Justified Recap – Episode 8: Same As It Ever Was

by Cheryl Collins


Is it just me? Does it seem that this week’s episode, “Whistle Past the Graveyard,” and last feel mostly like placeholders that simply move us closer to the end of the season and set up the inevitable showdown between Boyd and the Crowes — as Raylan wanders aimlessly throughout?

Half of the action involves Boyd and his crew plus the Crowes in Mexico trying to smuggle a pile of heroin across the border. Darrell still seems to believe he can outmaneuver Boyd (and we know that is well-nigh impossible). The set-up was great — that whole lot of crazy driving across the Mexican desert with a truck full of dead bodies and lots of heroin — but it never seemed to reach its full dramatic potential. The tension between Boyd’s guys and the lesser Crowes stuck in the back of a truck with a pile of corpses and drugs should have been hilarious and awful, but even that felt kind of of ho-hum.

Back in Kentucky, the plot involved Raylan, Alison, and Alison’s 12-year-old “brother” Kendall, plus Kendall’s ne’er-do-well gambler father and a mean guy looking for him. It wasn’t particularly interesting, and even Tim Olyphant, playing Raylan, seemed bored, bored, bored with it all. As Karl notes in the comments (please comment!), William Forsythe, who plays the scary dude looking for Kendall’s dad, brought some real tension with him, but he and his fine deep voice were quickly dispatched. (I wondered if this arc was a quickie effort to show that Raylan can actually solve problems without his gun or even brandishing it.)

Meanwhile, in the state pen, Ava falls in a bit deeper with Judith — the mother goddess–worshipping drug distributor who trusts no man. Dale Dickey as Judith brings a big dose of real to these proceedings, and I am thankful for it!

Use of the word “pussy”: 2. Both instances in front of a 12-year-old kid. Sheesh.

Note: If you haven’t already, it’s worth checking out The Americans, the fun and compelling series set in the Reagan years whose executive producer is also Graham Yost. Faithful Justified viewers will recognize Margo Martindale, who played Mags in Season 2; she plays a Soviet handler on The Americans. Enjoy.

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Comments (6)

Oh, I’ll have to watch The Americans then! Martindale is a true delight.

Again, I agree. I don’t know if it is sloppy writing or too loose showrunning, but we’re approaching Sons of Anarchy-levels of “oh wait never mind”-writing. Boyds’ storyline these past episodes looks like it was written by a teenager who just learned about plot twists and deus ex machina. Hot Rod is about to kill Johnny BUT WAIT, Johnny had bribed the henchmen and they were on his side ALL ALONG. Boyd goes to make a deal with Yoon BUT WAIT Johnny has beaten him to the punch BUT WAIT Yoon was on his side ALL ALONG. BUT WAIT, the Crowes shove a spanner in the works by violating the rule about dropping bodies in Mexico so the deal is off BUT WAIT, Boyd asks nicely and Yoon immediately relents so there’s no problem. BUT WAIT, the corrupt cops jack the truck BUT WAIT, the drugs were in the car so there’s no problem. BUT WAIT the Crowes were doing their own thing ALL ALONG…. This is getting tiresome.

It’s like the writers just shove some “conflict” onto every page, but don’t understand that an immediate resolution completely nullifies any excitement, and that a non-organic, manufactured conflict is just stupid. All characters make choices that are completely moronic, but heighten the “excitement”.
For example:
1. Why did Boyd call Yoon instead of burying the corpses in the desert where they would never be found? He knew that he had just broken the one golden rule that would jeopardize the entire operation. Instead, he volunteers to transport a truck full of decaying corpses across the border. And Yoon agrees that this is the smart way to do things, when it is in fact the most risky way possible.
2. Why did they leave the van? After the shootout they had the truck and a small van (looked like a Dodge A-100 from the mid-sixties), but for some reason they drove away with just the truck full of corpses and Crowes. This lead to the fight and Deweys “we need another car, with AC”. Which they immediately got, off-screen.

Both these things ONLY make sense to a writer who wants to create tension. They make no sense whatsoever to the characters. Shitty, shitty writing.

What I liked about Boyd in the previous seasons was his character development. From bazooka nazi hillbilly, via religious zealot, to minor kingpin in a glorious three-piece suit. Raylan has been pretty static, and franky could not carry this show on his own. A Justified focused only on Raylan would turn into one of those crappy 80s cop shows like “Hunter” (later brilliantly parodied by “Sledge Hammer”).

Come to think of it, the only change Raylan is capable of is moving to a new state, where he can do the same thing over again. Only the criminals seem to be capable of change. Boyds old MP buddy with the smack habit had more of an interesting arc in his one season than Raylan has had throughout the series. The same goes for Mags Bennett, Loretta, and Drew Thompson. And presumably Limehouse is still in his holler, why not revisit him? I would be satisified with just a social call and some barbecuing.

I had almost lost all hope for Ava as a character. She was tremendously boring when all she did was sit around and wait for Boyd to rescue her. Now, when she is forced to fend for herself, her storyline picks up considerably. Which seems fitting, as Judith tells her about “not waiting for a man to save you”. I’m beginning to think that the characters have a life of their own, and are trying to tell the writers to shape up. Dale Dickey probably has that kind of magical powers.

Random thoughts:
1. Another pair I’d like to see marry and live happily ever after is Loretta + Kendall Crowe. They deserve better.
2. Hot Rods’ turncoat henchmen Jay and Roscoe are brothers. My first reaction was “but they look so different”, then I discovered that the actors are in fact brothers. Wood Harris, the taller slimmer brother, played Avon Barksdale in The Wire. He also played a druglord henchman in the glorious “Dredd” (the best comic-to-film adaptation ever).


Right on target again (of course, I believe so because you agree with me). I have a completely baseless suspicion that some of the brighter lights behind the scenes migrated over to The Americans, which has contributed to the show’s sogginess. Just a guess.

Raylan’s conflict in the early seasons were fine, it seemed to me, as he tried to maneuver among people he knew and mores he understood in a place he was of and not of, having found a legal and socially sanctioned outlet for his tendencies. This was especially poignant and fascinating in his relations with his dad and stepmom. Perhaps his passive complicity in the death of Nicky Augustine at the end of last season was meant to bring Raylan back to face his moral ambiguities, but it has not been an interesting journey, especially as it simply means he drinks a lot of beer.

I suspect Loretta and Kendall will cross paths, don’t you?

Re Loretta and Kendall: perhaps they are being groomed for “Harlan County: The Next Generation.”

“[…] it simply means he drinks a lot of beer.” EXACTLY. This.
Raylan had room for some character growth in the early seasons. Dealing with his criminal, perpetually lying father, who then seemed to reject him in favour of Boyd (remember “he just saw a man in a hat pointing a gun at Boyd”?). Discovering that your own father tried to kill you for doing the right thing would probably leave some mental scars. But we rarely see him display any kind of human emotion. I wonder if he is supposed to be a psychopath? Then his lack of emotion would be appropriate.

Raylan just meanders through life, killing bad guys and bedding the womenfolk, as if he was a teenage boy’s fantasy (see also: Bond, James). This would work perfectly fine in a simple action-oriented cop show, where “he is divorced and drinks a lot” is synonymous with “amazing insight into the psyche of a tormented character”. However, Justified has set the bar for itself higher than that. Everyone is allowed their moment. Especially the aforementioned seasonal baddies (Quarles. Holy shit. Quarles). But not Raylan. He is almost like a parody of a hard-boiled lawman.

And OMG please let Harlan County: TNG happen. Kendall and Loretta as the masterminds of the future Kentucky Mafia. Raylan’s daughter would probably be the up-and-coming criminal (due to her asshole absentee father), and Boyd’s future child would be the well-adjusted lawman (due to his idyllic upbringing with two loving parents). There would also probably be a mixed-race Marshal by the name of Brooks-Gutterson.

(Are we shippers now? Are we supposed to call the pairing “Kenetta” or “Loredall”?)

No shipping allowed (and I had to look it up to see what it was!).

It really does seem to me that the show is dealing with the onset of middle age and the looks forward and back that it brings, in all the main characters. Is it interesting? That’s another issue. I’ll talk more about that in the next update. After the last episode, it seems maybe, just maybe, his aimlessness was a strategic choice by the writers.

The ultimate shipping video: http://youtu.be/mi1TQZlcUqY Yes, there are of course quite a few Boylan shippers.

I believe shipping started with Star Trek (TOS) in the seventies, where bored housewives photocopied – or possibly mimeographed – their own homoerotic stories featuring Kirk and Spock. It is a proud and ancient fangirl tradition.

Eagerly awaiting your next write-up!

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