Justified has such a sense of voice and place that even when it's spinning its wheels in its master storylines, it's still mouth-watering television. In fact, spinning its wheels is the wrong choice of words. It's more like burning out a hot rod on a street corner for all the neighborhood to see. The car isn't going anywhere, but it's still showing off.
Looking back on tonight's episode, "Loose Ends," there wasn't a lot that happened in the way of settling any disputes between Limehouse, Quarles, Raylan, and Boyd. But because of its colorful characters and whip-crack dialogue provided by a stellar cast from top-billed cable giant to random goateed extra, we don't care that the pieces on the board have been moving as fast as molasses on a cold day. In fact, "Loose Ends" was more of an episode for Justified to clean up its own loose ends before the homestretch towards the finale.
One of those loose ends was Tanner Dodd, the henchman for hire that's been working for
Quarles Limehouse Sheriff Napier Tanner Dodd by working with whoever pays him the most the right any money. As the man who helped Quarles set up his Oxy game, took down Boyd's Oxy clinic for Limehouse's henchman, and blew up Napier's car on his behest, Tanner's little paws are in a lot of cookie jars. That makes him instrumental to uncovering the complicated web that's been strung between all our major players. And that's why he blew up into smithereens after stepping on a Bouncing Betty in a bomb-maker's workshop just before Raylan was about to get all the info he needed to wrap this case up. Had Tanner handed over that information before he went in a thousand different directions at the same time, it would have been too easy for Raylan, and the only things that come easy to Raylan are one-liners and women.
A more minor loose end was Delroy, master pimp and former Other from Lost. This guy is no joke! Not only does he have his girls whoring themselves out for him for cash and pills (both legitimate forms of currency in Harlan), he has them robbing check-cashing places in oversized sunglasses, wigs, and powdered nostrils. That's more than deserving of a leopard-print hat with a giant feather sticking out of it. But as much love as they show for him, he didn't exactly return the favor when one of them got shot and killed during a robbery. After watching his two surviving girls roll the dead one's body in the slurry, he turned his gun on them, killing one while Ellen May got away. This hasn't been a good year for junkie prostitutes in the world of Justified. I'm still mourning poor Trixie.
But Delroy's inability to take out Ellen May freed her from his clutches, and she found sanctuary with Ava, who later gave Delroy a demonstration of what it feels like to be shot by a shotgun at close range. Ellen May might turn out to be an important game piece, because if Raylan can connect Tanner to Limehouse, Quarles, or Sheriff Napier, Ellen May can positively ID Tanner as the one who shot up Boyd's Oxy clinic and therefore tie together criminal activity. I think. But more importantly, it allowed Ava to become one of the hottest pimps in the South. That will be interesting.
Elsewhere, "Loose Ends" was filled with some great verbal showdowns. Raylan and Boyd meeting in jail was poetry. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins simply can do no wrong when they're sharing a scene. Boyd's crashing of the sheriff debates was reminiscent of Mags Bennett's talk during the town hall in Season 2's "The Spoil," But Mrs. Bennett never got in the kind of zingers about hair that Boyd got in at Napier. So good. Though Goggins shone in that scene, David Andrews as Sheriff Napier deserves a lot of credit, too. It ain't easy playing that kind of sleaze. And of course Quarles and Limehouse's chat about shoo-fly pie up in the Holler was fantastic. This show is just fat with great characters and talented actors.
"Loose Ends" didn't have any major revelations but it still managed to show off Justified's strengths. With four deaths adding to the season body count, it was violent. But the real bullets flew off the tongues of characters as tensions tightened and the world of Harlan County, once so open-ended and loosely intertwined, slowly gets pressed together.
Postcards from Harlan County
– Favorite new character? Tanner's mom. Any crazy lady who has the melons to call a marshal a "no-dick lawman" to his face is okay in my book.
– I know it didn't appear like much, but I really liked that opening with Raylan walking into his hotel room with the gun that killed Gary and just sort of sitting there, unsure what to do. Raylan's in a weird place right now. He's got no real home, no Winona, and no real handle on his situation. He's drinking and he's lost, a far cry from running off to start a family and find a happy life for himself outside the marshal service.
– Boyd on Devil: "He's calmed down a good bit since you last saw him."
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom