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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

Justified – “Get Drew”

Justified TitlecardSo, yeah, it’s been sort of insane for two of our regular Justified roundtable contributors, so much so that some folks are weeks behind (it wasn’t Noel, Noel stays on top of Harlan County, guys). In any case, Les managed to catch up and Greg Boyd offered to fill in for that slacker Cory this week to discuss the fact that, well, Drew Thompson has been on Justified for a while.

And it wasn’t, as Noel predicted, an older Raylan trying to close a time loop.

GREG: Before offering my preliminary thoughts on “Get Drew”, I thought I should take a moment (as someone who’s written nothing about Justified all season) to talk about my impression of the season as a whole up to this point. I think it’s been a very strong year overall: certainly better than the enjoyable but messy third season. But there have been enough minor missteps here and there to keep the show just a step below the best of AMC and HBO (and FX’s own The Americans, for that matter). Last week’s episode contained quite a few of them, including some rather clunky storytelling in regards to the Drew Thompson reveal, as well as continuing to show why Colton Rhodes is perhaps the least interesting character the show has ever introduced.

This installment, however, was fantastic, and not just because Colt was barely in it. (Maybe I’m being a little too hard on him. But he really is the Britta of Justified characters.) What’s not to like? Early on, we have Rachel threatening to sing show tunes to Raylan, followed directly by Art’s speech about how “awesome” Drew is. Even on a show known for great dialogue, that was something special. Also loved how Art noted that he still intends to suspend Raylan. Basically, I just love Art.

From there, “Get Drew” quickly turns into a very effective and entertaining episode in which both the Marshals and Boyd’s crew try to . . . well, get Drew. His and Ellen May’s life on the run didn’t last as long as I expected it to, as both were quickly captured by Limehouse when they went to Noble’s Holler for help. How great was it to see Limehouse again? While I felt a lot of the storylines in season three didn’t quite live up to their initial promise, both major guest stars did phenomenal work all season, so it was nice to see Mykelti Williamson return. And it made complete sense from a storytelling perspective.

It also forced Boyd into a dilemma, as there’s certainly no love lost between him and Limehouse, and the latter decided to double his price for Ellen May and Drew, forcing Boyd and Ava to pick one. Boyd’s ready to pick Ellen May, but Ava convinces him otherwise. Am I the only one who’s starting to wonder if Ellen May might find her way out of this alive after all? Still not sure exactly how that happens, but I’m clinging to the hope that she will. She’s already improbably survived two attempts on her life this season, so who knows?

But really, this wasn’t Ellen May’s episode. It belonged to Jim Beaver’s Drew at the start (and he’s great throughout), but the most intriguing developments to me came from the the three Crowders: especially Johnny. His decision to tip the Marshals off as to the spot where Drew was to be handed off to Tonin’s people was the character’s first real play in a while (ever since his initial talk with Duffy, he’s been mostly in the background), and it will be fascinating to see what the fallout from his actions is. They’ve knocked Boyd down a peg and saved Drew for now, but will that be the case for long? We shall see.

Did you like the episode as much as I did, Noel?

NOEL: I’m going to ignore everything you just said, Greg, and focus on one little bit: I love Colton. I really really really do. And I think Colton is a wonderful addition to the show because he is a failure. Say what you will about most everyone on this show, but they’re all wildly competent people, even resilient to curves thrown their way (HI, ARLO!), and Colton is none of those things. He’s a mess, he can’t do anything right, and there’s something amazingly refreshing about that. We can position Johnny as a sort of a parallel to Colton, but Johnny’s not as active an agent in his own fate: So much of Johnny’s plan to assume control of the Crowder organization (and I’m even hesitant to call it that since I’m not exactly sure how much money Boyd is making at this point) relies on hoping something doesn’t or does happen (he’s changing this, but even still he’s being thwarted; his speech about Boyd’s attention span this week slayed me). And so their failures, but particularly Colt’s, are really fascinating to me. This is what happens to “little people” when you have a bunch of badass planners running around and they can’t keep up.

That little thing aside, I did enjoy this episode. A couple of times, mostly as soon as Limehouse was reintroduced (I hated that this plot development was ruined by the credits), I was on the edge of my seat, fearing for the safety of mostly Ellen May, but also Shelby/Drew, though I think this is because it’s Jim Beaver and not because I have much invested in his fate…even if I do really like the character, I don’t care if he makes it out or not. But in regards to planning, Art is right that Drew is a badass; but he’s rusty and ill-prepared to deal with the changes around him once his cover is blown. As a result, he ends up following Ellen May’s advice of going to Limehouse — something he should’ve known better than to do — and it bites him in the ass, and puts Ellen May in harm’s way. He’s as hapless as Colt and Johnny now.


