The race war is nigh upon us, gentle readers. Or at least it feels so in the dog-eat-dog world of Justified. Racial issues, which have been bubbling along in the background this season, come to the fore in the well-directed “Kill the Messenger.”
If you have been watching along with me, you’ll know I’ve have discussed the master and slave leitmotif threaded through this season. These themes finally have become explicit.
The show opens with two unpleasant rendezvous. Raylan, after finally unburdening himself to Art about his complicity in the death of Nicky Augustine last season, meets him in a bar on a rainy night. Art promptly slugs him.
Next, Boyd. He sits in his truck, composing himself for the unknown task ahead, clearly of the necessary-but-distasteful variety. He sighs heavily and trudges to the door. Cut to him laughing and bullshitting, in full embrace with Gunnar, a multi-tattooed neo-Nazi who was a pal of Boyd’s from his old race-war days.
Why must he do so? His betrothed, the blonde and pretty Ava, has been sent to the state penitentiary, far from Boyd’s easy protection. Gunnar’s sister Gretchen is there, and Boyd pays Gunnar to watch out for Ava.
Justified goes a bit Orange Is the New Black as it follows Ava into the state pen. While she is thrust into this new universe, the grinding reality slowly dawns on her.
Ava is soon confronted by a group of vaguely menacing black women who press into her face, sniffing and touching. They, in turn, are repelled as if through reverse polarization by Gretchen and her band of white supremacists. But instead of protecting her, Gretchen pounds her – and slices at her blonde hair. Why? It turns out Boyd is a “race traitor” – which is worse even than being black – and she must be punished.
Though Boyd makes a deal with Darryl Crowe to take on Gunnar and they effectively dispatch him, it’s clear that Ava feels isolated and abandoned. She borrows a razor at high cost – not, it turns out, for revenge, but to finish cutting her own hair. An indication, perhaps, that to survive, she will morph into someone else. Is it someone that Boyd will recognize? Can she still trust him? Will she still want him? Will she perhaps turn to hated cousin Johnny in desperation?
Two last scenes with Raylan lead us back to our protagonist’s uneasy conscience, obviously affecting his view of himself (this after a twisting story line with the truly demented Danny and Boyd’s henchman Carl, who turns out to be one quick-thinking badass).
One with Rachel: his straight-arrow co-worker who is black, female and petite, and with whom he briefly cohabited in the Confederate-loving gangster’s high-columned mansion. She tries to get him to fess up to what is burdening him. He uses an interesting turn of phrase: “You wanted me to come off the leash so you could call me to heel.” There’s that master and slave/dog and master imagery once again. He declines, not wanting to implicate her.
Later, with his blonde girlfriend (?) Alison, Raylan chugs two beers in quick succession. “Who are you?” she asks, dressed in that flannel shirt, while he leans against a pillow adorned with a dark bird. She says he’s a hero, but he’s not so sure. She also suggests he is creating his own chaos. It’s pretty clear Raylan needs a confessor and find a way to expiate his sins.
OK, let’s talk about all those birds. Of course, the Crowe family are the antagonists this season, and that’s no doubt why the season’s art feature a bird in a tree over Raylan’s shoulder. Further, Raylan was led to Wade Messer’s dead body by a flock of circling crows (get it?). And there is that pillow.
Also, Alison was wearing that flannel shirt again. I’ve suggested before that the flannel shirt seems to be the symbol for “poor white” this season. What are they trying to tell us about who Alison is?
Some more questions I’ll throw out there:
1. Do you think Wade Messer is really dead? I still am not so sure.
2. This episode is called “Kill the Messenger.” Why?
I am your humble servant and I live to please. And listen to the needs of her masters. Make your wishes known in the comments, if you feel the urge. (Keep it clean!) Ruff-ruff.
Use of the word “pussy”: 0.
Unlike Crowes, crows are incredibly intelligent. On the other hand, they do share some traits. Corvids are opportunistic scavengers, much like the Crowes. They do not hunt (plan clever heists) themselves, but feed off of other animals kills (crimes).
Has anyone used the phrase “a murder of Crowes” yet? If not, it’s about time.
I do think Messer is dead. When Dewey and the elder Crowe rolled up, there was a coroner station wagon outside the lodge. My understanding is that the coroner is only called when there is a dead body. (There could of course have been other corpses littering the place, this is Harlan after all.) In any case, Dewey is screwed if the 4-wheeler family that saved him puts two and two together.
Thank you for your comment, Karl! I had to look up the phrase “murder of crows” to learn that a “murder” is the collective noun for crows, like “school of fish.” As it happens, the first episode was called “A Murder of Crowes.” I love the fact that real crows are “opportunistic scavengers” just like this group of Crowes. A
As for Messer’s death: yes there was that coroner’s van, plus the shot of a yellow tarp being thrown over him, plus, references to pulling a few slugs from “the body.” But part of me wondered if it was all artful misdirection to protect a government informant. And that would unmake Dewey a killer, which I was kind of hoping for. But no doubt he is dead.
Thank you for reading …. and feel free to “like.”
Ah, good to hear that the writers also saw the opportunity for that pun!
Oh wait, now that you mention it; didn’t the DA say “we got a slug from the body, a .32”? The gun Dewey used was clearly a .380! Don’t necessarily mean anything, could just be a misunderstanding between the writers and the props department. Although the camera really zoomed in on Deweys gun, which was stamped “.380” (s05e04, around 16:08). If that is a props mix-up, it is extremely annoying. If not, it means that someone else finished Messer off with a .32, and Dewey is not a killer!
I would love to see Dewey as the sole survivor of this show. Preferably he would win the lottery and marry Ellen May, who also deserves a bit of happiness. I would love an entire episode of just Dewey and Ellen May in a state of white trash bliss; a double-wide trailer home and a monster truck with child seats. Also, Dewey could cover up his “heil hitler” neck tattoo with “I LOVE ELLEN MAY”.
Wow, that is a detail I would never have picked up — you clearly know your guns.
I too loved the Ellen May character and was wondering if she might pop up again soon. I would be most interested in a daytime talk show featuring both Dewey and Ellen May.
Both Raylan and Dewey are struggling with their consciences this season … how they resolve their inner turmoil will define them.
I am very interested in weapons, but have never owned one. Sometimes this can interfere with my enjoyment of media, especially when writers don’t know what they’re doing (that godawful Sherlock Holmes movie comes to mind, where every single gun was anachronistic). It’s perfectly OK as long as they don’t make it a plot point, I totally understand that they can’t always get the correct props. In this case, however, it stuck out like a sore thumb since the DA specifically mentioned the caliber.
I guess it is the same kind of feeling that doctors get when they watch hospital dramas (“this patient has the bubonic sniffles, give him 3000 cc’s of aspirin intercranially, STAT!”).
But back to Justified and your questions. I can’t figure out why they called this episode “Kill the Messenger” either. There didn’t seem to be any killing-the-messenger type situations. Unless it’s a play on messenger – Messer?
The only thing that fits would be if Raylan lied to Art about the LEO involved in the murder of Nicky. We never actually heard him confess, did we (can’t remember exactly)? We just know that he told Art that it wasn’t who he thought it was. If Art slugs him for giving him bad news, that would be killing the messenger. I don’t even know if I believe this myself though. But there must be a reason why we didn’t see what Raylan said.
How about a nice morning show for our darling white trash couple? It could be called “Good Morning Harlan”, and be modelled after one of those sugary couples shows. The obligatory cooking segment might of course be slightly different.
Speaking of crime, cooking and southern poverty, have you seen “True Detective”? Possibly the best made TV cop show ever.
I hope to be getting the recap up sooner than usual … thanks for the tip on “True Detective”! And I love that I’ve learned the word “corvid” — great for Scrabble. No closer to learning what “Kill the Messenger” referred to in last night’s episode, it seems. More soon!
Karl, any commentary from you this week?
What is the translation for the long Hebrew tatoo on Crowe’s arm?
Hey Larry! Which Crowe? I don’t think Hebrew would be the language of choice for any of the Crowes, especially Dewey. (Also, aren’t tattoos a big no-no in Judaism?)
In case you mean Dewey; the circular tattoo on his left upper arm is runic, and means nothing. It’s just the runic alphabet, like tattooing “ABCDEFGH…”. (To be precise, it is the Elder Futhark, the oldest known runic alphabet.) The three-triangle symbol in the middle is known as ‘Hrungnirhjärta’, so called because the giant Hrungnir had a three-pointed heart. Its exact meaning to the Vikings has been lost to history, but it is generally believed to have something to do with those slain in battle. The numbers 3 and 9 were loaded with magic, so three triangles would be superdupercool to a Viking.
So his tattoo is like the nazi equivalent of those “oooh, i got this chinese symbol meaning courageous honourable dragon”-tattoos.
Norse culture have been a target for nazi appropriation since Hitler and Himmler started ransacking every ancient civilization for cool symbols to wrap themselves in. It is absolutely hilarious when christian white supremacists do the same today, as Vikings traded with Africa and the Middle East (and famously worked as elite soldiers and bodyguards in Constantinople, fighting against the western christian crusaders), and only fought and enslaved white anglo-saxon christians.
When Dewey met Dickie Bennett in jail, he said something about tattoos as a way to pass time while locked up. It would make sense that very few of the inmates in a Kentucky prison would be fluent in ancient Norse, but they would probably have access to some old encyclopedia with a picture of the Futhark.
Thank you Karl — you are a font of information! Amazing. I also noticed that the bug bruiser who kidnapped the hacker’s girlfriend had something in Arabic tattooed on his very thick neck.
And thank you Larry, for reading — and adding to my list of questions!
Thank you Cheryl, you are too kind!
The neck tattoo says “infidel” in Arabic. I guess it’s a “takin it back” kind of thing. I don’t know how it got started, but it’s very popular among the gun-waving crowd. As is “MOLON LABE” (written in Greek), meaning “come get it” (I imagine the movie ‘300’ popularised that one, as it is supposedly what Leonidas said to the advancing Persians at Thermopylae). So if you see someone sporting either of those messages on a t-shirt (more often than not in XXXXL), it’s safe to say he’s not a muslim and probably an asshat.