Justified "Whistle Past the Graveyard" Review: We're in a Slump

By Tim Surette

Mar 05, 2014

Justified S05E08: "Whistle Past the Graveyard"

I don't know about you, but I'd say Justified is in a bit of a slump, with "Whistle Past the Graveyard" making three sub-par episodes in a row. And most of what ails this sagging middle of Season 5 was just as evident this week as it was in last week's "Raw Deal": Raylan's got nothing to do, so he's taking care of odd jobs while the other ongoing stories take place on different planets. Justified's current separation of its characters has unfortunately shackled the season to a two-ton weight, which it's slowly dragging along behind it. There's nothing terribly exciting happening anywhere.

After saving Harlan from the county's most dangerous one-legged online-backgammon internet pirate last week, Raylan canceled his spontaneous vacation to Florida after Wendy Crowe called to tell him that Kendal had been abducted by his Uncle Jack. But there were two lies in that sentence: 1.) He wasn't really abducted because he went with Jack willingly, and 2.) Jack wasn't his uncle at all—Jack was his dad. And while that truth came out, we also learned that Wendy was his mother. That made a lot more sense than what we'd been led to believe, which was that the unseen Grandpa or Grandma Crowe (or both) got busy at the ripe old age of "too old to have kids" and had Kendal when the rest of his siblings were in their 20s. I kind of feel stupid for not suspecting that Wendy was Kendal's mom in the first place, but it did seem like Wendy wasn't always around for Kendal back in Florida, so I'll just blame her horrible job as a mother for throwing me off the scent.

It turned out that Jack was a bit of scumbag himself and had ripped a guy off to the tune of about $35,000 from some cash poker and craps games (a step up from online backgammon!). And when Michael, the ripped-off dude's mean old dad, came to collect, Jack took off, leaving Kendal to be kidnapped for the second time that day. Eventually Raylan caught up to everyone, punched Michael, and arrested both Michael and Jack. It really wasn't that eventful or tricky. 

What did give this week's story a little gas (as in petrol, not bean-and-cheese burrito) was Raylan's reason for deciding to help Wendy: She agreed to give Raylan dirt on what her brothers were up to so he could proceed to kick 'em out of the county. It was one of those "They're in Mexico, and I'll tell you the rest when we get Kendal back" kind of deals, except Wendy didn't have any more details to share and she promised Raylan she did just to string him along. So when Raylan—who canceled a trip to the Sunshine State with a bikini blonde to help Wendy out—came asking for intel and Wendy kind of shrugged her shoulders, Raylan let out an audible sigh of disappointment. I know how you feel, bro. This Kendal-napping was looking like an in to the overall story, but instead it fizzled out into another standalone adventure (assuming that nothing comes out of it in next week's episode).


Things were only slightly better for Boyd. Slightly. At least he and the Crowes' set out to return to the United States with those dead bodies that weren't supposed to be dead. Boyd hit a bit of a snag when some Mexican cops demanded payment for the safe passage of Boyd's heroin truck and then ended up taking the truck anyway, but that was easily solved when Boyd snuck all the heroin into the accompanying car the Crowes picked up. Problem solved! There was a lot of trust talk going on between Daryl and Boyd, but if you believed any of that, I have a bridge to sell you. Daryl had a guy he knew who could help them get the heroin across the border, but Jimmy found out that Daryl had always planned on using this guy before they even got into trouble. Meaning the Crowes' itchy trigger fingers at the end of "Raw Deal" were no accident at all, and Daryl was probably setting Boyd up for a grand old rip-off.  

Finally, Ava's jailhouse blues continued as she pursued new avenues to get heroin into jail and appease her protectors. The scam was to end up in the infirmary to get some facetime with a crooked nurse, but things got rocky when Ava had no idea how to be subtle about arranging a deal to smuggle in heroin. Great, now what was Ava going to do? Well, Ava was in luck because at the end of the episode, the nurse approached her in private and set things up after chastising her for her lack of discretion. Why a nurse would risk working with a woman who doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut, I'll never know.

Ava's story is a good example of how all three of this week's stories felt flat. They all had a goal, they all had a problem, but in the end, the desired outcomes just sorta happened. For Ava it was a nurse who didn't want to listen, for Boyd it was Mexican cops, and for Raylan it was his whole dang story. I'm guessing that a casting shakeup earlier in the season may have forced the writers to throw this season's story into quick-fix mode; if you weren't aware, Edi Gathegi, who played Baptiste the Haitian gator farmer, asked to be released from the show, so Justified got rid of him quickly by having Danny blast him in "Shot All to Hell" instead of telling whatever story they had planned for him. Not coincidentally, that was the last good episode of the season and the last time the Crowes felt like a threat and not just Boyd's lapdogs.

