Justified's Season 4 Premiere: Cold Case, Hot Snakes

Justified S04E01: "Hole in the Wall"

Few season premieres get me as excited as the ones that lead me back to Harlan County, Kentucky—the home of FX's outstanding Justified—because few things are more comforting than the plate of hushpuppies and maple syrup that goes with following Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as he cleans up the streets and makes a mess of his life. And tonight's outstanding Season 4 premiere, "Hole in the Wall," was no different; it felt like coming home and checking back in with old friends that always have a retort for even your wittiest of barbs. But it's how the show makes viewers feel like this that proves there's something special is going on here.

I said this while writing up last year's premiere and I'll say it again this season: Justified makes great television look so darned easy. I rewind Justified more than any other show just to take in every word, every glance, and every character's every breath because it's poetry, and the best poetry feels spontaneous and effortless. The series is an entity unto itself that feels alive, with Raylan Givens as its soul. Justified is back, y'all, and it's back with a confidence that makes us feel like it never left. That's the thing about this show and its colorful characters; it doesn't feel like it's back in our lives, it feels like we're back in its life.

We always know that coming back into Justified, Raylan, Boyd, and a whole gaggle of hillbillies will be waiting for us, but what we don't know is what new faces they'll be squaring off against. Season 2 gave us mean mom Mags Bennett and Season 3 gave us the demented Robert Quarles and conniving Ellstin Limehouse. And what we walked back into with Season 4 was an ice-cold cold case and a bag of snakes. I can't tell you how excited I am for this. I LOVED Season 2, largely because of Mags' presence as the root of all the evil in that run. Season 3, while still a lot of fun, felt like a step backward; the story felt crowded with both Quarles and Limehouse—each one great enough to hold his own season—demanding attention and complicating things. Justified is so adept at crafting perfect dialogue and strengthening even the most minor of characters that I don't think it needs more than one dominant bad guy, but it can clearly handle more than just one major arc. So how did the writers address that problem in Season 4? It gave us our bad dude in the snake-juggling preacher, Billy (The Pacific's Joe Mazzello), and then thickened the stew with an old mystery surrounding a bag so important to Arlo Givens that he'd slit the throat of the county jail's library system. Friends, this is going to be fun.

"Hole in the Wall" showed off more of Justified's effortless ability to set up stories without making a big chore for us. Raylan, looking to make some extra loot for that new mouth he'll have to feed, went off the books and picked up a bail jumper for an sexy old friend he used to bang. That alone was a simple task for Raylan, but things got complicated when some teen crooks were busted snooping around his dad's house and fled before they could get caught, forcing Raylan to move his on-the-run friend to the trunk of his car, lest he be seen bending the etiquette of Marshal'ing in Kentucky. Raylan came across the bag of mystery at Arlo's house and decided to hold on to it, with the teen thieves as witnesses. It turned out to be the bag the kids were after, so they did the next logical thing and stole Raylan's car, leading to an awesome showdown at the junkyard between the two thieves and their junkman cohort, the fumbling constable Bob (Patton Oswalt), a bail jumper who was just minding his own business and trying to see his kids, and cool-as-F Raylan, looking to make some extra scratch for his unborn kid (or so he says). In the world of Justified, trouble finds trouble, and trouble had a big hootenanny right then and there.

What's amazing about that arc is that it seemed so simple but it accomplished so much without breaking a sweat. We got our standalone story about Raylan bringing in a bail jumper, we got seamless introduction to new supporting characters like Bob, and we got just enough of a peek at the season's great mystery (the bag) to make us want to immediately fire up Episode 2. And there wasn't one part that outshone the others. While other shows struggle to lay out just one engaging story, Justified told three that all came together organically and felt true to Justified's game.

Meanwhile, checking in with Boyd showed us that his Oxycontin bidness has hit a bit of a snag, with Boyd's toothless clientele choosing spiritual serpentine salvation over a pill that makes users wet themselves and drool. The multi-threading was less pronounced in this half of the episode, but it was still impressive. One of Boyd's dealers refused to pay up because he'd been turned by a snake-handling preacher who told him drugs were bad. My dear old darling Ellen May (love that whoreface) shot a furry while on drugs because that's just what happens in her line of work, and while being shamed like a dog, figured her life needed a kick in the ass—so she followed the invitation from the paper wrapping the drugs came in to a tent in the woods, where Billy the snake-juggling preacher man was sssaving sssoulsss with a sssslithering sssermon. It was a firsthand run-in with Billy's influence for both Boyd's drug business and Ava's pimping business, and therefore an affront to both Boyd and Ava.

