Review: 'Justified' - 'Kin': Raylan of the hill people
A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I read a book about a Native American princess who controls invisible forest animals...
"I've come to a conclusion: I don't like you, Raylan." -Boyd
It may sound like a weird word to apply to an episode featuring a murderer's row of Hey, It's That Guy!s, including the series' latest mini-"Deadwood" reunion, but what I think of when I think of "Kin" is restraint.
I watch any of the scenes between Raylan and Boyd in this episode and think of just how easy it would be for Graham Yost and company to put them together at least once a week to banter and charmingly threaten one another. As great as Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are independently on this show, they're even better together, and I can't imagine a single "Justified" fan complaining if it were to turn into "The Raylan and Boyd Power Hour."
But at press tour, Yost noted that they deliberately kept the two apart for the season's first four episodes, because, "We need to kind of explore other things in the relationship. We didn’t want to do the same scenes that we’ve done in the past of Raylan going to see Boyd or Boyd going to see Raylan. We wanted to mix that up a little bit."
And it's because they haven't interacted that their scenes up on the hill have the impact that they do. I missed seeing the two of them together, but I also got to see Raylan investigating this case on his own, and Boyd struggling with his empire and needing to forge this alliance with Wynn Duffy, before we could get back to the two of them trying to outmaneuver each other.
And what's been so smart about the design of the Drew Thompson case is how, at its core, it's another story about the intersection between the Givens and Crowder families. Arlo and Bo were partners in crime, and Boyd's been more of a son to Arlo than Raylan was, and now both men are conspiring to keep Arlo in prison for the rest of his life, even if it's for very different reasons. (Raylan wants Arlo to pay for Trooper Tom's murder, and more basically just wants to see the SOB die in prison; Boyd wants the money and business Wynn is offering him.)
"Kin" smartly drew other lines between the two men, from ex-military men Tim and Colton functioning as their seconds for the trip up the mountain, to the way the two teamed up to try to escape the hill people. I've been enjoying the mystery arc up until this point, but having both men competing to find Drew Thompson exponentially increases the urgency and entertainment value of the whole thing. And I don't know that that would have been the case if we had started out the season that way, rather than building to this moment.
Beyond that, "Kin" was just a ridiculously entertaining hour of "Justified," and a mark of how smart this show is with its guest casting and how it writes for those guests.
Not only do we get Gerald McRaney as our latest "Deadwood" alum — giving new life to the old Seth Bullock/George Hearst feud (see below for a reminder) — but the role of aging backwoods con man Josiah plays to McRaney's many comic gifts, before, during and after Raylan's method of extracting information from the old coot. Our glimpse of Josiah's severed foot suggests bad things coming for the guy, but hopefully at least one more hour with McRaney.
And the arrival of another "Deadwood" vet gave the show permission to whack another, as Stephen Tobolowsky's Agent Barkley takes a bullet from an effectively menacing Mike O'Malley as Theo Tonin enforcer Nicky Augustine. I liked how that scene in the Wynn-ebago retroactively enhanced the Barkley story from last season. It's more interesting if Barkley accuses Raylan of working for the Detroit mob as a way to cover his own work in that area. And Barkley's death provided another opportunity for Jere Burns to remind us why he is king of the reaction shot.
Beyond McRaney, Tobolowsky, O'Malley and Burns, we also got Bonita Friedericy (General Beckman from "Chuck") as Raylan's cousin Mary, the return of Natalie Zea as Winona and Rick Gomez as David Vasquez, more of Patton Oswalt as Constable Bob, Romy Rosemont (O'Malley's wife on "Glee") as Arlo's defense lawyer, and even Christopher Reed (Filthy Phil from "Sons of Anarchy") as Daniel, the hill person who never gets a loaded weapon. (Reed was on "Enlightened" last week; he's busy.) Whether new or old to the series, all were used well, and for the right amount of time so it didn't feel overcrowded. Constable Bob, for instance, moved the plot along and hearkened back to the events of the season premiere, but he didn't follow Raylan up the hill just because it might be amusing to put Oswalt and Goggins in a scene together.
There's restraint at work even in an episode like this that's overflowing with memorable performances and big plot moves, and I am very excited to see what happens next — and who turns up to be a part of it.
Some other thoughts:
* "Kin" also resolves the question of where Ellen May disappeared to and why, and makes clear that she still had no idea what Colton was up to. I am officially worried for Shelby now, though, as it's difficult to see a circumstance where he Boyd forgives an attempt to bring him down. Though if they get rid of Jim Beaver, the show has to bring in someone else from "Deadwood." What's Brad Dourif up to?
* Natalie Zea's return almost got lost in the shuffle, but I appreciate the emotional place that relationship seems to be in right now: they're both cordial, but Winona has no illusions about what Raylan is and isn't going to be able to do for her and the baby. (Note that he even starts bragging about the money he's been saving, an episode after we know it was all turned into chickens.)
* I liked how the camera kept circling the table as Wynn and Boyd faced off, like the two of them are predators probing each other for a weakness. I do wish it could have been a single tracking shot, though, rather than one with edits, but I don't know how practical that would be with the budget and schedule involved.
* Back in season 2, I noted an odd homage to the movie "Silverado" with the name chosen for a business on the show. We may have gotten another one tonight, as Raylan tells the lead hill person that he doesn't want to kill him, "And you don't want to be dead," which is a line Danny Glover memorably says in the film.
* I'm not that up on my Young Adult literature, but was Tim describing an actual book?
So enjoy a little of Bullock and Hearst and then tell me: what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org