Justified is clearly The Raylan Givens Show when you get down to it, but the series is so good at creating characters that its episodes are always much more fun when others join the party. And considering how much of a huge penis Raylan has been this season, whether it's because he's antsy over his imminent fatherhood or weepy over Winona bailing on him or grumpy just because Raylan is an angry, angry man, I'm get worried when Raylan isn't in the spotlight.
What struck me about "Measures," last night's fantastic episode of Justified, is that everyone got ample screen time yet the space never felt cluttered. Pieces moved all around the board, but the set-up was just as engrossing as the pay-off. Think about all the characters who had memorable scenes last night: Raylan, Quarles, Boyd, and Limehouse, obviously. But Dickie came back in a big way, Errol was huge, Wynn made some BIG plays, Art offered Art-isms, plus Tim, Rachel, Napier, Ellen May, two Detroit mobsters, and the big boss himself Theo Tonin (the always awesome Adam Arkin, a.k.a. Sons of Anarchy's Ethan Zobelle) all made their cases. After several episodes of building and building tension—in fact, as I said last week, a few too many episodes of tension building—"Measures" flipped the switch and turned on the magnets for all of our characters to descend on Noble's Holler for what promises to be a bloody final two episodes.
The big deal in this episode was the rise of new players as we approach the endgame. Errol previously showed signs of wanting to step out on his own, going so far as to order Tanner to hit Boyd's Oxy operation without the blessing of Errol's boss Limehouse. Errol has always thought Limehouse's ways are antiquated, and when Dickie offered a proposal to partner up to forcefully withdraw his money from the Bank of Limehouse, Errol agreed and sealed his own fate to either a life of riches or a life that's going to end sometime in the next two episodes. Was it a good idea to go against a cleaver-wielding boss who feeds his enemies to pigs? Nope. But this was always in his cards, and it was set up well. Power is always shifting in Harlan, and those with the guts to grab it are the ones who get it. Also: Is anyone else starting to really like Errol? I don't like his chances to survive the season, but I'm certainly enjoying him while he's here.
Another dude who saw an opportunity and took it was Wynn Duffy. I've always thought of Wynn as little more than an errand boy, but he's actually been more calculating than I gave him credit for. Wynn is a leech who constantly puts himself in a position to suck power from whatever host he can latch onto, slowly moving on to more promising opportunities. It was jarring to see him pull a gun on the mobsters when they paid him a visit because Wynn usually has a gun pointed in his direction or is taking verbal haymakers from Quarles/Raylan, but this is a new Wynn who's sick of sipping on the leftovers from Quarles' glass. With Quarles weakened and the target of just about everyone, Wynn did what Wynn does, which is look out for Wynn. Now he's turning on Quarles, temporarily partnering with Boyd, and orchestrating the delivery of his old boss's dead body to Theo. It's a Wynn-wins situation.
Both these maneuvers by the two lieutenants showed off one of the things that Justified does best when it's on its game: turn itself on a dime. This season has been all about acquiring power against a whole gang of people who are reaching into the same picnic basket. With more potential enemies to piss off, there's much more tip-toeing going on than there was last season, which was largely a three-horse race between Mags, Boyd, and Raylan. This season, confusion reigns, meaning dark horses can easily find themselves a lot wealthier today than they were yesterday with just a little more of a "Go get 'em, tiger!" attitude.
It's easy to say that every episode this season has been leading up to a big showdown (I'm as guilty as anyone else), but "Measures" did everything but beat on the war drums as it increased the size of the participants and shrunk the playing field. At this point, it's anyone's game. The only safe bet is Raylan.
Postcards From Harlan County
– I am FULLY ON BOARD with a Dickie/Ellen May reign over the criminal underworld of Harlan. I had never thought of them together, but it makes so much sense. If this doesn't actually happen on the show, I'm going to write some fan fiction and create a world where it does. I love those two!
– This may be sacrilege, but I'm getting a little tired of Raylan's attitude. Thankfully Art is there to remind him that he's off the rails. Their talk while staking out Wynn's trailer was classic. "Whatever your failings are going to be as a father, I'm pretty sure that your child is going to be better off if you manage to stay above ground long enough to make his acquaintance."
– Raylan and the bartender? Not a fan.