LES: It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Justified in roundtable formI believe the last episode we wound up discussing was “Foot Chase” four episodes backand frankly I think a little time away from the discussion was a good thing. Greg, you alluded to a sloppiness to season three, but I think this season’s by far been more disjointed, as the show is now to the point where it’s got so many random elements it can introduce callbacks to and characters it can bring back whenever it wants. However, the strength of Justified is always that the parts are so good it forgives problems on parts of the whole. I’m not sure for instance how much I buy the decision to make Shelby and Drew Thompson one and the same, but I’ve forgiven it because any time Jim Beaver gets more to do on a show it makes that show better by extension.

That said, I do believe that in the four episodes since the last roundtable (with the possible exception of the fairly distracting “Money Trap”) the show has found its traditional second-half gear, as the various plot arcs have begun to intersect and tighten up by the search for Drew Thompson becoming the central focus of the story. More importantly, it’s put Raylan and Boyd back on parallel tracks in the search, and given them entirely logical reasons for doing what they’re doing. Raylan wants Drew to make himself more respectable of a lawman and someone his unborn child can look up to, while Boyd wants Drew to cement his future and expand his operation beyond a bar and a whorehouse.

All of that buildup is to say that the last three episodes have been terrific, and “Get Drew” was another fine installment where I spent the last ten minutes continually forgetting to breathe. I was incredibly pleased to see Limehouse and his hat return, partially because as everyone’s said Myketi Williamson is fantastic, and partially because it made organic sense in the story as both a last resort and an opportunistic wild card to further complicate matters. The moment when Limehouse pulled the rug out from under Boyd made things remarkably tensethe very best Justified scenes are always the ones where it seems like the entire situation could explode into a gunfight at any moment, and we’ve had a lot of those in recent weeks. And with our intrepid marshals now trapped essentially behind enemy lines, it’s a fair bet a lot of characters are going to be singing “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” under their breath in the three weeks to go.

Sorry Greg, but I have to side with Noel on the Colt situation as I’ve been enjoying Ron Eldard’s work quite a bit. He brings a combination of dangerous energy with a terminally damaged psychein something of the same vein as Corey Stoll’s Peter Russo on House of Cardsand he’s been the right destabilizing factor to Boyd’s scheming. And more to the point, he’s given Tim something more to do, which is important as the show keeps gradually inching toward realizing what it has in Raylan’s fellow marshals. (If Raylan does make it to Art’s chair, as was alluded to a couple times this episode, I think that the idea of those two causing him as many problems as he caused Art has ripe potential.)

I mentioned it earlier, but I want to spend some time talking about Boyd, as I’ve been fascinated by his arc this season. He’s been playing bigger and bigger games (his moves in “Outlaw were a joy to behold), and I think he’s heading for an ugly reckoning as he makes promises to the Tonin organization he’s not going to be able to keep. He seems at the end of the episode to know he’s bitten off more than he can chewhis nest egg from the rich men on the hill is gone, his trigger man is unreliable to say the least, and the love of his life has a murder charge hanging around her neck. And this isn’t even getting into Johnny selling him out to Wyn and Raylan. Do either of you see a way out of this corner for Boyd?

GREG: For the record, I’m not criticizing Eldard. He’s been great. I just think the character has been woefully underdeveloped (although that one scene in “Outlaw” was admittedly great). I like Noel’s points about failure and yours about giving Tim a bit more to do, but he hasn’t been given enough depth. We know he’s scarred from some of the stuff he experienced overseas, but that’s about it. This is an occasional issue with Justified as a whole; it tends to bite off a bit more than it can chew with regards to both plot and character. This isn’t always a concern for me, but it definitely tends to cause problems with the development of the supporting characters from time to time.

In regards to Boyd, the short answer is yes. Why? Because he’s Boyd Crowder, and I can’t see Justified killing him off (or having him go on the run from Tonin) in season four of a planned six. Personally, I’d love to see the show have the guts to do either one of these things, but I wouldn’t expect any developments quite that seismic until the last season. So I’m about 99.9% sure that he’s getting out of this one way or another. But like you, I’m not sure exactly how at this point. I would surprised if Drew doesn’t die, though, because even if Theo does get put away by his testimony, wouldn’t his organization still have a grudge against Boyd?

Ava’s another story. At this point, I have no clue at all how that particular storyline is going to play out. Ellen May somehow still hasn’t talked (a development I find a little implausible, but I’ll go with it), but spitting in Ava’s face would seem to indicate that this may not last much longer. So I think the question is simply who’s going to get to her first. Ordinarily I’d say the marshals have a leg up thanks to Boyd’s Detroit problems, but the promo for next week indicates that they may be a bit busy escorting Drew out of Harlan, and that may provide Ava or Boyd an opportunity to finish what they started. We’ll see. But right now, I could see it going either way. Regardless, it’s probably going to be terrific to watch, because the show has definitely turned on the accelerator over the past few weeks (aside from my issues with “The Hatchet Tour”, which you two don’t seem to share).

