Justified "Kin" Review: Will This Season's Big Bad Please Step Up?

By Tim Surette

Feb 06, 2013

Justified S04E05: "Kin"

Those of us waiting for Justified's Season 4 bad guy to show his or her face (with or without teeth) have been disappointed so far. Billy the snake hugger is dead. Randall is halfway to a Florida prison right now. Limehouse has been minding his own BBQ business back at the holler. And unless Herbert West is living in Harlan County, it doesn't look like Mags Bennett or Robert Quarles will be back anytime soon.

A friend of mine is totally bummed about this, and I suspect he's the voice of a growing segment of Justified fans. He says Raylan is at his best when he has a formidable nemesis to toss wisecracks at while he strains against his personal version of the Marshal code, especially when the baddie is full of enough twisted personality to fill a whole season of Criminal Minds. It's a trusted formula that Justififed has moseyed away from this season, opting instead to focus on a cold case that Raylan's dad Arlo is somehow mixed up with. But is it working?

I say yes. But then again, I'm probably in a minority of those who think Justified would actually work as a by-the-numbers procedural, provided the show's setting and personalities all remained intact. NCIS: Harlan County? I'd watch the shit out of that. But "Kin" did give us at least some sort of nemesis, though maybe not in the fashion we're used to on Justified. Hello again, Boyd Crowder.

Boyd and Raylan have an interesting relationship, to say the least. In a real-world situation, Raylan would be a pretty terrible Marshal to let Boyd continue to operate whore-housing and drug-selling operations in his backyard. And in the television world, Boyd and Raylan have to happily coexist, with neither of them being the last hand on the baseball bat, since they're both integral to the show. It's a difficult task to keep their relationship believable, and I suspect a lot of us gloss over any problems that might arise because we prefer to see Boyd ruffling stuff up. Remember when he was in prison? We don't want that again. The solution for Justified since Season 1 has been to intertwine Boyd and Raylan's stories here and there, with the biggest connection being Boyd's employ of Arlo, Raylan's dad.

But "Kin" may turn that intertwining into knotting and tangling, what with the twist that both Raylan and Boyd are now looking for Drew Thompson, the mystery man at the center of the cold case. Boyd wants Drew because he'll get half of the heroin trade in Harlan County from Wynn Duffy if he can bring Drew in (except when Wynn says LOL JK). Raylan wants Drew a teensy bit because he's a Marshal and that's his job and mostly, I suspect, because Raylan is six-feet-some-inches of daddy issues who wants Arlo to stay caged. (Interestingly enough, both Raylan and Boyd, arguably Arlo's biological and adopted sons, respectively, want Arlo to stay in prison, probably reasoning that he can't screw their lives up if he's safe behind bars.)

Hot darn I'm looking forward to this, because any scene featuring both Raylan and Boyd is gold. Maybe it will be a match of wits and country connections, as we saw when they both ended up in the same hill-people pen after talking to Josiah (guest-star Gerald McRaney). Maybe it will be like a mini version of Cannonball Run as the two race each other from station to station in pursuit of Drew's fresh tracks. Justified certainly can do both. And though Boyd and Raylan's opposition isn't direct (it isn't a "him or me" situation), the consequences of either of them failing is substantial enough to give this scenario plenty of weight.

Drew isn't the only subject of a manhunt now. Ellen May is still out on the wild somewhere, as far as Colton is concerned, and holed up in Sheriff Shelby's place eating pizza and taters like they're having a children's sleepover party, as far as we're concerned. Justified creator Graham Yost promises that Ellen May is an integral part of the story this season, and now that Shelby is getting involved, her importance has quadrupled. We still don't know how much she's told Shelby, but we do know that Shelby is aware that Boyd wants her dead. Given that Shelby clearly is not happy with his own relationship with Boyd, I'd expect him to hook up with Raylan somehow and use Ellen May and her knowledge of Delroy the Pimp's murder to his advantage. That'll teach Ava to throw a druggie hooker out in the cold.

After last week's enjoyable and largely conclusive episode, "Kin" pulled back the slingshot to load a set-up episode that swept another layer of dust from the case. But we're five episodes into the season and only have guesses as to where things are headed. Some viewers might have trouble with the lack of a big bad, but that allows Justified to tell more of the smaller stories it's so good at.


– Guest-star city! It was like a super-reunion tonight, with a whole buncha recurring characters and guest-stars showing up. Sheriff Shelby (Jim Beaver), Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt), Daniel the Hill Boy (Sons of Anarchy's Christopher Reed), Nick Augustine (Mike O'Malley), Agent Barkley (Stephen Toblowsky), Josiah (Gerald McRaney), that teen troublemaker from the season premiere, AND the big return of Winona (Natalie Zea).

