Justified Episode 4: Wolf versus Snake, or “I’m the Brains of this Outfit, See?”

ava season 6

Finally. As the curtains are pulled further back on this final season’s plot machinations, it turns out the women are pulling the strings behind all that upheaval and mayhem. It’s just that the men think it’s their doing. And suddenly, all those mirthless jokes about penises and castration take on a different cast.

In the most recent episode of Justified, we discern betrayals old and new, as Ava is pulled further into the web of the black widow that is Katehrine Hale. Plus, we become reacquainted with two of the best recurring characters of the show — the whacked-out and hallucigenic Dickie Bennett and teen drug kingpin-wannabe, the low-key Loretta McCready.

In “The Trash and the Snake,” we get more of the back story of Avery Markham, Katherine, and her dearly departed husband, the criminal mastermind Grady Hale, as we discern a few of the layers of betrayal that connect the three — and the way they resonate between the triangle of Raylan, Boyd, and Ava. The struggles here are not only between the sexes but generational, as well.

Hell Hath no Fury, etc.: Mary Steenburgen as Katherine Hale
Hell Hath no Fury, etc.: Mary Steenburgen as Katherine Hale

Raylan summons Ava to talk (while Ava is wearing a shirt with a wolf on it) in a hotel stairwell, where she just seduced Boyd. Raylan’s keeping the pressure on, but testing out her ability to use sex for leverage, she now begins to flirt with him, letting him know she’s open to a little something-something. He’s not biting.

Ava is then summoned to lunch by Katherine, who, in a swirl of pot smoke and tension-filled girl talk, “confides” that it was she who was really the brains behind Grady’s operation. And Katherine is bitter beyond words at falling so low that she must resort to small-bore scamming to procure that tennis bracelet she’s got her eyes on. She wants revenge — against Avery and all the other men who have refused to acknowledge her power. And no matter how fine a lover Avery is, he did kill her husband and all, so Katherine must have him killed, too — after he’s served her purposes and bought up all that land, of course.

Sam Elliot as Avery Markham
Sam Elliot as Avery Markham

It turns out that Katherine and Grady had a fine old marriage — except for those long months she longed to kill him, and, oh yeah, when she was sleeping with his business partner, Avery. Grady ended up in jail, because it seems Markham flipped on him. No one knows for sure, as someone blew a hole in the head of the DA who was handling the case.

We find out too why Markham is buying up all that land in Harlan and murdering people when they get in his way: it’s all about growing the inevitably legal weed. Markham guesses the smoke from Colorado will be drifting over Kentucky soon enough, and he wants in on the ground floor.

Making pot the struggle at the heart of the final season is much more palatable than the heroin at the center of last season, which always felt just-too-unpleasant (and then seriously off-putting after the coincident death of Philip Seymour Hoffman).

And just to keep Ava on her toes, Katherine lets slip that she knows all about that prison guard who recanted his testimony against her — letting her know that she suspects Ava’s been flipped by the Feds. Ava smiles gamely, but she is full-bore freaked. It’s clear she’s going to crack.

Meanwhile, Boyd and the asexual Wynn Duffy find a safecracker who knows how to break into that vault holding Markham’s money. Boyd and Wynn are met at the door by a woman wrapped in a snake. Snake, woman, temptation — get it? We don’t have time to consider the obvious symbolism because as soon as we meet the overconfident safecracker, all we can think is, “Hey, that must be Gary Busey’s kid!” (It is: Jake Busey.) Too bad he blew himself up so fast; I did enjoy his comment about being sent to “Wonton-amo.”

Eyebrow Man: Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns)
Eyebrow Man: Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns)

And the teenish Loretta, living in her clean suburban-style home, is scheming along with the big boys and buying up land to grow weed on, too. She outsmarts her enemy Dickie, whom she helped put in prison, and bought out his family’s land. Granted, outsmarting him is not a real challenge. We’re told that he’s the last of the long line of Bennetts.

Loretta McCready
Outsmarting Them All: Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever)

So the theme of abandoning your roots — and your identity — looms ever larger, as Raylan gets set to sell his family land, graves and all, and move to Miami.

The last of his line: Dickie Bennett
The last of his line: Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies)

Raylan is trying to warn Loretta against the menace of the “wolf at the door” — Avery and his minions trying to buy up her land — but Avery mentions to her that only a “bird so rare” will resist his money and pressure. (There’s also a bird figurine in the background at Loretta’s.) So we’ve got wolves, snakes, and birds. Oh my.

(As has been true through this season thus far, Raylan seems to have no dramatic arc left in him. The focus is squarely on Boyd and Ava.)

Raylan: Whither Thou?
Raylan: Reduced to a Plot Device?

Ava is the caged bird, crazy ready to fly but trapped on all sides. Boyd, though, now has a plan that will “bring hope and prosperity back to our home” and beat Markham at his own game. In his thinking, legal weed cultivation is salvation for Harlan and its descent into a hellish post-coal future. Yeah, he might have to kill a few people along the way, like Markham, who humiliated him. But he’ll be Robin Hood, dispensing opportunity to the poor denizens of the hollers. “We’re gonna have it all, right here in Harlan,” he tells Ava.

Gee, what could go wrong?

So, they brought in a woman to co-write this episode (one Ingrid Escajeda), I guess cuz they wanted a women’s perspective and such, considering that women have shown themselves to be calmly accreting power this season while the men do the dirty work.

Could that have something to do with the fact that my least favorite word used as a term of denigration by men is missing this episode?

Maybe she can explain what “trash” as referred to in the episode title means.

Also, Rachel was absent this episode, so there were no people of color to be seen. Thus, we’ll hold off on ruminations of race on this show for some later time.

Use of the word “pussy”: 0.

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