Review: 'Justified' - 'The Kids Aren't All Right': The spirit of Mags Bennett
A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as Hitler has risen from the grave and is in my whorehouse...
This morning, FX made it official: next season of "Justified" will be the show's last. It's the kind of news that's much easier to take when we're only on the second episode of the current season — the series finale feels like a very long ways away at this point — and "The Kids Aren't All Right" offered both suggestions for how the show will do just fine over these last two seasons, but also hints of why Graham Yost and Tim Olyphant felt they didn't want to push the show past that point.
The Raylan-centric portions of "The Kids Aren't All Right" are terrific, packed with memorable characters both familiar (Kaitlyn Dever playing Loretta for the first time in a while) and new (real-life brothers Wood and Steve Harris playing fictional brothers). As Raylan tried to untangle Loretta's mess with the drug dealers — before eventually remembering that Mags Bennett's surrogate daughter is among the more clever and capable human beings he knows — the episode crackled with comic energy, even as there was a genuine level of tension to Raylan's dealings with the brothers, Loretta's boyfriend and the rest. The chemistry between Olyphant and Dever remains marvelous, and makes me wish that "Last Man Standing" had more room in its schedule for her to make these return visits, and there's this great scorpion-and-the-frog aspect to their relationship, where both of them can't resist their own nature, but where Loretta has figured out how to use Raylan's unbending self to her advantage.
"Justified" could certainly keep telling short stories like this for a long time to come, and have a blast doing so. But the show has also aspired to more than dark comic one-offs, and it's in the serialized parts where the wear and tear is a bit more noticeable.
I love Boyd Crowder. You love Boyd Crowder. Yost sure as heck loves Boyd Crowder. But "Justified" has had to keep Boyd in something of a holding pattern for years. The inevitable arc of the show involves Raylan and Boyd as full-on enemies one last time. Under certain circumstances, that might just involve sending Walton Goggins off to make movies for a few years. But because Goggins is under contract, and such a popular ball of charisma, "Justified" tries to come up with things for him to do every year that are colorful enough to please the audience but not so colorful that they would force a Raylan/Boyd confrontation a minute earlier than necessary. And for the most part that approach has worked. But even with Wynn Duffy as his new business partner, I'm finding all the machinations so far this season involving drug shipments, Ava's incarceration and Lee Paxton's testimony not worth the effort to keep track of it, nor some of the time spent on it. In general, I have faith in Yost and company and figure they'll make this work as we get deeper into the season, but the mandate to keep Boyd occupied is more apparent so far than it usually is.
And Art's investigation into the events surrounding Nicky Augustine's murder is something that becomes a lot more interesting if we know the end is relatively close. As something Art looks into at, say, the midpoint of the series, it has to be waved away, possibly in a convoluted "Sons of Anarchy" fashion. As something near the conclusion of the series, it's entirely possible Art could follow the mystery all the way to its logical — and, for Raylan, unemployment (or possibly jail) inducing — conclusion. There's tension to it now, rather than questions of "Okay, so how's Raylan gonna slip out of this particular mess?"
I'm going to enjoy the ride from here to the end of season 6. But I suspect things are going to be more enjoyable knowing that things are now all building to the big finish.
Some other thoughts:
* Have we actually heard Raylan use the phrase "ride the rap" before? "Riding the Rap" was the title of the second Raylan Givesn/Harry Arno novel Elmore Leonard wrote.
* This episode is the first shared screen credit I can find for Wood and Steve Harris, let alone the first time they've played brothers in a movie or TV show. How does it take this long for such a thing to happen? And can "Justified" bring them both back ASAP? Yet another win for the show's casting department.
* And still more interesting guests: Xander Berkeley from "24" as the money launderer whose house Raylan has moved into, and Amy Smart as Loretta's new social worker, and Raylan's latest love interest.
* The 10-day clock on Ava's trial suggests another tight timeline for the season, which I suppose is one way of putting off Art's impending retirement for the run of the show, regardless of how the Augustine investigation goes. "The Shield" and "Sons of Anarchy" have also frequently played with the amount of in-story time vs. real world time, so at this point, it may just be something in the water over there.
* Chekhov's Confederate Pistol: anyone want to set the over/under on which episode Raylan has to use the antique gun to stop a bad guy?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org