Again, it's all the stories working together without straining a muscle, taking advantage of the tight-knit world of Harlan and the rippling effect that one outsider can splash on the shores of our familiar heroes and anti-heroes. We'll have more to talk about next week with regard to the how and the why and the what of this season's story, but for now, this premiere serves as a reminder of how Justified is at its breezy best, and why it's one of the best shows on television.



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– What's the bag all about!?!?!? It must be pretty important if Arlo was willing to shank someone else who showed an interest in it. And what does it have to do with the cocaine-holding parachuting guy from the opening flashback? "Sure as shit ain't Santa Claus!"

– I still don't like Raylan shacking up at the bar or poking the blonde bartender Lindsey. After all his troubles with Winona, Raylan deserves to be single, am I right ladies?

– That's Ron Eldard as Boyd's new muscle Colton Rhodes, and he's a welcome addition to this fantastically put together cast.

– And now the requisite mention that Joe Mazzello was the kid in Jurassic Park. That's also True Blood's werepanther Lindsay Pulsipher as Bille the Preacher's sister. The casting in this show is ridiculously superb.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Oh boy this is going to be a magnificent season. Hail to the Raylan.
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Loved the episode!
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Elmore Leonard forever!
No more praising since Tim found just the right words for everything great on this episode and there was plenty.
I really don't know what's in the f bag - it's not the drugs from the skydiver(were there chunks of shit laying on the street because his bowels came open?...), it's no money - wtf can possibly be that dangerous and valuable?
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I think it's more than money with Arlo. We've often seen the money grabbing Arlo, this looked like a lot meaner, and a lot more serous Arlo. I am hoping that he was warning Raylan to stay away, to keep Raylan safe... unlikely I know, but last seasons ending was just awful on Raylan. Will Arlo redeem himself this season?
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Raylan Givens is back ladies and gentlemen and he is cooler than ever
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Raylan deserves to be with me, just saying. Great show, awesome episode, fun fun fun! It looks like Arlo will be around this season and this makes me happy. This show always has the best secondary characters. It never disappoints!
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YAY! Justified is back! My favorite show after Breaking Bad and Community. Heck, maybe even better than Community sometimes.

Anyway, as for this episode, I thought it was pretty fun. Despite his poor acting overall, I don't tire of Patton Oswalt and am happy he's on board as a recurring character or whatever. There isn't much that I'd say I thought was amazing -- although Arlo's throat-shanking came very close -- as most of the episode seemed to be laying the groundwork for the rest of the season. I was a bit surprised not to see Limehouse at all -- I assumed and then read that Limehouse would be back.
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It's not like Ron Eldard's name wasn't in the episode credits. Oh, wait, it was. Right after Patton Oswald's name. You act as if Eldard's presence in the episode was some big mystery.
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We're back and hitting the ground running. The dialogue on this show is amazing.

"You have got to mutter quieter, I heard that." "That was the point."

"You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you're the asshole

Hope they give Rachel and Tim more airtime this season. Constable Bob was awesome, I didn't expect him to stab the girl. I thought he was going to use the "skills" he showed Raylan in the car.

Raylan shooting the air bag was awesome. Reminded me of his "tablecloth" move in last seasons premiere.

Tim I still think you sell season three short. As great as Mags was, Quarles/Limehouse more than held their own in season three. I still think last seasons premiere "The Gunfighter" was one of the top three episodes of the series.
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Yes yes and YES to your comment!
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Take care of him Boyd oops. Yeah right you were testing your new muscle nicely done.
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Episode one and already colour me intrigued. I love it all even the overboard hill-billy pastor.
I really want to know what Arlo is protecting!
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Outstanding drama. Love everything about this show. And Raylan Givens is phwor!
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First time I ever watched the show (although I did see at least half of the previous episode), but I suspect Constable Bob is going to be dead by the end of the season, possibly at the hands of Colton Rhodes, and I thought the takeaway from the episode was that Raylan's father isn't as out of it as he seems. However, doesn't Ava's hooker going to the tent revival led by the preacher affecting Boyd's profits fall under "contrived coincidence"?
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One third of this felt like a story, and the rest was all bits and pieces of foundation for story threads that will become something later. I didn't find it in the least bit outstanding though, Raylan's story is getting shifted further from the foreground as more wacky back woods soap opera stuff gets shovled at the screen. How can you give season 3 weaker notes for its varied story threads while this episode sets up season 4 with still more?

