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Justified S05E01: "A Murder of Crowes"

I hate jumping to conclusions (and any form of exercise, really) but I'm already thinking that Justified's fifth season has a shot at being its best one yet after watching the fantastic premiere, "A Murder of Crowes." More than most other dramas out there—if you can call the incredibly funny Justified a drama—this show has embraced the idea of individual seasons being separate parts of a whole. The Wire is the best example of this notion that I can think of, and Justified is probably a close second. Season 1 was Boyd and Raylan, Season 2 was that hoedown with the Bennetts, Season 3 brought in Detroit and one scary BBQ master, and Season 4 was the one with the mystery. Now, only an hour into Season 5, it's very clear that Raylan Givens versus Daryl Crowe and the rest of the ginger clan will occupy the 13 episodes, and that's more than okay with me because what we've seen so far is so, so good. 

Genetically, Season 5 looks to be the kissing cousin of Season 2, which is widely considered Justified's best, at least around these parts. And while repetition is often looked down upon, I'm not the slightest bit worried about pitting Raylan against another family of hillbilly criminal masterminds because it worked so well the first time around and the Justified writing staff does amazing things with dysfunctional-yet-strong family relationships. Plus, after Season 4's experiment with the absence of a Big Bad, which worked at some points and didn't at others (Season 3's use of two Big Bads wasn't spotless either), I'm pretty comfortable knowing that Daryl Crowe Jr. will be the one Raylan puts in a box—either a jail cell or coffin—by the time Season 5 is through.


And maybe the simple idea of Raylan versus a clear-cut enemy is where Justified should live out its days, because it's already so good at doing everything else a TV show should do that adding too much of anything else could be distracting. The dazzling dialogue, the solid sense of place, the characters that feel so real after being on screen for three seconds that each and everyone of them deserves a spin-off, the easy way the plot settles in rather than beating you over the head, and the occasional one-off self-contained story were all sparkling in "A Murder of Crowes," and that's a busy-enough formula as it is. I can't tell you how many times I rewind Justified to make sure that every little detail and word sinks in, and that's before I figure out what's going on. So, as far as coming right out and pinning a black hat on Daryl Crowe, I'm all about it. 

However! Raylan versus a family is only as good as the family itself, and so far the Crowes don't look like they'll have us missing the Bennetts. Although their names—Dewey, Dilly, and Daryl—bring to mind Donald Duck's troubling nephews, they could be a formidable bunch. Let's see who we have here:


  • Darryl Jr. (Michael Rappaport) seems to wear the smallest dunce cap of all the Crowe boys, which puts him in charge. With his shitty sugar business tits-up after Dilly blew it by offing a member of the Coast Guard, Darryl is looking for a new avenue of revenue to keep the Crowes crowin'. I liked his talk with Raylan at the end, when he said he promised his daddy on his deathbed that he would do everything he could to keep the family together. Raylan said that was bullshit, and that Darryl's daddy died flipping a boat, as Darryl had told him previously. We don't know which tale was a lie, but it almost doesn't matter. Both stories indicate that Darryl idolizes his father and has taken on the responsibility of filling his shoes as the family's provider. Both stories also indicate that Darryl is a lying sack of shit, and possibly a psychopath.
  • Dillon or Dilly (Monk's Jason Gray-Stanford, yep that was Randy the cop with that huge handlebar on his face) is the dolt, this season's homage to dumb ol' Coover from the Bennetts. And just like Coover, he's dead. I was not expecting that, and frankly, I'm a little upset about it. I liked seeing Gray-Stanford s-s-s-s-stutter through lines and get treated like a bad dog by Daryl Jr.
  • Danny (CSI:NY's AJ Buckley) appears to be the muscle, the dog that does the biting for Darryl whenever Darryl asks. He stabbed Dilly in the gut and then presumably fed him to the Haitian's alligators to make him disappear through the gators' digestive tracks.
  • Wendy (Alicia Witt) is the poor sister who's stuck with these buffoons, and obviously the smartest of the lot, as she's made it out of the swamps and all the way to answering phone calls and fetching coffee for a lawyer in Miami. It will probably be through her common sense, or possibly Danny's volatility, that Raylan gets the Crowe family to turn on itself. 

In the opening of the episode, we saw that Dewey, cousin to the Florida Crowes, landed a windfall of $300,000 from a court settlement to avoid a potential class-action lawsuit by just about everyone whose jaw has been unwillingly adjusted by Raylan. It was a good time to be Dewey; he used the money to purchase Delroy's old whorehouse business and made his dollars work for him rather than spending everything on White Power tattoos and mullet wax. But now it's going to be a sad time to be Dewey, because with Darryl jobless, broke, and fresh with the knowledge that his cuz Dewey has a "boatload of money" (the Haitian overheard Raylan talking about Dewey's settlement and relayed the info to Darryl), them Florida Crowes will be flocking to Kentucky and knocking on Dewey's trailer door. I'm curious to know whether Raylan talked about the money like that on purpose, in hopes that it would draw the Crowes back to Dewey so Raylan wouldn't have to travel to America's Penis (a.k.a. Florida).

It wasn't just humidity and bandwagon Miami Heat fans that Raylan was trying to avoid, though. The most emotionally wrecking part of "A Murder of Crowes" was seeing Raylan dodge his newborn daughter and Winona like a deadbeat dad. The man went all the way down to Florida—where Winona and his daughter live—for work, and couldn't even muster up a drop-by? Both Art and Greg Sutter (David Koechner), Raylan's Marshal chauffeur in the Sunshine State, even suggested that he see his little spawn and the mother of his child, but all Raylan did was avoid them in favor of a Skype chat when he got back to 'tucky. For as broken as his relationship with his own dad Arlo was, you'd hope that Raylan wouldn't fall into the same pattern, but I guess it's true what they say about falling apples. 


As for our dear old friend Boyd, my oh my this was one shitty episode for him. He started off making promises to Ava that he would get her out of jail, but ended up losing part of his ear, going to Detroit, getting hustled by Canadians (of all people!), hearing stories about the legend of Tim Horton, and beating Mr. Paxton to death or as close to death as he could possibly go. I expect a bit of a fight for a funeral home director with a wife like he had. Plot-wise, what Boyd did was insane. He tried to keep his heroin business alive by trekking to D-town to get the package he was promised, but Detroit is in such shambles that he got caught in the middle of a war between Detroit and the Canadians. Now he might have to develop some new connections in Mexico just to keep his piece of the Harlan drug pie. To me, all the Boyd stuff wasn't about what he was doing as much as it was how he was doing it. "Normally I'm not a violent man, but my back is against the wall," Boyd told Paxton's hot wife as her husband's blood and face pieces dripped down his chin. We just might see Boyd step back into Psycho Boyd as the season progresses and he does whatever it takes to get Ava out of prison, and that's a scary thought. 

"A Murder of Crowes" was sort of a welcome-back handshake type of season premiere, introducing us to the season's new characters while also reacquainting us with what we love so much about Justified. But damn it was good, like the series had never missed a beat. It was also the first episode since the passing of author Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens, and with the relocation to Miami, it just so happened to emulate lots of Leonard's other works, including the films that were adapted from them, Out of Sight and Get Shorty. The tribute to Leonard that aired before the episode wasn't included in my press screener, but this strong opener carried his unmistakable voice and was a great tribute to him on its own. Holy hell I'm so glad Justified is back.



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– Haha, Dewey's reaction to getting his settlement was so funny. I'm surprised he didn't squeal like a little girl.

– Holy moley the cast in this episode! In addition to everyone mentioned above, Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Work It hee hee) played the Cuban crook Elvis, and David Foley (Kids in the Hall) played a Canadian gangster. Even the kid from Mud was in this (I think). Actors must be beating down doors to get on Justified; just to have the privilege of saying some dialogue and becoming one of the characters that these writers craft is everything an actor can hope for in the TV business.

Justified's strength of setting a scene was on fantastic display in this episode as the show bounced back and forth between a decrepit building in crumbling Detroit and the lush expanse of the Florida Everglades. Everything was absolutely beautiful to see.

– And beautiful to hear! I really liked the pops of the firecrackers intensifying in the background as Darryl had to deal with Dilly's stupidity.

– Well goodbye, Sammy Tonin! I'm sure that Theo Tonin is somewhere in hiding, screaming into a severed ear. 

– Chainsaw dude? Sure, chainsaw dude. And what was up with that room full of mannequins? 

– In addition to learning that Raylan isn't cut out to be a father, we found out that he also likes to shoot inflatable things.



HEARD 'ROUND HARLAN

Because Justified is stuffed with great dialogue, I'll post my favorite lines from each episode right here. 

Raylan: "I don't remember putting that in the report," referring to busting up Dewey's nose.

Jimmy: "Boyd, he got your ear." Boyd: "I know, I'm the one who got shot."

Wade: "Can I get you a blowjob... or something?" Raylan: "Just some water." Wade: "I didn't mean me, of course."

Raylan: "If I start arresting girls, how's that for business? You and Wade the only two pussies in this whorehouse."

Raylan: "I'm gonna shoot your balls off and feed them to the squirrels if you don't tell me what you know."

Daryl: "Danny, that dog shits in the house because of all that racket I'm gonna make you two eat it."

Boyd: "Oh well I have been to Iraq. It's a lot like Detroit but you have better music."

Thug: "What happened to your ear?" Boyd: "Ceiling fan."

Canadian mobster: "Ay, you guy got Tim Horton's in Kentucky?"

Canadian mobster: "If you want, to keep it simple, we can add you and Mr. Eyebrows to the list." Boyd: "And I though all Canadians were supposed to be nice." Canadian Thug: "Wrong Canadians."

Boyd: "I think he bumped his head." 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/8/2014

Season 5 : Episode 13

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