I hope that's indeed the case, and that we're in stall mode as Justified repositions itself for whatever it initially had planned. But there's still work to be done. Ava needs to get out of jail or the season needs to leave her alone completely, because her storyline feels like it's part of a separate show. Boyd and the Crowes need to get back to Kentucky ASAP because they're not doing any good down in Mexico (and what fun is Boyd if he's nowhere near Raylan?). And Raylan and Art need to be put in a confined space, because that's the only thing that's interesting about Raylan at the moment. But I don't see all that happening in the next episode, or maybe even the next two episodes. Justified has enough charm on its own to get through a few bumps here and there, but not for three episodes in a row. We're in a slump!  



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– I'm 'shipping Wendy and Raylan now. They're great together.

– That was Kyle Bornheimer as Uncle Jack. You might remember Bornheimer from a slew of failed sitcoms, including Worst WeekRomantically Challenged, and Perfect Couples. One of these days, he'll find a role that sticks. And seeing him play sleazy suits him. Let's stop casting him in rom-coms, okay networks?

– Raylan STILL hasn't gone to see his daughter. I thought this guy was cool.

– Milkin' that "caller number seven" joke, are we, Justified?



HEARD 'ROUND HARLAN

Boyd: "I don't care if it's up your ass or on your back, you're responsible for getting my dope across the border."


Jack: "How is Danny?"

Wendy: "He still wants to cut off your dick."


Raylan: "You know that T-shirt, I think you've mistaken me for— "


Wendy: "You are obsessed with my family after all."

Raylan: "Oh no, I think of them as cancer, and I'm just a doctor working on a cure."


Wendy: "He's my son. Jack is his father. I just thought you should understand."

Raylan: "Good lord, why?"


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  • dylanhicks33821 Mar 15, 2014

    The problem with this show right now is they have strayed way too far from what made it great, Raylon Givens. I don't care about any of the other people in the show. I do like Boyd but the show should not be about Boyd unless he is somehow involved with Raylon, I mean half of each episode deals with not only Boyd but his WIFE. Who cares what she is doing. The show used to totally revolve around Raylon and now we are lucky if we see him for twenty minutes an episode. There was a great show in the 70s called the Rockford Files which starred James Garner as a sly, quick witted PI who was great at solving crimes and looked great while doing it. Every single episode was about Rockford. Sure there were other characters that made it cool, but the show did not revolve around them, they certainly did not dedicate half of each episode to Rockford's police lieutenant friend or even worse his wife. If I have to sit through any more episodes which focus on Eva in prison and all of that other stuff I am going to stop watching, I watch to see Timothy Olyphant's brilliant portrayal of Raylon Givins, stop with all of the other stuff please!!!!!

  • c07111 Mar 06, 2014

    Ummm kind of at a loss here, normally I always have something good to say about my fav show but this weeks outing was "shrug" worthy. But something did standout for me, the Crowes have officially out-stayed their welcome, the whole lot of them except Dewey of course. But I don't consider Dewey a Crowe, but since Boyd is family less (his own doing), Dewey can become Boyd's kin. This was the second time this season I thought Raylan was an afterthought, isn't he the star of the show. Things to hope for in the future: The Harris Brothers return (Boyd should trade in the Crowes for them), Art gets over being pissed at Raylan; Ava either gets shanked or out of jail and supply Boyd with more kin; Boyd gets some respect back as the big baddie; Danny Crowe accidentally steps on a grenade; Raylan thinks out the box and goes against type with his women friends; All the Crowes take a boat ride to Florida on a leaky boat.

  • rcknrn Mar 06, 2014

    I have loved this show every season & had such high hopes for this season! I just kept holding out hope that something crazy was going to happen but, I also was halfway thru this episode when I had to finally admit it's going nowhere. I used to also LMAO at all the dry humor & have barely snickered lately. This episode had some promise when I saw William Forsythe as a bad guy because I know he's played some good bad guys in the past then to have him wasted in a nothing role & be taken out by just a punch in the back??? Now, I saw Eric Roberts in the previews for next week which also looked like he does nothing exciting. Why have name stars on the show & have them do nothing more than a cameo? Rappaport has been NO threat whatsoever. Even his crazy Brother hasn't done nothing since shooting the Haitian, which was the only shock for me this season & now (thanks to this review) I find out THAT wasn't even planned. My only hope now is that the next (& last) season gets back to Raylan vs. Boyd & the series goes out with a bang so we can forget how bad this season was!

  • creativeopinion Mar 06, 2014

    I can't explain it but when I see Wendy i think of Elsbeth Tascioni (The Good Wife). Both are smart and likable :).

  • borgsblueyes Mar 05, 2014

    Having read Graham Yost on the episode I'm worried that the writers haven't a clue what this season is about. That's how the show feels at the moment. This is my favourite show and I hate saying anything negative, but this week and last weeks episodes were really below par. All the double crossing with Boyd is getting irritating, but at least I know what he is about, unlike Raylan and Ava. Come on Justified, you are better than this. And while I'm at it, stop wasting Tim and Rachel, they've barely been in this season, especially Tim.

  • Mate Mar 05, 2014

    It is like someone watched season 1 -4 of Justified and said hey I got this. And then preceded to phone it in. The whole thing just feels off, missed opportunities. And the big bag of suck that is the Crowe Family with Rapaport dragging everything down.

    How in the world, do you take a phenomenal actor like William Forsythe and give him a bit freaking part. When you have one of the worst in Rapaport being a recurring character. How?! Who made that decision and who can we pay to kick them in the testicles? Forsythe can stand toe to toe with Goggins and give just as good as he gets.

    The only decent plots left are with Raylan and Wendy, because they are the only ones with any chemistry. And even a little bit with Kendal, if Kendal wasn't a giant douche he could have had just as good of a relationship with him as he did with Loretta. I get why Kendal is a douche, but buck up man, if you can't tell the good ones from the bad ones then you screwed. Raylan and Wendy never had it and it just didn't feel right and it is one of the more horrible aspects of this season.

    MAKE IT STOP.

    Oh but they won't. Why, because as I saw in the previews for the next episode. Eric Freaking Roberts is going to be on the next episode. Did the show runners lose a bet? We have Rapaport who can't act, and we have Roberts who can only over act and has been in more D level movies than anyone in the history of Moviedom. What happened to this show?!

  • Sam20 Mar 06, 2014

    I don't know about you, but I think that opening "Damn I hated this episode, and I mean hate," comment that you did on POI is how I felt about this episode.

    One more thing, you put Raylan and Wendy never had it. Did you mean Raylan and Allison never had it?

  • Mate Mar 06, 2014

    Oh, yea, I ment Allison. This is how much I dislike the show right now, I don't even bother to get the names right.

  • Grumpyclown Mar 05, 2014

    Solid, but not great episode.
    They seem to be trying to do too much - Boyds new drug source, Ava in prison, establishing the Crowes, Raylans romantic, familial and work strife - none of which are bad, but all could do with more time.

    From the start, Raylans romance was doomed, because thats the pattern every season - and now its over, they can concentrate on the other plots. So putting him and Wendy in a relationship now would be a step backward.

  • borgsblueyes Mar 05, 2014

    Raylan and Wendy is an awful idea. As bad as he is with women, I think even Raylan can see that.

  • AndreaMcCooey Mar 05, 2014

    I'm not sure I agree about a three-episode slump, but this was definitely a below-par episode.
    If the social worker character is gone for good though, then I can accept it being a necessary detour from the usual awesome.

  • MaxCorkle Mar 05, 2014

    I have been a huge fan of this series and of the Raylan Givens character which Timothy Olyphant wears so convincingly. But this episode was so slow and uninvolving and Raylan seemed so rudderless, not the anchor he's always been for this show. And where the heck is Raylan's hat? That hat is such an integral part of Raylan's elan, his brio. Maybe he lost his pizazz and his way when he lost his hat. Bring back the hat!

  • DavidJackson8 Mar 05, 2014

    I haven't noticeably disliked any of these past few episodes so it's hard for me to say it's in a slump, but I have noticed that for the past few, I have nothing to say about them afterwards. So sure, maybe it is in a slump. Thanks for the link to the EW article talking about Baptiste's death... I had no idea the actor had wanted out. I can see how that messes things up for the writers and their plan for the season. As far as I've heard, actors LOVE the chance to come on Justified... who wants to leave?! Heh.

  • 2muchbadTV Mar 06, 2014

    That's what I say. This is Justified at it's--granted--worst. It's still enjoyable for me and better than 95% of the other stuff on TV. It's not as captivating as it has been, but it's still plenty watchable, enjoyable, and still moves along more than most episodes TWD (which I mostly like, but people are like psycho for, so it makes me go "hmmm" when people fawn over that show but think Justified is "slow").

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