Justified season 5 episode 8 review: Whistle Past The Graveyard

Review Matthew Giordano 6 Mar 2014 - 14:14

This week's Justified shows that so-called honour amongst thieves leaves much to be desired...

This review contains spoilers.

5.8 Whistle Past The Graveyard

Religion, family, and finding one’s place in the world were the core themes presented in this week’s episode of Justified. In particular, we had the dysfunctional Crowe family at the forefront when a shocking but predictable family secret was revealed in that Wendy is actually Kendall’s mother, not his aunt. Wendy explains that she got pregnant at twenty-two and that the father was a low-level schemer who simply did not want to be a father so they decided on another course of action to raise Kendall. “Uncle” Jack as we will find out, still has a habit of getting into trouble and rather than confront his problems he still prefers to cut and run. In all of this turmoil and in much the same way we saw with Loretta, Kendall has atrocious role models, a volatile home life and seems destined to turn out no better than his cousins Daryl, Danny, and Dewey.

As fate would have it, Kendall’s Uncle Jack comes into town and promises to take him to an amusement park against the wishes of Wendy. Jack decides to take him anyway and Wendy enlists Raylan’s help to find Kendall with the promise that she will give him information on Daryl and the rest of the Crowe family that he can use to bring them down. Raylan takes the bait but seems to agree to help because Allison either guilts him in into it or because Allison knows that Raylan has already made up his mind to help because he will always go above and beyond to play the hero especially when kids are involved. How many times as he saved Loretta from impending doom?

Of course, Jack is on the run from North Dakota because he was scamming a local poker game and when confronted about his scheme, he decided to throw a brick in the confrontee's face and then immediately get out of town. Now he has the guy’s father - played by the brilliantly underrated William Forsythe - after him. Somehow Jack manages to run away from the guy and in the process allows his son Kendall to be kidnapped by his enemy, causing him to desperately turn to Wendy for help. Naturally, Raylan is in position to save the day, and arguably, helping families in terrible situations, except for his own, is what Raylan does best. Ava, of course, may have a different opinion of what Raylan’s help will get you in the end.

Raylan, because of his tumultuous upbringing is sensitive to issues of childhood neglect and abuse. He is able to connect to Kendall’s plight and tries to reason with the boy. He even tries to explain to Kendall that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that too many people in his situation end up dead or “wastes” of life because they look only to the present instead of the future. Without getting overtly political, this is a common complaint constantly waged against the lower classes as one of the reasons they get stuck in an endless cycle of poverty and violence. Kendall, hardened by the circumstances of his life, is not exactly buying what Raylan is saying until Raylan does something for Kendall that symbolically offers him some sort of freedom: he gives him money. Raylan gives Kendall a substantial amount of money that he was going to use to go to Florida to see his “family”. He tells Kendall to keep his head down and save it for the future. Kendall at this point seems to understand at least on some level what Raylan is talking about.

The act of charity and kindness was similar to what Raylan at a young age received from his beloved Aunt Helen, who gave him amongst other things money for college so that he could make a life for himself. Despite the act of kindness, Raylan’s advice to Kendall about how he should join the Navy felt extremely contrived, even for Raylan. Even though any form of military service is extremely altruistic and noble. Raylan then returns to Allison thinking he can postpone his trip to Florida with her and that they can all live happily ever after. It is at this point that Allison decides it is time to break things off with Raylan.

Raylan never intended to go to Florida and is continuing to distance himself from his real family. For all of Raylan’s heroic attributes he is still a deeply damaged individual who has no idea how to maintain positive family relationships. He can try to play the selfless hero and he can try to piece together other people’s families but in many ways the tragedy is that Raylan psychologically is still running away from his broken home. Raylan, who is an extremely likeable and in many ways wonderful human being, fears turning into his father more than anything else and is even willing to distance himself from his loved ones because of it.

The irony is that in trying to protect his family from what he thinks he may become he is actually distancing himself from the people who can help him grow in a positive direction. The line Raylan utters about Kendall being taken out of a good “Christian” home is important because that may have been the life Raylan has always not-so-secretly wanted. This combination of fear, bitter resentment and anger that Raylan has from his childhood are all making Raylan the man that he is today. At the very least Freud would wholeheartedly agree with this line of thinking.

