Justified "The Kids Aren't All Right" Review: Everybody's Hustlin'

By Tim Surette

Jan 15, 2014

Justified S05E02: "The Kids Aren't All Right" 

First, a bit about Loretta. Of all the scamps and scoundrels scurrying 'round Harlan County, it's orphan teen Loretta who may be the most dangerous. Fully aware that a teenage girl can get away with a lot more than a toothless methhead hick can, all five-feet-whatever of little Loretta has been one of the few Harlan Country residents who can stand toe-to-toe with Raylan Givens. And she came back in "The Kids Aren't All Right," the first time we'd seen her in, gosh, about a season? I think she stopped by for a quick visit in Season 4, if I recall correctly. And it's great that she came back, because Loretta is one of my favorite Justified characters. But more importantly, I'm just happy any time the ridiculously talented Kaitlyn Dever is relieved of her Last Man Standing duties. 

It's also great that she returned because she brings out something different in Raylan. Though she's still more or less the same character she's always been—a troublemaker in need of a daddy—this time around, things changed a bit with her "stepfather" Raylan. Raylan is no longer just a father figure, he's a father (with a figure, right ladies?) to his own child. Seeing him deal with Loretta takes on a new meaning now, as it gives us a peek into Raylan the dad if he would ever own up to being a dad. And you know what? I think he'd make a great dad. He punished Loretta when she needed to be punished, but he was also in awe of her maturity and craftiness, as if he was proud of the fact that she nearly pulled off a mega-heist and was confident that she'd be smart enough to impress even more when she got older. "In the future, do us a favor," he said as she walked away after using him to get out of her own difficult situation, "Go easy on us, will ya?" This is THE Raylan Givens saying that to, what, a 15-year-old girl? 


Yes, Harlan is full of hustlers of all ages and genders, and that fact was all over "The Kids Aren't All Right." This episode was one of those busy affairs where most of the criminal calamity of a standalone story can be traced back to one person—in this case, it was Loretta first trying to scam one of the South's biggest drug dealers, and then trying to scam her own boyfriend—and the joy of watching came from seeing all the perturbed parties make their way toward convening in an abandoned parking lot for a final showdown. No shots were fired, but lots of pieces were moved into place. There were old characters (Loretta; Hot Rod Dunham) and new ones (guest-stars Wood and Steve Harris as Hot Rod's muscle men; Loretta's boyfriend Derrick), yet they intertwined like they'd known each other all along, and as usual, it was up to Raylan to jump right into the fray and play referee. And through every despicable twist and turn of each character, all we wanted was to get more time with all of them. I'd watch a show with the Harris brothers' characters at the center, wouldn't you? This was quintessential Justified, and a great case that the series could easily survive as more of a procedural, with Raylan cuffing a new weirdo each week. 

Also getting her hustle on was Mara, the comatose Paxton's sexy mail-order bride. Every character in Justified's world is willing to use the misfortune of others for their own ill-gotten gain, and Mara brokering a pact with Mr. Boyd Crowder was as sleazy as it gets. Three hundred large and she won't just shut her mouth about Boyd's murder attempt on her husband, but she'll take that mouth all the way back to her Motherland. What do you know, another new player comes out of nowhere to screw someone's life up. Yet simple blackmail isn't interesting enough for Justified, so at the end of the episode, Paxton woke up and a new problem presented itself: How do Boyd and Mara, now strangely in cahoots even though Mara is the card-holder, keep Paxton quiet about what really happened? And will Mara be pressured into implicating Boyd after her run-in with Officer Asshole (no relation to Officer Stick Up His Ass)? With the police already sniffing around, the "accidental" demise of either Mara or Paxton would only bring the pigs around, and with Ava in prison and a drug empire to get off the ground again, Boyd doesn't have the time to serve time.


And if that wasn't enough for Boyd—this is NOT Boyd's season so far—his heroin pushers were getting antsy about not having any product to sell, so much so that a town-hall-style meeting was called at Boyd's bar. The Canadian shipment was still a few days out, the natives were getting restless, and one particularly scummy dealer by the name of Cyrus got a little wordy with a crack hoe and told her that Boyd's shipment would arrive soon. Next thing we knew, Boyd showed up to the meet and found nothing but corpses and bullet holes when all he wanted to see was a huge pile of heroin. It's unclear whether Cyrus and the crackbitch with the Pop Rocks blowjob trick are involved, but it's the only lead we have at the moment, so I'm declaring one or both of them guilty as charged. 