– Regarding the return of Winona, I'm not sure why she came back other than to remind us that Raylan's baby problem is very real and that he's not ignoring it.

– There is the possibility that Theo Tonin could end up being the big bad guy this season, but we haven't even seen his face, so I'd consider him more of an unseen threat. I think we just have to accept that this is the big mystery season.

– The Hill People thing only sorta worked for me. I loved the idea, but the threat never seemed palpable, even when they were walking Boyd and Raylan to the mineshaft. Justified has definitely done more with characters who didn't come pre-packaged with cannibalistic backstories. And all I could think of was "Lothar of the Hill People," which isn't a bad thing.

– So far, one person's been stabbed, an FBI agent committed suicide, another FBI agent was murdered, a woman was kidnapped, teens stole, and a guy cut off his own foot over this mystery bag. This is one important bag.

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • KayWatkins Feb 10, 2013

    I really wish they had shown that Winona scene a couple of episodes ago. Showing it AFTER Raylan was screwed over by the bartender makes it look like he didn't care until now. Winona said he'd never been to any of the appointments. NOW you decide to make an appearance? NOT cool Raylan.

    Other than that, I don't have a problem with the lack of a "big bad" right now. I'm just glad Boyd and Raylan finally got to share a scene and that Bobby uh Shelby got the balls to attempt to sever his ties to Boyd.

  • tvgirl17 Feb 09, 2013

    I don't really care about the lack of a visible, obvious, evil antagonist because the show is dripping with tension and there are plenty of wheels turning for and against characters. I am most nervous about Boyd and what will happen if/when Drew Thompson turns up. Any scene that puts Boyd and Raylan together is priceless. The actors have great chemistry and I love Justified's sense of humor. Come on, though. The characters on this show are so strong and there are enough balls in the air, we don't need some grand Villain wearing a black hat to ride in just to create drama that's already there.

  • Left4Ed Feb 08, 2013

    All I have to say is... Since there is a track record for supporting cast members to win Emmys for their portrayal of antagonists, I would like to nominate Jere Burns. If anyone is gonna be the Big Bad, or a shade of it at any rate, it's him. He's the snake in the grass, the common denominator for all the story lines, and his cool as a cucumber reaction to Barkley getting shot was just awesome.

  • tnetennba Feb 07, 2013

    I just want to say that I really like Boyd's new sidekick (Colton Rhodes), and the actor who plays him (Ron Eldard). He hasn't been in a lot that I've seen. I looked him up at imdb, but I'm still not even sure why he looks familiar. Apparently he was in Super-8, so that's probably where I've seen him.

  • Marburg66 Feb 07, 2013

    I got a huge kick out of seeing the next Deadwood reunion with Timmy & Gerald "Boy the Earth talks to" McRaney....but I'm still pining for Ian "Swidgen" McShane to pop his head up this season too.

  • ben45tpy Feb 07, 2013

    Now all I can think about is how awesome it would be if they could do NCIS: Harlan County, because you know if they're doing a naval show in land-locked Kentucky that they must be really committed.
    Hill people were a lot of fun this episode and like some of the commenters below I think that building up to an unseen big bad is a great idea and will give this season a distinctive flavour.

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 07, 2013

    My favorite Justified is still season 3 but this season is comparable to season 2. I am a little confused about the mystery though. My questions are

    1)if Drew Thompson gave Arlo all the cocaine and went up to the hills, how come Arlo did not become a rich man?

    2)Why did Arlo sent the young couple via Josiah to his house to get the bag from the wall?

    3) So is the guy who fall of the parachute in the pilot Drew Thompson?

    Some of these guys talk real fast with strong accent, sometimes its hard to follow.

  • klotensen Feb 07, 2013

    I love this season. At least they are going for something different this season, not the same procedure every year... Plus there are so many fantastic "baddies" this year and there is so much going on right now that Tim's friend might be just a little bit too wasted to realize so.
    BTW who cut off Josiah's foot? The Dixie mafia, Drew or is Josiah Drew and he did it himself?
    And how awesome was Duffy's face when the Tomlin guy shot his friend(the FBI guy) in the head?

  • DavidJackson8 Feb 07, 2013

    Just to add to that list of guest stars: Bonita Friedericy, who Chuck fans may have recognized.

    Cool episode overall. I don't have much to say about it aside from loving that list of guest stars in this one episode -- especially O'Malley, who I've been a fan of since Yes, Dear.

    Raylan, after cuffing Boyd to the tree: "You talkin' bout 'no sense of humor'. This is funny. I know I'm laughin'." The fact that he delivered that line so dryly and with almost no humor made it hilarious.

  • DavidJackson8 Feb 07, 2013

    And now I look down and see WavSlave already mentioned Bonita Friedericy. Oh, well.

  • hanktuco Feb 07, 2013


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