in a manner that indicates the two will be operating at odds for the rest of the Drew Thompson arc? Do I want to bring up how thrilled I am that the introduction of Gerald McRaney as a local Harlan crook means that the Deadwood feud between Seth Bullock and George Hearst can be revived in modern times, and kicks off (pun intended) in an wonderfully Raylan fashion? Do I want to discuss how satisfied I am at being right that this arc would reintroduce both David Vasquez and Agent Barkley, the latter of whom was dismissed from the show in explosive fashion? Do I want to talk about how giddy I was at the fact that this episode featured legitimate hill people, and the head of the hill people clan was General Beckman from Chuck? Wynn Duffy being unflappable? Jim Beaver playing another decent man in a den of villains? The return of Constable Bob?

Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll start where I’m most comfortable, falling on my sword. I’ve said that I was a bit disenchanted with the recent episodes; not so much that I thought they were bad episodes, but that I didn’t know what the direction of the season was supposed to be. And after spending a little time looking at the previous seasons, it’s occurred to me that this tends to be an issue with most seasons of Justified, where it seems like Graham Yost and company trot out a few mostly stand-alone episodes or mini-arcs to reel in new viewers before getting into the meat of the season. “Kin” definitely felt like the episode where the season starts spinning its wheels into the narrative and gaining traction, setting up Drew Thompson as a man that both the U.S. government and the Detroit Mafia are prepared to devote a lot of resources to recovering, and is now apparently a man in the halls of power without anyone knowing it.

This decision meets what I think was one of the most important objectives of the season, bringing Raylan and Boyd back into each others’ orbits and setting them in opposition. Both are looking to gain Thompson for their own ends—Boyd to lock up the heroin markets in Kentucky, and Raylan to do something his unborn child could be proud of—and both also are dealing with the fact that their fathers were involved in covering up this mess. These two are such dynamic characters, and such excellent actors, that they need to be at each others’ throats, and as much as I have enjoyed them doing their own thing I’m ecstatic that they’re part of the same story again. The scene with the two in the hill peoples’ prison and the negotiations afterward was fantastic, as they both try to find a way out of this weird situation (Boyd bluffing his way to a connection and the hill people patriarch calling it was priceless). And it’s interesting to see how things have progressed (or regressed) between the two, as we’ve gone from a first season finale where Boyd called Raylan his only friend to a point where he’s saying he doesn’t like Raylan all that much. (As any man would say were he handcuffed to a tree, I’d imagine.)

Cory, what wonderful element of this episode caught your eye?

CORY: This is definitely another great one. Not only does this episode pick up and/or kick off what look to be season-long stories, but it does so by intertwining all the stories and characters together in expert fashion. We’ve already written quite a bit about the show’s successful world- and character-building, but never has that been on display more this season than in this episode. Just think about the sheer number of characters in this episode. Yet, none of them felt out of place and “Kin” didn’t feel remotely overstuffed. The work the show did in establishing these characters, either this season or sometime previously, means that we can get quick appearances from Vasquez or Barkley, or that Bonita Friedericy, Mike O’Malley and Gerald McRaney can all bring new characters to life, and they all move in seamlessly.

But what I really enjoyed about this episode is how it created new connections between these disparate characters. Raylan and Boyd now chasing down Drew Thompson for different reason and that’s amazing. The scenes between Olyphant and Goggins are some of the best on television. I’ll never forget their discussion at TCA a few years back when Olyphant said he thinks the two characters hate each other and Goggins actually thinks they’re friends. It seems to so perfectly fit their public personas and their characters, and it’s always reflected in tremendous scenes like the final one here. But it’s more just those two. Colt is desperately looking for help from anyone who can give it to him, including Parlow and Tim. Parlow’s hiding Ellen May for various reasons (I assume because he’s trying to nail Boyd on something more substantive and thinks she can get him to that?). Johnny and Wynn have something going on and yet Boyd thinks he’s working with Wynn, who’s also working for O’Malley’s character. Bob’s a wild card, as are the hill people and whomever else is likely to be helping Thompson hide. We talk all the time about these big cable shows that have way too many characters and never know exactly how to bring them together spatially or bring the show together thematically, but instead of going outward, Justified always goes inward and goes deeper (phrasing, I know) and it’s paying off already this season.

On that note, which of the new characters or performances stood out to you?

LES: Tough to say which of the new characters stood out the most, but I think I’d give the edge to Gerald McRaney popping up as Josiah Cairn. Part of that is because I love it when Graham Yost and company populate this universe with Deadwood veterans (and one who was a major antagonist to Tim Olyphant on that show), and part of it is because one of the things I’ve always admired about Justified is the way it continues to flesh out the world of Harlan County in an organic fashion. Josiah doesn’t feel like someone they’ve dropped in at random, he feels like he’s been part of this world since the beginning, someone who did odd jobs for the Bennetts and whose wife may have run to Noble’s Holler at some point, someone that both Raylan and Constable Bob know by reputation and who can identify Raylan as “Arlo’s boy” very early. I enjoyed the way the two actors played off each other, and I especially enjoyed the follow-up scene where Raylan took Josiah for a ride. That interrogation tactic is just classic Raylan—effective, excessive, and more than a bit of a dick move.