And while Raylan was busy rescuing his not-a-daughter Loretta and making arrangements to sleep with her social worker, Allison and Boyd spent the episode stepping in deeper and deeper shit, and what I assume to be this season's main arc (the Crowes) took one baby step forward: Darryl Jr. arrived in Harlan and showed up Dewey's House of Carnal Delights. And so the trouble begins for Raylan, Harlan, and Dewey, if the look on Dewey's face was any indication. 


"The Kids Aren't All Right" welcomed us back to Harlan while the Crowes settled into their new stomping grounds. But it was more than just an intermission. Each storyline ended at the perfect time, leaving us all to wonder what's next. Will Hot Rod return to cause more trouble? Will his two cronies (Wood and Steve Harris's characters) be back? What's next for Boyd both with his Mara situation and the drug robbery? What is Art snooping around for? Did Raylan get laid? In many ways, this felt just as much like a season premiere as last week's "A Murder of Crowes," and in every way, it felt just as good. 



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– Will Hot Rod Dunham let Raylan off that easy and stay out of Harlan? Or will he become a minor problem that Raylan takes care of this season?

– Crib upgrade! Raylan goes from college bar attic to palatial mansion with a bowling alley in the basement. If Allison somehow didn't sleep with Raylan right then, she is a stronger woman than I. (Also, I'm not a woman but I probably would have slept with Raylan in that scenario.)

– Speaking of Allison, how are we all feeling about Amy Smart being on Justified? Can she hang? 

– What's the deal with Art's phone call? Is he digging into Raylan's business regarding Sammy Tonin? And what kind of trouble will Raylan get into when Art finds out that Raylan orchestrated Nicky Augustine's murder at the airfield?



HEARD 'ROUND HARLAN

Because Justified is stuffed with great dialogue, each week, I'll post my favorite lines right here. 

Raylan: "So... more than a hundred bucks?"

Asshole cop: "Maybe this is just a language-barrier thing. What does skinny, medium height, with dark, spiky hair and big shiny teeth mean where you're from? Because here in America, it means that piece of shit right there."

Raylan: "If you need anything, just ask for Officer Stick-Up His Ass, he'll be happy to help."

Dewey: "This here's Dewey Crowe's whorehouse, and Dewey Crowe's whorehouse ain't gonna have no fatties running around."

Raylan: "So what held you back, high school diploma?"

Raylan: "You're breaking up with Loretta. And do it like a gentleman, huh? Make her feel like she's too good for you. Tell her being with someone like you is just gonna hold her back." Derrick: "We talking about the same Loretta here?"

Boyd: "I think if I'm going to smoke I'm going to do it the old-fashioned way."

Raylan: "My general rule is you keep talking, I put you in the trunk."

Raylan: "You get in the weed business with teenagers and it's their fault when something goes wrong? You the type of fella who walks under a flock of birds and is surprised when he ends up with shit on his face?"

Raylan: "I'll kill four of you before you even clear your weapons, and I'll take my chances with the other two. And you see this star? That's gonna make it legal. Now, do we have an understanding here?"

Raylan: "Derrick, I got a loaded gun, get out of my car."


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  • bothcats Jan 23, 2014

    I actually enjoyed watching this episode more than the premiere!

    Raylan stood up to "Hot Rod Dunham", Steve and Wood Harris were spectacular, Loretta's return was just what Raylan needed, Boyd was eloquent as always and walked in to save Wynn Duffy at the perfect moment, Dewey got to be Dewey, AND there was Tim and Rachel! One satisfied customer here.

  • sofia2173 Jan 22, 2014

    Loved every minute of it but maybe next time more Tim please!

  • JT_Kirk Jan 18, 2014

    This is another generous review to a lackluster episode in a lackluster season. I'm not sure I'm going to stay with this show anymore, I thought I'd just ride it out until the end of the final season next year, but honestly after the premiere and now this episode, there's nothing left but shallow noise hiding under the beats of past seasons.

    None of the characters this episode felt like they existed outside the story whatsoever, and the situations were so stilted and ridiculously over-the-top that they just held no weight at all. Boyd is more over-the-top than ever, slingin' a million bucks in dope and intimidating witnesses and lying to Ava and on and on with no sense of what he stands for anymore or what drives him. All of Harlan, all of Kentucky itself really, felt like it was inhabited exclusively by drug dealers and addicts. Nobody here felt like they were a human being who was nice to his or her goldfish when the camera wasn't on them, not even the sheriff deputy who supposedly is trying to do the right thing. All that's left is Raylan's swagger and hat.

  • tobsh Jan 19, 2014

    While I usually agree with your thoughts on most things television, I can't really see any truth to your criticism here. Maybe you got into the show for the wrong reasons - in my opinion it just keeps getting better. The whole point of this show is to put Raylan into situations with bad guys and paint a picture of Harlan, Kentucky as dark and criminal, if you will, as possible. Why show the White-Picket-Fence people of Kentucky if they don't bring anything to the story? And where exactly did past seasons go a different way? These aren't, by the way, rhetorical questions. I'd like to hear your opinion on this.

    Now for this particular episode: before the credits I thought something was off, yet immediately after, Justified returned to what makes me see it as the best show on television now that Breaking Bad is gone. Incredibly well crafted dialogue, highly nuanced performances, great characters who immediately have a firm grip on their scenes without lenghty introductions and - which is often understated - beautiful cinematography.

    My only criticism is a mainstay on my part, namely that Tim, Rachel and Art - well established characters - are underused due to the dilemma of newer characters taking up much screen time - that I still love. The latter, though, seems to be getting addressed with his digging into the Nicky Augustine murder.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 19, 2014

    I got into Justified for the character of Raylan Givens, U.S. Marshal. The first 6 episodes of Justified were really tight, Raylan has a job and it isn't all about Harlan, Boyd wasn't the main character (Boyd having been written to die in the pilot, just as he did in the short story, was so liked by the producers that they brought him back but only at the time as a supporting player), people in Harlan county weren't only killers and druggies, it was interesting. There was a Marshal service that did Marshal stuff. And then after the back-end pickup on season 1, it started becoming this Boyd Crowder soap opera that is now so over-the-top that it's ridiculous. Harlan county has 30k people in it total, and in the last 2 seasons not one of them wasn't a criminal, a junkie, a whore, or a corrupt cop and/or politician. Arlo went from being a worn-out retired small-time con man to a former drug-dealing gangster.

    Remember when criminals on this show used to be interesting people with lives outside of what we saw, that Elmore Leonard sparkle that makes his stories so unique? Now these criminals exist solely to make bad decisions that get them shot at, at no point did Wynn Duffy feel like a guy who made choices involving anything other than drugs this time. Loretta, does she go to school anymore, does she do anything other than deal weed? Does her boyfriend exist outside a cliche room for a teen weed dealer, does he go to church or something? Even Mags Bennett was worried about more than just dealing drugs, she was worried about the community (and was a hypocrite for the way she behaved, ultimately) - if these ills are harming the community, we need to see who exists in that community to be worthy of saving by our heroes.

    There was an article recently about how Marshals Tim and Rachel weren't going to get the same expanded roles that they did last season, remember last season when they had thoughts and lives outside of existing around Raylan? That's the sort of thing I miss, that's where last season shined, where characters felt more complete and unique and made choices based on more than just what we saw on the screen. That's missing so far from this season. Art? Art used to be my favorite character! Now where is he? He's just a plot device to get Raylan more trouble.

    Thanks for reading and responding, good to have a real conversation about the show instead of just vapid shouting matches the way the internet usually does.

  • tobsh Jan 19, 2014

    I'm glad to hear we're like-minded about the internet dulling down conversations. We succumb to one-word comments all too often on the web. But let's cut to the chase:

    On Raylan: Isn't he the most interesting character he's ever been this season? In season one he was an unbending, nigh-untouchable fellow who hardly second-guessed himself or was more than one shade of gray. That's how he was introduced in the first scene, that's how he stayed for many episodes and it was great. Sure, he had his own, questionable brand of justice but he was still the U.S. Marshall who got his bad guy and went to sleep at night with a clear conscience.
    By contrast, in season four he became a much more ambiguous, less straight-forward character - and I think the writers want to continue this thought this season. We saw cracks in his façade when he was faced with Arlo being a much more serious criminal than he - and we - thought as well as Raylan doing jobs on the side in order to provide for his child even though it was illegal. This culminated in his actions in the season finale that can be taken as reprehensible or creditable and is being picked up by Art this season. I like to think he doesn't go to sleep that easily anymore, and that's what Breaking Bad taught us makes (some, arguably) main characters great.

    Ultimately, I guess, we need to ask ourselves: Is Justified about Raylan or about a badass Marshall? If you think it's about the latter, then yes, I understand you are dissatisfied. I, however, still find the show immensely intriguing - maybe more than ever - even if it became more about the main character and his relationships in Harlan. A trait, by the way, that often seems to come up once the star takes up a producing position. But that's another discussion.

    On Boyd and other criminals: It seems you dislike Boyd taking up a sort of second main character part. Unfortunately, I have never read Elmore Leonard so I can't comment on his stories. However, if you are with me on the previous paragraph, I think it makes sense to elevate him to a counterpart to Raylan, to illuminate the choices these two not-so-different people do to achieve what they want. I find Boyd's scenes amazingly dense, intelligent and thrilling.
    I do agree that Wynn Duffy needs to become a more-dimensional and broad character if he is going to stay on the show. He served a good purpose back in season three when he was the local link for Robert Quarles but now he's little more than another mobster. Regarding new(-ish) characters from season five I believe we need to give it more time to develop. Notwithstanding, it seems to me your problem is of a more general nature and I hear you. Yet, as I said in my previous post about Tim, Rachel and Art, it might just be that those scenes you ask for were abandoned in the writer's room or lost in the cutting room due to episodes being too jammed already. Perhaps the writers are getting too caught up in writing their trademark ornate dialogue that they leave other elements of a great drama behind. I still love the dialogue.

    Maybe that's what still sets it apart from being an absolute great; its relative narrow-mindedness on scumbag criminals and the good guys. Maybe it's just not a societal study but simply an account of a U.S. Marshall's life and struggles with criminals and we need to approach it as such.
    I understand your frustration but cannot share it and hope you won't abandon the show just yet. Its viewership is too underpopulated already.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 22, 2014

    I haven't seen Raylan be particularly interesting, but I consider character integrity to be more interesting than just throwing things at the screen to see what sticks. Season One Raylan was the type of guy who wanted to bring them in alive, but ended up trapping them into getting themselves shot to death - he didn't suffer any crap, and he believed in his choices, which ultimately is what got him in trouble. Season 4 Raylan is a piece of garbage half the time, he lives above a bar, he screws around getting himself into trouble, he chases cash, he is a "hot mess" but yet somehow still consistently good at his job - to me, that's not character integrity, it's a soap opera in disguise. His behavior isn't a facade, he can't be the type of person who can stand strong in one area of his life and become such a train wreck in another - he can slip some, but to what degree does it start to become too much? Is he going to put a truck up on blocks planning to work on it on weekends and start screwing hookers, yet remain exemplary at work? That's the behavior of a lesser person, someone who doesn't get a job as a Marshal, you wouldn't expect Tim to be a piece of crap like that, that would be a jarring shift. I just don't buy that Raylan, the guy who puts on that hat every day, is questioning his lot in life to the point where it's creating self-destruction, that's asking a lot and showing nothing to back it up.

    The show isn't just about Raylan, but he is the main character. However, the show is about the world that Raylan inhabits, and less and less of that world feels honest lately, characters no longer have a home life and a work life, criminals no longer care about their kin or even their neighborhoods or even their dogs or cars, there are no characters trapped in the middle anymore, the show is less shades of gray than it ever has been.

    Boyd is a terrible character, Boyd is an impossible character who gets away with everything. At least in season 2 he was a small-fry, now he's magically whatever level of criminal the plot needs him to be - he can barely keep it together and yet he's doing deals with the heads of major crime syndicates, throwing around a million bucks - and his motivation seems to be beyond nebulous into some drug-dealing back-woods fantasyland where everybody sells and everybody buys and there are no consequences until Boyd can wriggle out. He's as shallow as it gets, he doesn't even talk about his terrible father anymore, and he barely cares about his former prize, Ava, who is taking the rap for him while he's out committing more idiot crimes that should get him locked up yet magically don't. You think the cop who is willing to drag a witness into the street by her hair is going to have qualms about tossing someone in the clink overnight? Boyd's scenes are the facade, and it's only Goggins' acting talent that keeps that facade from revealing how badly it's peeled and chipped away by this season.