This wasn't a bad episode, but I really miss the tone of the first 6 episodes of the show with a greater focus on Marshal Raylan Givens, not the sloppy mess of a character we have here now and the 8 dozen kinfolk he knows from the home town he's been trying to get away from his whole life.
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@JT_Kirk, apologies, I did not mean to flag your message, I was aiming for "REPLY" I swear.

To offer a different perspective on Raylan and people in general, it has been my experience that most people appear to embody whatever qualities they make an effort to project to the world right up until we truly begin to get to know them and then we learn all their layers, their strengths, weaknesses, trials and triumphs, and we see that underneath their shiny, crispy candy coating they are a seething hot mess just like the rest of us (hmmm, caramel...).

When we first met Raylan he was tough as nails, aloof, quick with a gun and a quip, the embodiment of the devil-may-care attitude that is the epitome of sexy and cool. The Raylan we know now because we have been with him on this journey of his, is not larger than life, he is a man, a tough as hell man, but still a man. He lives with the consequences of seemingly always having to choose the lesser of two evils, and while I do not always agree with his decision-making, I have grown to understand why Raylan believes he must make the choices he makes. I appreciate that Raylan Givens is presented as a human being and not a pseudo-superhero; the dumb shit Raylan does is pretty endearing to me given what a badass he is.

I liked the 10 ft tall and bulletproof Raylan but I adore this Raylan so much more. This man is living with the weight of his sins and those of his father, he is living with the rejection (not once but twice) of the one woman he has ever loved, and he is doing his best to come to grips with his conflicting emotions of his impending fatherhood given the state of his relationships with Winona, his own father and the dearth of father figures in his life. The old Raylan could solve most of his problems with a bullet, but we have the privilege of watching our Raylan as he grows into the complexity of his own life, facing as many internal conflicts as external. I find watching Raylan struggle with the problems he can't solve with a quip or a bullet just as thrilling as those he can because his evolution is fascinating and Timothy Olyphant nails the performances with a deceptive effortlessness. I think the episode struck a fine balance in delivering to us the juicy and at times tawdry elements we (not so) secretly thrill to and the more refined elements, the three dimensional "sloppy mess" Raylan continues to grow into. This series is all aces because it continues to play to it's strengths, the characters, and we cannot help but be fascinated.
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While I do agree that people project a "more than they are" aspect to themselves, that only goes so far, Raylan's successes before and during the show speak a lot to the character of the man. Raylan's enemies were greater than they are now, and nothing measures a man such as this better than the quality and quantity of his enemies. He was a successful US Marshal in a much bigger, more dangerous town, now he's a medium-sized fish in a small pond and he's floundering (ugh, that was terrible).

As for the flagging, I'll forgive it... just this once. ;-)
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;) Much obliged.

Punny, and spot on regarding the perspective of his career downshift, I had not looked at it from that angle. I find myself now wondering if the show is hitting a not uncommon plateau storywise that has been a stumbling block for a number of popular series. Certainly this episode opener did not present us with the sort of antagonist we have become accustomed to, but perhaps this season will be the come-to-Jesus between Raylan and Arlo that has been so long in coming. I'll wait to see.
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I liked it. It seemed like their comic relief episode. Kinda like a gulp of air before diving down into the story, y'know? I even liked the drawn-out Dr. Pepper plug. It was kinda distracting, but I thought it was hilarious, so I let it slide.
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It explains what was in the bag at the very beginning of the episode. The skydiver that died with the bag full of drugs.
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It's not drugs. Don't you think Raylan would have figured that out in two seconds.
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Not from an empty bag.
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A bunch of drugs ain't enough for Arlo to kill a man over, there's got to be more than that.
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But it was the same bag.
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The only thing that could've made this damn near perfect episode any better would've been Wynn Duffy and Dewey Crowe. And Art. And Tim.
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Wonderful episode as expected from this show.. Just got a little bummed that they missed that the bag magically switched sides on Raylan when he was visiting his father in prison. First shot it's on the left side of raylan.. cut to Arlo and back and suddenly it's on Raylans right side. A small thing to pick on for sure but when everything else in the episode just flows beautifully it kinda sticks out
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I totally agree with everything you said. Especially loved Boyd's reaction to Colton shooting the dealer. The store guy was awesome too: "She flashed me her titties and went out the back."
Also, one cannot stress enough how awesome it is that everyone in Harlan County that's not a Marshall is a lawless sumbag, like the scrap yard dude in this instance.
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I also have to wonder about that bag. Obviously Arlo knew about it... but it can't (immediately) lead to a lot of money because otherwise he wouldn't have freaked out so much in Season 1 about being too broke to pay back Bo.

