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

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.



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– 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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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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And now I look down and see WavSlave already mentioned Bonita Friedericy. Oh, well.
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THAT'S RIGHT! THEY SAID IT WOULD. GET OVER IT.
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There is no guessing what Raylan's motivation is as far as capturing Drew Thompson is concerned. He said to ADA Vasquez his intentions was, "To find Drew Thompson and make sure my Daddy dies in prison."
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My thinking is that they know they are not going to get another Mags. However, and this is just speculation, based on no evidence what so ever. Why not build up a mythical character, take this season, build up a guy that is powerful, because he is close to power, the guy behind the guy so to speak. And that is who the man they are searching for is. And you take this season to find a great person to play the guy and you introduce him in the last episode.

Now for the episode itself. It was still great, they could have the whole show being nothing but Raylan and Boyd talking with each other and it would still be one of the most entertaining shows on TV. But this show is as good as it is because of ancillary characters. I would watch a show on virtually any of them.

Good episode, I do feel that they are building to something. And I can't wait to see what it is.
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If the show was only about Raylan and Boyd talking and doing stuff together, it would be the best show ever.
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I've often thought the same--> "nothing but Raylan and Boyd talking with each other and it would still be one of the most entertaining shows on TV".

A less then perfect (all are good) episode of Justified (so far) is still better then many/most shows' best episodes.
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I'm kinda thinking that Justified might have gone this direction with the absence of a Big Bad on purpose. Last season with Robert Quarles, I think we all pretty much agreed that he was working, but not working like Mags did, or what season 1 gave us. Really, Mags was so great that they're having a hard time topping her, so maybe they've decided that for now, don't try. Just do something different. And besides, we finally got what we've been waiting 4 episodes for.....Raylan and Boyd on screen together! What I like about the show is the serious ambiguity of their relationship. Thing is.....I really don't believe Boyd when he told Raylan he doesn't like him. I think they know they're on opposite sides most of the time, but deep down, even though they don't want to, they both like the other one. It's really a great dynamic.
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I respect the writers decision to keep the big bad a mystery. The characters are written so well that the show can handle a slight change of approach. The only thing I disagree with Tim on is that I'm not really a fan of Ellen May. Seems she's gonna be around at least till the end of this season though...
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Good episode. I don't need a big bad. I would definitely *not* keep watching if they turned it into a procedural.
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"How much time I got?"
"What do you mean, how much time you got?"
"To find Drew Thompson, make sure my daddy dies in prison."

Wow, this dude has some daddy issues if I've ever seen some.
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Well, when you look back on everything Arlo's done, can you blame Raylan?
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This season has been good. Very solid well thought out episodes. While I definitely like a big bad for a season of a show to have a focus for the main cast, Justified has made it just fine without one.

And sir, you win for referencing HP Lovecraft with your Herbert West comment.
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Constable Bob = legend.

It was a good episode. Good season. No complaints so far
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We have seen Theo Tonin, in Season 3.
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Tim, we saw a cut off foot, but I am not sure that he cut it off himself. Perhaps someone that needed him to lead them to the foothills of where Drew Thompson may be at. Of course the story is going at a limping pace in this episode but I expect it to maybe take a step up next episode.
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Enjoyed the episode, but agree that the hill people backstory was less than thrilling. For once, it felt like the writers may have pushed a bit too far into backwoods cliche (though I did chuckle at Boyd's Deliverance reference).

That said, I'm actually really enjoying the season's wandering plot. Raylan is not Sherlock Holmes, so I've very much enjoyed his mistakes, false starts and dead ends in solving this case. Count me in for a Cannonball Run style chase with lots of backstabbing along the way. Just hoping Raylan has some time to stop for a haircut at some point.

Missed Winona - I hope they have a plan to wrap up her story in a meaningful way, especially if #TeamBartender is over for good
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It worked for me because although I've never seen that up close, I've been spooked by it. As an oil lease negotiator, I've worked mostly in Texas and Louisiana, but I once worked for a little while up in the mountains in West Virginia (not Kentucky, but close enough). The guys with experience in that area all told me that it was a whole different world, and not to try to talk face to face with anyone until you had a solid contact in town who would call them for you and tell them to expect you. Otherwise they were likely to greet you with a gun and possibly fire on you. It never happened to me, but I did what I was told and made some friends in the nearest town who could help introduce me to anyone I needed to speak with. I also went to church with a family from WV who I told those stories to, and they laughed. While they were very normal folks (seemed to be), they swore that the dad's mother was like that, that she would shoot anybody driving up on her property if they were unannounced. Super-paranoid about the gov't coming to "take her land," he said. I'm also from south Louisiana, big swamp territory, and while I find us all extremely normal, I've been told by outsiders for years that we freak them out and tend to scare non-locals. Odd, because I always thought us Cajun folks were very hospitable and friendly.....but everybody's got a different view, I guess. I think Justified was just trying to pay homage to those groups of people who, fairly or unfairly, creep the rest of the country out.
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Ha, fun read. Being raised in Houston, working clubs & bars in my 20s, most of the S.La folks I ran across reminded me almost of merchant marines - drinking a smidge less, and a bit less likely to fight, although either of those could happen on occasion.

Since one set of Grandparents lived in N.AL, my parents drove us there every year for summer visits. I was still a kid when Daddy & his young uncle that also lived near Houston decided to always go via AR-Natchez after uncle had his first experience with LA law (eek!), and we had to drive around spaghetti bowls for about 1-2 hours looking for highway that wasn't flooded LOL

As far as Justified folks, I'm just glad my family lived in a Bible-thumper area! But we'd hear gossip about shenanigans from the folks from the deeper woods with red dirt roads. Sometimes when the conversation went tacky, they'd speculate who had "indoor plumbing". Yep, the Kin brought back gossip-memories!
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It was also good to see Bonita Friedericy ("Chuck") as Mary. As usual, most of the folks on this show are better than they were on their other shows. That just goes to show what excellent writing can do.
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