    This show is as far away from a US Marshal's life as it could be, this is fantasy now and the question is how much fantasy can the series take before it crumbles under the weight of that. Perhaps that's the reason that season 5's premiere was nearly a half a million viewers lighter, I certainly don't feel like watching this week's episode right away the way I did with past seasons. The Crowes are so far incredibly boring and really clumsily cast and acted.

  • dref22 Jan 17, 2014

    I didn't think that the season premiere was strong, but omg this week's episode was great. Perfect lines and everything. I agree, Raylan is going to be a great dad.

  • klotensen Jan 16, 2014

    This show is just the best.
    Raylan Givens continues to be the last existing male role model on television, Loretta, psycho sheriff, boxed-in Boyd(always the best!), the Harris brothers were so spot on justified-ish I couldn't stop grinning even if I wanted to.

  • borgsblueyes Jan 16, 2014

    Raylan: "I'll kill four of you before you even clear your weapons, and I'll take my chances with the other two. And you see this star? That's gonna make it legal. Now, do we have an understanding here?"
    I really wanted to see this.

  • peterspoor33 Jan 23, 2014

    "I'm telling you this story because I want you to understand that I was prepared to protect myself from anyone coming after me and that was even before I became a Marshall and trained to be a deadshot at Glencoe."

    Where's Tim?

    More scenes for James Le Gros who is amazing

    Once you face down a coal train...

  • borgsblueyes Jan 23, 2014

    Where is Tim? I was just saying he hasn't been in the series yet :(

  • AndreaMcCooey Jan 15, 2014

    Absolute perfection, every single week.
    Raylan is yum. I'd sleep with him even if he was still living in that motel thingy from season 1. Damn!

  • bmill2 Jan 15, 2014

    As usual the pace and elocution of the dialogue of this show is the best of anything on tv. Loving the way things are being set into place this season. Always love seeing the Loretta/Raylan dynamic and what that brings out in him. And I think Allison can hang. She is flirty and can call Raylan on his crap but doesn't have the weighed down baggage he had with Winona. All in all excited to watch this season play out.

  • Mate Jan 15, 2014

    Thank goodness. This episode restored my faith in the season. It isn't going to be just Rappaport and his awful accent and overall acting ability that we are going to have to deal with.

    The Wood brothers? Excellent addition. HR coming back for another round is also a fantastic addition to the cast as well. I am surprised they haven't tossed him in sooner.

    Amy Smart, yes please. I have liked her since that one movie with James Van Der Beak about football in Texas and then again in Road Trip. She held her own with Raylan and I think will be a good addition as well.

    Loretta, I have missed her. I can't believe that the runners of this show let her get away and head to that show on ABC with the Tool Time guy. I always thought she would have been an excellent character. And she is, she is arguably the smartest character of the show. Her dealing with the little douchey boyfriend and HR was hilarious.

    The only thing that was off was the Deputy. He just isn't believable as a wannabe badass. And his comment to Mara that Boyd is afraid of him made me laugh uncontrollably. It is going to be fun to watch Boyd do something to him.

    Mara is interesting. I can't place where they are going to put her. I kind of see her siding up with Boyd and replace Ava for a bit. But I am not sure, she is an excellent broken character along with the rest of them.

    Great episode up until Rappaport showed back up again. I suppose it was too much to ask for to hope he crashed on the drive up to Lexington.

  • Sam20 Jan 16, 2014

    That deputy needs to be killed. I don't know how some characters like him and Dickie Bennett are still alive.

  • MarlboroMagpi Jan 15, 2014

    My favorite line this week "you are the type of fellow who walks under a flock of birds and get surprise when shit drops on your face !"

    I liked this episode better than last week. Would it be just fun if Lorletta ends up to be the Big Bad. Nah...it will not happen but it sure will be fun.

    I have never liked Boyd's character but strangely I am rooting for him this season. How much bad luck can a guy gets?

    I definitely know the feeling when an unwelcome relatives turns up ! Dewey was just about enjoying his life as boss !

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