My guess: the guy that jumped out of the plane had only one bag with him but knew where OTHER bags were (or perhaps a downed plane). I imagine a small plane could land crash somewhere in the swamp without anyone knows. Maybe there was a map or something.

Though I have to wonder if there's more than just drugs. As, after 30+ years I can't imagine the stuff still being potent enough to be worth the trouble / killing / etc.
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I'm not certain that processed, uncut cocaine has half-life potency issues similar to say marijuana. If the drugs remained sealed in their packaging then I think they would still have street value. On Fringe Walter is always finding old drugs that still get him high, but I do understand a heavy element of fiction is likely at work. Admittedly I am no expert on chemistry, pharmacology or street drugs, so I could be wrong in that hypothesis. Any chem folks out there with some color to add?

However, considering the empty diplomatic pouch and ID were plastered up in Arlo's wall, I think it is more likely that Arlo is concerned with covering something up rather than an ongoing conspiracy. Arlo does not have the patience or self-restraint to sit on a huge score for thirty years. At some point his greed or intemperance would have gotten the best of him, especially given his "spells" and such. No, I think it more likely that Arlo did or was part of something terrible, terrible enough for him to shank that Trustee quicker than I can choose a cupcake at Crumbs, just to keep him from making that phone call.
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I was a bit surprised that Raylan took that side-work. I don't know if it's illegal for a Marshall to do that but at the very least it could cost him his job.

I know Raylan plays it pretty loose, but it's usually when bad guys are mounting against him and he's just being pro-active about it such as by "visiting" someone that is trying to have him or a friend killed. Here, he's just trying to earn a buck.

Meanwhile: a whole bunch of illegal stuff going on. Bounty Hunters not allowed in the state, so he grabs the guy, fires his weapon off-the-books, kidnaps him, to take him (I imagine) across state lines to give him to the bounty hunter for cash.
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Great opener for the new season!! Loved seeing Patton Oswalt, hes always been a favorite of mine. So excited for this setup with Boyd going head to head with a "snake cult" Hes always been my favorite character on here! im a little hesitant though about the actor playing the preacher though, just from his scene im not sure if he has the kind of presensce to be able to hold his own against Walton Goggins... i guess we will just have to see..
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I am very nonplussed at the lack of motivation on the part of tv viewers not to make this a more highly rated series. (nonplussed-my word for the day, hell, maybe the week)
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A hallelujah and amen from the congregation! Fantastic review Tim, spot on. I've barely restrained my gleeful anticipation for the return of this brilliant and enthralling little universe. Glad I am not the only fan ready to wax poetic about television's best dramatic underdog.

The bag: a diplomatic pouch presumably from a Latin American country (Spanish stamp) though I have no idea its connection to the human pancake carrying a dozen kilos of cocaine. Must be some terrible sort of business though, as we've seen Arlo do some ruthless things in the past but nothing so vicious and cold-blooded as that shank he buried in the Trustee's neck then laid down as if nothing was amiss.

Raylan and Lindsey: While only too happy to entertain the impossible fantasy of Raylan Givens hanging his hat at my door, I actually like Raylan getting him a little sugar, as long as it isn't Winona (that woman talks like she is chewing the inside of her face). Lindsey seems cool and laid back, and Raylan deserves to have at least one thing in his life that isn't totally screwed up and complicated. I just hope for her sake that she isn't done in by any of the crap oozing over in Raylan's life.