His introduction also helps give some context to the mystery of the bag, as the fact that he sent his stepdaughter to retrieve it on Arlo’s behalf indicates this may not have been a random occurrence and that the old man’s playing a long game. The closing revelation that Josiah’s vanished, leaving only his ankle bracelet—and the foot it was attached to—bodes for a good direction next week, and I’m very eager to see just who took the foot off. (This much money at stake, I wouldn’t rule out that he may have pulled a Merle Dixon and taken it off himself.)

Noel, who’s your pick?

NOEL: I’d have to go with Mike O’Malley’s Nicky. O’Malley having dramatic acting chops on Glee was enough of a revolution given my experience with him as a host for a number of Nickelodeon game shows and on Yes, Dear, but he doesn’t feel like Mike O’Malley here, and he’s not Burt, either. His entire scene is sort of a little treat, between Barkley’s death and Wynn just sitting there, cool as a cucumber. He owns it completely, and I think its to Jere Burns and Stephen Tobolowsky’s credit that they step back and allow that to happen. (Also: I spelled ‘Tobolowsky’ correctly without looking it up, and I’m somewhat proud of this.)

But I think my favorite bit was the hill people. I’ve talked before about how much I delight in the show’s frankly unique setting, and again we get a little flourish on that with the introduction of the hill community. While we could see it as an ass pull that Raylan’s related to them, it makes sense that it’s kept secret, not something he likes to talk about. Even Boyd is somewhat dismissive of them, and Boyd’s normally fairly open minded about things as it’s a way for him make a buck. But here he’s a bit less interested in taking them seriously, and clearly to his folly.

I’m worried about Parlow. I appreciate him wanting to take down Boyd, but this is a dangerous game, and I really hope he’s going to play this smart and find some assistance outside his office. At least for now he’s safe as Colt is trying to keep him losing Ellen May on the down low. And speaking of Colt, I loved his brief scene with Tim as he fished for advice on how to find someone. Little scenes like that are why I love this show.

Odd question to ask, but who is playing Drew Thompson? I assume we’re going to meet him at some point, but I may’ve missed this casting news. Also: What did we think about Winona’s brief scene and Raylan mucking up the appointment?

CORY: It seems like Colt is going to play a bigger role than I initially projected. He has some loyalty to Boyd, but he’s also a different kind of dude as well. Though we talked about his demons a little bit last week, this week continued to fill in some of the blanks about what kind of guy he is. I get the sense that Boyd suspects something might have went wrong with Ellen May, but he’s too preoccupied to worry about it at the moment.

I can’t find who is playing Thompson. Lost‘s Sam Anderson was cast for this season, but TV Fanatic’s post on the matter says he’ll be playing a funeral director. The show doesn’t typically hide casting decisions or roles, so Anderson is probably not Thompson. I suspect it will be a somewhat recognizable face, though I’d love for it to a completely out-of-nowhere choice.

That scene with Winona was pretty great. I’ve praised Olyphant’s ability to bring out the broken-down, quasi-nonchalant Raylan this season, but he was similarly wonderful in portraying Raylan’s desire to be put-together and responsible for Winona. Although I know there is a contingent of the audience that doesn’t care for her as a character, that’s not Natalie Zea’s fault. She has great chemistry with Olyphant and even though they’ve had their dramas and are now separated, we still see that they care about one another. There’s no real hostility. She knows who Raylan is, and no matter how much he tries to present the facade of responsibility, it’s just not there. He’s a mess.

LES: If Drew Thompson turns out to be played by Ian McShane, it will be the greatest thing in the history of television. Though I admit I’m hoping the show keeps him in its back pocket for a season five or six where he can play the head of the Dixie Mafia. In terms of other recognizable Deadwood alums, I’m still chomping at the bit for Titus Welliver to stop by. Or maybe William Sanderson? Leon Rippy? GASP – John Hawkes?! (He was in a failed FX pilot recently, I could see him coming back to briefly reopen Bullock and Star Hardware.)

I too have been really enjoying Colt’s performance – Ron Eldard makes a good addition both to Boyd’s crew and the Justified ensemble as someone who projects both simultaneously a more laid-back approach and more vulnerable nature. Though between his reluctance to kill Ellen Mate and the fallout of her winding up in Shelby’s custody, the fact that Johnny’s trying to sell Boyd out to the Dixie Mafia, and the matter with Devil last season, Boyd’s finding it really hard to get good help these days.

And yes, it was good to see Natalie Zea again for a brief scene—I don’t think the character has much reason to be in the show full-time, but I like the fact that she’s still there in Raylan’s orbit, and that she clearly cares about him despite her knowing for certain he’s too much of a mess for them to ever be together. The moment where the baby kicks and she puts his hand on her stomach was a very sweet one, and one that still portrays why we like Raylan even though he’s an asshole. His nature’s going to keep him from being a good father in the traditional sense of the word, but he’s also never going to the nasty sonovabitch Arlo was, and if he’s able to do the right thing, he will.

But one big question remains, gentlemen, the question that many appear to be debating on Twitter: where do we land on the subject of Raylan’s hair?

NOEL: I really like it.

CORY: I like the hair. It fits this version of the character I think. Older, but also a bit more disheveled. Almost like he’s trying something new, but also maybe like he just stopped caring. I can’t totally read the choice.

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