NOEL: I don’t know that I need or want Colton fleshed out more than he is. I want Tim and Rachel to be more fleshed out, to have something resembling interior lives, to respond to Raylan in new ways (Rachel was sublime in this episode), but I don’t want it from Colton. I like him exactly how he is, and his purpose in this narrative, or at least how I’ve conceptualized it.

But on to Boyd. I agree that he’s not going to die, but things are going to take a downward turn. Maybe. Boyd has a way of turning things to his advantage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up replacing Wynn somehow. I did love his insistence on wanting to taking Ellen May and leave Shelby to Limehouse because I had thought to myself that his marriage proposal to Ava was driven both out of genuine love for her but also a desire to set up spousal protection for each other. It’s such a Boyd thing to do. But I hope they do get Shelby handed over to Tonin because I want them running a DQ franchise next year. It’ll be the best product integration EVER. Seriously. EVER.

Les, you mentioned your delight in the mystery gearing up, and I had defended it early on, but now I kind of don’t love it? At first it was giving us nice glimpses into various aspects of Harlan — the rich people, the Hill people — but then I wanted those elements to stick around more. Boyd being contracted to destroy a slurry pipe for the EPA money? That is wonderful and brilliant and I wanted that matter more. I had mentioned earlier how one of the reason I really enjoy this show is that it take places in a part of the country so not like basically anything else on scripted TV. So things like slurry pipelines and mountaintop removal are avenues for new sorts of stories that aren’t always followed through on.

But I think this speaks to another issue I’m having: I want a Harlan County anthology show, or for the show to go straight episodic procedural. I say this in part to annoy Greg (MWAHAHA) but also because I want to see more of Harlan’s population and how they do and don’t intersect with others.

GREG: Our differences about procedurals aside (and let the record state that I am right and you are wrong), you raise a good point; people always like to talk about how good Justified is at creating a rich world (and it often is), but this season has definitely introduced a few threads that didn’t really pan out: such as the ones you mention (even if I wasn’t quite as interested in all of them as you were). Graham Yost actually spoke about this in one of the weekly postmortems he’s been doing with Entertainment Weekly. From his point of view, the positives of introducing all these different threads outweigh the negatives, even if it results in the occasional one kind of fizzling out. So the show’s creative team is definitely aware of this issue, but it doesn’t sound like you should expect things to change in future years.

I don’t really have anything else to add, except that I completely agree that Dairy Queen would be the best product integration ever. I don’t want Drew to meet such a horrible fate in order to make it happen (seriously, when did you become so bloodthirsty?), but if there’s a way to make it work that doesn’t involve him suffering a slow death at the hands of Theo, I’m all for it.

LES: Unanimous vote on the Dairy Queen franchise being a great idea, especially after how awesome it was to see Raylan eating an ice-cream cone back in “Money Trap.” (Which, fun fact, was one of the details from the original Elmore Leonard novels, that Raylan would eat ice cream on a stakeout, and at one point a suspect even pointed out the utter incongruity of seeing a marshal in a cowboy hat eating ice cream on a park bench. As a literary purist I love it when those details carry over.) Timothy Olyphant would do the best/worst commercial in that chain’s history.

Frankly, the more time I’ve had to think about this episode, the more worried I’ve become about Art. The comments about Raylan possibly taking Art’s place in the office, Art’s conversation at the start of the season with the visiting marshal, and Art’s awesome gung-ho speech about going to get Drew themselves and cut the state police out of it, all suddenly makes him look like the “only two days before retirement” cop. And that would upset me far more than anything happening to Ellen May or Drew Thompson.

Other than that, not much else to say except for the fact that I’m deeply looking forward to these last three episodes, as there are a lot of threads hanging out there that the writers are just setting fire to see what explodes. Raylan, Art, Tim and Rachel trapped in Harlan, with the varying threats of Crowders, Detroit, the Holler and (hopefully) hill people? Boyd’s back against the wall, out of money and reliable henchmen? Limehouse with a prominent bargaining chip in Ellen May? (Sadly Wynn Duffy appears to have fled the season for the safe harbor of Canada, but I sort of love that fact about him – over the last few seasons he’s rivaling Saul Goodman for cockroach-like survivability, scuttering away from the Guses and Quarleses of the world to scheme another day.) The show has once again built up the pressure in its back-half, and I’m holding my breath for many reasons to see how this all shakes out.

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