Unlike the deadbeat regulars at Harlan county's watering holes, little is wasted in FX's Justified. While last week's premiere episode spent a good chunk of time introducing us to this season's bad guys, the Bennetts were only brought up in a few scenes during Wednesday's episode. But the density of those scenes was key.
"The Life Inside" opened with Dickie (Jeremy Davies) and Coover (Brad William Henke) Bennett disposing of Loretta's dad's body, complete with lye and a deep, dark hole, following their mama's directions like good little boys. And before the credits could roll, we cut to the episode's best scene: Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) lying through her hillbilly teeth to Loretta about her dad, promising the little girl protection and practically adopting her.
Given the information Mags knew and the information Loretta knew, the whole scene played out insanely creepily. Martindale is absolutely killing it as Mags, playing the old pot farmer like a combination between Jabba the Hutt and a snake. Her moves are slight and calculated, but there's that sense she could strike at any time. The camera tracked the pair as Mags lead innocent Loretta into her lair (with creepy broken Big Wheels and jarred cider as candy), just talking girl talk to lull her into a false sense of safety, and all we could do was stare at the screen and cringe. If we thought the sexual predator in the premiere episode was a danger to Loretta, wait 'til we see how this thing develops.
But the scene wouldn't have worked without Martindale, and I'm going to jump the gun here and start an Emmy campaign for her already. I'm sure she's a nice woman in real life, but to be able to get elicit such a reaction—even if it's just giving me the shudders—speaks to what she's able to do on camera. Great, great stuff.
I'm almost done with this article and I haven't even mentioned Raylan. Did anyone out there get the same slightly uneasy feeling when Raylan was gently caressing Winona's baby maker? After a rough gig saving a pregnant con's life from baby-snatchers, Raylan suddenly found himself thinking about having a kid? Dude, you are not ready. And Lord help young boys if your kid turns out to be a pretty little girl. How'd you like to ask Raylan for permission to keep his daughter out past 10pm?
One last thing: It will be interesting to see whether the writers will be able to make Winona's husband Gary a formidable foe for Raylan. As Gary says, Raylan can out-shoot him, out-fight him, and probably out-screw him, but Gary can out-sell Raylan. If that's the tale of the tape and money's on the line, I'll put my bread on Raylan.
It doesn't appear that Justified is in any rush to see Raylan lock horns with Mags and the Bennett boys, instead opting for a slow build before the sparks fly. But like a Kentucky country drive in the middle of Joo-Lye (that's July, for you city folk), the dirt road that will lead us there appears to have plenty of scenery to look at.