Instead of pushing a boot deeper into our throats—as I thought they would—Justified creator Graham Yost and his crafty team of scribes took a step back last night from the asphyxiating pace of the show's previous two episodes. Call it the eye of the storm, a deep breath before going back underwater, or a good time to nurse that whiskey, but do not call "Debts and Accounts" an ordinary set-up episode. It was much better than that.
In the wake of Coover's death, aftershocks rattled the foundation of the Bennett clan, turned Boyd back toward to a life of questionable legality, and gave Raylan the wacky idea that he should skip town with his best girl. And each of those moves reverberated even further, branching out into the show's supporting characters.
Mags Bennett did some major restructuring of the family business, giving the hard stuff to Boyd and excommunicating Dickie to the weed trade, essentially disowning him for "turning his back" on his brother when he told Raylan where Coover would be. I have to agree with Dickie; Mags' mind is all scrambled with grief, and that's one decision of hers that didn't play fair. Then again, this is Mags' world, and Dickie's just livin' in it.
While Dickie isn't the numbskull that Coover was, he doesn't look like he's CEO-of-Illegal-Drug-Running-Inc. material, either. Still, he's making a run for it, and is enlisting the help of Boyd. From Dickie's standpoint, I see how this would seem like a good idea. That said, as a first move when starting up a new business, it may be a big step toward bankruptcy at best, and an early grave at worst.
Boyd, meanwhile, might want to rethink his stance on miracles after Dickie walked into the bar to talk to him. It's unclear how he's going to use Dickie to his advantage, but just when Boyd (who's full of CEO-of-IDR Inc. material) was struggling to figure out how to get his "message" out, in walked the perfect loudmouth mouthpiece—or, in walked a perfect target to slaughter and splay out on the hood of a car for all other drug dealers to see. It's hard to imagine these two doing anything but becoming adversaries.
Returning to the world of illegal activity seems to have restored a bit of Boyd's bravado, and everyone loves a cocky bad boy, especially Ava. Their romance has been a long time coming, and with now-confident Boyd cruising by Ava's house late at night, what else was she going to do but lay a wet one on him? Yeah, it's kind of gross that she was married to his brother, but this is the South, that kind of stuff happens all the time! Also, to those of you living in Dixie, I'm kidding. We all know you draw the line at cousins. (Again, I kid!)
Handsome Raylan pretty much had things easy in this episode, just tangling with the normal stuff like his boss telling him he'll never be employee of the month, his wishy-washy ex-wife alternately ignoring him and asking him for favors, and assassin or two popping up here and there. But Coover's death, the surfacing of age-old clan rivalries, and the thought of getting shot-at daily flipped a switch in him. Maybe Marshaling (made-up word alert!) isn't the thing for him. Maybe he should just skip town with his ex-wife/current-girlfriend, raise a few Raylan Jr.'s, and teach young 'uns how to shoot a man in the heart before his hands get too trembly.
Raylan, Raylan, Raylan. Get that deranged thought out of your hat. This is what you were born to do. Your personal interpretation and execution of the law is why we all tune in each week.
Still, I don't blame him for wanting to ride off into the sunset, Winona on his arm. But I know he won't do that. How boring would the third season of Justified be if Raylan was just a trigger monkey at a shooting range? While the thought of him leaving town is ridiculous from a TV point-of-view, the point of his decision isn't to leave viewers wondering whether he will or won't leave (he won't). The point is to ask the interesting question, "What exactly will draw him back?" We'll have to wait for that answer.
... How amazing is Art (Nick Searcy)? Television has seen a lot of grizzled old cop bosses, but Art has to be one of the best. His relationship with Raylan is a joy to watch. And he's one of the funniest parts of this surprisingly funny show.
... It's great to see Richard Speight Jr. (picture above) whenever he appears. You'll know him from Supernatural, Jericho, Band of Brothers, and those Pepsi commercials. I barely recognized him underneath that facial scruff and Southern drawl, but he's Dickie's soon-to-be partner. Will he be the one who Dickie sends after Raylan?
... It was reunion night for Devil and Boyd as Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights' wheelchair rugby man, Herc) returned to the series as one of Boyd's old white supremacist buddies. Does this show know how to cast, or what?
... Did Helen sell out the town? Do she and Mags have some under-the-table agreement that I don't know about? How will it all come back to Raylan?
... We're hearing some good banjo this season. Keep it up.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom