The weird thing about reviewing a TV show on a week-to-week basis is you can never be commenting on the big picture. It’s like reviewing a movie in 15-minute chunks instead of looking at the whole thing. One episode may seem slow and inconsequential only to have had enormous significance in the 13 or 22-part story the series is telling.
Tonight, Justified gave us one of those payoff nights that you can’t see week-to-week. Tonight, all the trees became a forest as Graham Yost and his writing staff threw a bunch of puzzle pieces into the air and watched them land in pretty much perfect place.
For starters, we finally found out who Drew Thompson was and, minus some of the heavy-handed clues that got thrown in last week, it was mostly a surprise. Also, it makes sense. I hate it when the least likely candidate winds up being the culprit, but the lead-up wasn’t properly written. My mom used to be a big Murder She Wrote fan. You could always tell who the killer was going to be in the first 15 minutes. It was going to be the person who seemed least likely, which gives the element of surprise during the big reveal. But, it’s totally hollow if the groundwork didn’t make sense. One of the great murder mystery reveals I’ve ever seen was on the first season of Veronica Mars. When Lilly Kane’s killer was revealed, my first reaction was genuine surprise followed a few seconds later by, “Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.” While not strong, tonight’s Drew reveal gave me a similar feeling.
Simultaneously, all of the other moving parts involving Ellen May, Colton, Tim, the late Preacher Billy, and his sister clicked into their proper places. With only three episodes left in the season, it’s going to be a race between Raylan, Boyd, and the Dixie Mafia to find an on-the-lam Drew Thompson.
Character moments are big with me. I especially liked the moment where Hunter told Raylan of a time when Arlo had defended Raylan’s mother’s honor. Arlo may be dead and we know that Raylan is essentially the lawman side of the same coin occupied by his outlaw father, but it was a great moment for Raylan to re-evaluate how he feels about the old son-of-a-b—h.
The chessboard is set and the pieces are all in place as the series rushes to the finish line. One thing that can always be said about this show is that they know how to do endings. These last three should be sweet.