Last week, Justified pulled off one of the best episode they’ve ever done, as the Marshalls had to get very clever in order to usher the newly capture Drew Thompson out of a Gauntlet-style ambush. Tough guys said tough things. Patton Oswalt took a severe beating and killed a guy. It was tremendous fun.
Now that Shelby/Drew is in federal custody, the season really only has one loose plot point left, and that would be poor Ellen May, who’s been abandoned with Elston Limehouse in Noble’s Holler. With Shelby insisting on Ellen May’s safety as a part of his plea deal and testimony, and Boyd wanting to make sure Ellen May can no longer testify against his criminal enterprise, everybody was trying to get the reformed hooker.
This culminated in a chase from Noble’s to the late Preacher Billy’s church, where Tim finally had his inevitable showdown with Colton while Ellen May finally stared down Ava and forced Ava to blink. If there’s anything this show gets consistently, gloriously right, it is figuring out ways to take staples of westerns (in this case a High Noon gunfight) and update them into a modern setting. The Tim/Colton scene was great, as was Tim’s earlier quoting Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive.
If Justified has a weakness for me, it’s a lack of dramatic tension at times. I had a similar reaction to The Avengers last summer; I loved the characters and the banter, but I never felt anybody was ever in any actual danger. Everybody on Justified is so Elmore Leonard cool and unflappable in moments of true duress that I never really fear for anybody’s safety. Raylan Givens is so preternaturally competent (almost psychic) that it seems impossible that any real harm can come to him. But, tonight, I was generally fearful for several characters’ well being, which is something Justified doesn’t often bother with or connect on. Suspense is pretty nifty.
And, the closing scene, in which a returning, former regular cast member was clearly and cluelessly in harm’s way, had me crawling out of my skin. Talk about mortal danger! The loose plot pieces are all safely in custody, but the bad guys have one more devious play to make, and it’s going to lead to what I hope is a great season finale.