Casting is fantastic on this show. Also worthy of mention, this week's bail jumper, Jody Adair, was played by Homeland's Chris Chalk (Corporal Thomas Patrick Walker).

Raylan's Lebowski/Netflix offhand to Rachel at the start so deftly set the tone for the entire episode for me. Raylan only cemented it for me when he disarmed the bail jumper by shooting the steering column, activating the airbag. Absolutely loved it.
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It's going to be a intense season. Can't wait for the second episode. Arlo was a stone cold fox. Super excited for whats to come
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Great season premier. When the guy that shot a couple heroin dealers is as good as the rest of the cast, you know it is going to be a good season. Personally I want him back for more, he had a great rapport with Raylan and I thought it was great. The sky diver with the drugs had to be from panama and that is how it is linked. He had a bag but I am not sure why it would be a diplomatic bag because customs can't look through it, so why jump. But it might of had drugs and something else in it. And whomever the license belongs to might know a few things.

The stuff with Boyd, I don't care. Boyd is such a phenomenoly crafted character by Goggins, that virtually any plot with him is going to be fantastic. And him going up against snake holding Zealots? Let me get some popcorn because that is oing to be great, it is going to be loquacious, and dammit Boyd is the perfect guy to do it.

Patton Oswald is an interesting choice for the season. I would have appreciated him more if this season had been before he was a part of the most dismal season of Burn Notice, so there isn't any of that stink on him. But thus far he is doing great.

I can't wait to see what this season brings.
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My guess: the plane was going to crash so he jumped with SOME of the drugs... and the big "mystery" is that somewhere in the Kentucky swamps is a crashed plane full of money and drugs. Hence the desire to find / protect the secret.

It wasn't uncommon for small prop planes to make illegal runs "under the radar" (either literally or figuratively). So it's possible that it crashed without the FAA or NTSB even looking for it (let alone finding it).
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Good points. That would be more plausible considering that Raylan will likely have to track it down and there is going to need to be some type of thread to pull and it doesn't seem Arlo is going to be willing to help out.

I just wonder what it is. Arlo has always been after money. It would have to be something pretty major for him not to use it to get money.

Either way, I can't wait.
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Quick question: Do y'all think I can just jump back into Justified at the start of S04, or is it necessary (plot wise) to go catch up/finish S03 first?
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Thanks for the advice everyone! I was a loyal viewer until mid-season 3, when Real Life got extra busy and I fell behind on episodes. Seems this semester is gonna be even worse, so I think second-half of S3 and all of S4 will be DVR'd until summer.
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I'd say it depends on what kind of viewer you are. If you really care about character, I'd say catch up on season 3. There's some stuff that goes on that really effects Raylan, Boyd, etc. as characters. If you can do without character depth and mostly enjoy the plot and dialogue -- which I guess is more for you, as you've specified "plot wise" in your question -- you can skip it. That said, I really enjoyed season 3 and think you should try to catch up on it if you can.
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In a perfect world, I'd say watch all 3 seasons before starting 4. But, that's going to take a while. So it's tough to say. I'd suggest S1 and S3 if you have the time. Otherwise maybe specific episodes in S1/S2/S3 but I can't think of WHICH specific ones off-hand.

I would say watch Season 1 first... it better establishes the characters (particularly Raylan and Boyd). Even the secondary characters like Art got a good baseline there.

Season 2 was amazing and spilled over into Season 3 as a lot of the first half of S3 was just the aftermath of S2.

Season 3, well some stuff happened with Arlo that explains his position in Season 4. It also has one of my favorite scenes of all time in the season finale (uttered by the main villain). Likewise, Raylan did go a little darker in S3 and make some shady decisions that explains his current situation in S4.
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The overall arcing plot of the season will be independent. But their will be carry overs in certain aspects of some of the episodes and probably a side plot or two. I would finish season 3 first. Because all that occurred during it led Raylan and company to where they are currently at.
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I'd finish s3 if you can. It ended very strongly and is worth the watch.
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BEST SHOW ON TV!!!!

Great review Tim I couldn't have said it better myself.
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So glad to have Justified back. Thought the dialogue was great as usual and im very interested to see where things go from here
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there are a few things as sweet as the premire of the new season of justified...none of them i'm saying here....but you get the idea....and this one was as good as the others...
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