In regards to Ava, it seems that she is trying to find a way to make connections to help her sneak the drugs she intends to acquire from Boyd into the prison. Ava is a fascinating and strong character but the angle with her this year has quickly become repetitive and boring, which is a shame considering how far this character has come since the pilot episode. So Ava, seemingly just to stay relevant to the plot makes a deal with a prison nurse who will help her run the scam. All the while, the love of Ava’s life Mr. Boyd Crowder, is trying to get out of Mexico alive.

Boyd and Daryl’s antics in Mexico seem to be taking a positive turn as they strike a deal to keep them alive after last week’s fiasco by agreeing to take the bodies of the people they murdered back into America to bury to avoid causing problems for the cartel with which they're working. After this deal is struck the crew is pulled over by some Mexican police who extort a small amount of money to let them go about their business but they also confiscate their truck. It looks as though Boyd has been foiled but he cleverly hid the drugs in a car following the truck and instead stashed the dead bodies in the truck. I think it's fair to question why the policemen decided not to inspect the truck they were confiscating from a bunch of extremely shady individuals who admitted to being ex-convicts. Perhaps they were too concerned with their own greed to notice.

This scene did allow us to see Boyd return for a brief moment to his gospel-preaching ways as he tried to convince the police that they were Christian missionaries. It was only when it was brought to their attention that the country is eighty percent Christian that they realize that this ploy is not going to work. With the episode's many references to Christianity, it's fitting that Boyd tried once again to use religion as a means to cover up his own violent crimes which is something that far too many fanatics across the world have been doing for far too long. After Boyd and company are ready to go back to America thanks to Daryl’s friend who is going to help them, it is revealed that Daryl is trying to “pull a fast one” on Boyd and this sets up a showdown between them in the coming weeks, proving that honour amongst thieves is a fickle thing indeed.

Read Matthew's review of the previous episode, Raw Deal, here.

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It was pretty good, although I preferred last week's instalment.
I found Raylan rather gullible in believing he would actually receive information for his troubles. Also, I prefer seeing Raylan when on-duty rather than off: part of the appeal of the show is due to his relationship with the other deputies and being constrained by being a law man.

I did like the newly revealed, mother-son pair and wonder whether this new, relative goodwill from at least some of the Crowe family will prove to be an advantage to Raylan, even if he might feel short-changed at the moment.

I still love this series. But it pains me to say that this season isn't up to Justified's standards. I haven't lost faith yet, the team behind the scenes have proven themselves. I still can't wait to see how this season wraps up.

Just a point. Military service, in Justified, is anything but a ticket to a good life.

Time and time again, the series rubs in the fact that Raylan and Boyd's lives parted ways when Raylan went off to college....and Boyd (without the financial means to do anything else) went to serve in Iraq.

The storylines for the supporting cast last season also revolved heavily around various characters struggling to live after returning to civillian life.

As for the idea that Raylan 'can't help play but play the hero', you should look back to the conversation between Raylan and Boyd near the end of the final episode of last season. The one where Raylan and Boyd give a 20-second summation of the show's central structure: Raylan pointing out Boyd's attachment to various causes and ideologies as a means of telling himself that he isn't the bad guy, and Boyd noting the way that Raylan seems to thoroughly enjoy killing people (in a way that the show's villains rarely do), and how flashing a badge and attaching a lawful justification for killing the guy who you wanted to kill anyway 'doesn't ,make it justified'.

The repetition of the show's title in Boyd's dialogue there wasn't accidental. It goes through the show's history back to the very first episode, which opens with Raylan deliberately provoking a crook into drawing on him so that he can lawfully shoot the guy.

Raylan is the show's hero, of course. But if you're watching Justified with the idea that Raylan is supposed to be the measure of what's right, you're missing most of the show's nuance and confusing it with the many lesser 'hero-driven' shows that it's subverting.

If Raylan genuinely thought he'd get any useful information, he would have agreed to help before Allison guilted him into it. It falls straight in the middle of Raylan's modus operandi of pursuing personal ambitions and vendettas under the guise of being the 'heroic lawman'.

Not to mention that Raylan's expression makes clear that he's not in the slightest bit convinced that Wendy will follow through on her end of the deal - certainly not to the point that he's going to work an extra case file on his special weekend.

And then when he realises that fobbing Wendy off (even if it IS his day off and it's a matter for the police, not the Marshall service) might complicate his planned weekend with Allison, he agrees to it despite knowing that Wendy won't reciprocate...in a classic case of Raylan playing the lawman-hero so long as it intersects with what he wants.

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