Justified season 5 episode 2 review: The Kids Aren’t All Right

A few familiar faces show up in this week's Justified. Here's Matthew's review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.2 The Kids Aren’t All Right

Justified may currently be the best show on television that is able to integrate characters from the past into their current plots without any sort of a narrative hindrance. Last week we had the return of Dewey Crowe, who is so bad at being a criminal that not only is he at times hilarious, but after seeing him screw up so many times, he’s almost endearing. This week featured the return of Hot Rod Dunham and Loretta, two characters who were prominent figures in season two and who have showed up from time to time since then. This week, both characters’ story arcs crossed and it was Loretta who was smart enough to exploit Raylan’s sympathetic connection to her, bringing all three together in the episode.

Loretta, with the help of her deadbeat boyfriend, has decided to sell pot and it goes horribly wrong for her when she decided to not only sell dope to the son of a police officer but too also “rip off” Hot Rod Dunham from Memphis. We have enough history with Hot Rod to know that he is actually fairly reasonable when it comes to the standards of other drug dealers on the show, but we also know that he is not above killing two teenagers who did him wrong. Raylan intercedes and manages to send Hot Rod back to Memphis by playing up the fact that he was Arlo Givens son. Being the son of Arlo, it was not hard for Hot Rod Dunham to believe that Raylan was completely earnest when he says that he has a steady hand and is more then happy to put his men down. He then states he has no fear of doing this because his US Marshall badge makes this all legal.

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Loretta is saved, and then Raylan manages to act as a father figure to Loretta and tries to get her to break up with her boyfriend for good. Loretta chooses this option but then Raylan comes to the realization that she’s never really cared that much about the kid and was just using Raylan to get her out of her present trouble. However, Allison (Loretta’s social worker and played very nicely by Amy Smart) earlier in the episode said that scare tactics weren’t going to work with Loretta and that she just wants to know that someone cares about her. That seemed to sink in with Raylan, no stranger to a tumultuous childhood himself. He absolutely wants to save Loretta and would have helped her no matter what, something Loretta seemed to know all along. In a way this relationship is very similar to one that developed between Luther and Jenny in season two of the excellent show Luther.

Incidentally, it was glorious to see Wood Harris, aka Avon Barksdale from The Wire, making an appearance as one of Hot Rod Dunham’s henchmen. (When a show gives me a chance to reference The Wire not only do I take it but I immediately love the show in an entirely new way. Well done Justified and I already thought you were brilliant!) More enjoyable performances came from the fantastic interplay between Walton Goggins and Jere Burns as Boyd and Wynn Duffy. Jere Burns has been a greatly underrated character actor for a long time and it is satisfying to see him shine in Justified. Recently, he also had a memorable role in Bates Motel and as the leader of Jesse’s anti-drug support group in Breaking Bad.

Back to the episode, which had some other major events. One involved Boyd being saved by Mara after she showed up at his bar with police escorts, seemingly ready to identify Boyd as her husband’s attacker, though astonishingly, that’s not what she did. Afterwards, she and Boyd have a heart to heart and it transpires that she wants the $300,000 she surmises Boyd has so that she can leave the country, because America has not been the land of opportunity she had dreamed it would be. Again we have another narrative shot, albeit a small one, about the idea of how the American Dream is not what it once was perceived to be. We also have the show addressing a very important component of the American legal system in regards to the idea of eyewitness testimony. We see this trope played out in fiction programming all the time and very often this testimony is the key to getting someone convicted of a crime. Scarily though, someone’s testimony can be easily twisted and distorted for different reasons as we will see play out later in the episode with a certain police officer who is not happy about Mara’s change of heart.

Justifed has never been subtle about its concern with the “haves and the have nots.” This episode makes that even clearer in a bit of narrative irony when Raylan winds up moving into the house of a criminal named Monroe which was confiscated by the US Marshall service as he has some nefarious connection to the Detroit Mafia. Monroe has the most luxurious of accommodation – a house with its own bowling alley and a collection of expensive and bizarre artifacts including a gun used by a confederate general in the Civil War that he keeps in working order. What does it say about Raylan that in order to get a “piece of the pie”, he has to move into criminal’s house? This degenerate Monroe also employs minorities as his household help and appears to believe that emancipation was a mistake. The theme of America’s often-tense race relations is folded in to the episode here. Monroe’s warped attitude that “the only thing [he’s] guilty of is being rich and now thanks to Obama [he’s] got a target on my back” shows him being so deranged that he thinks he’s being punished for being wealthy and not because he is a criminal.

Another major plot thread coming to light is Art’s investigation of Raylan’s connection to Sammy Tonin. Apparently Tonin had called Raylan twenty four hours before his death. If we remember correctly, Raylan sold out Nicky Augustine (with good cause) to Sammy so that he would be killed. Raylan allowing Sammy to kill Nicky seemed as if it was going to be a pivotal moment in his character development but now it seems that it is also going to factor into the future story arc this season. Art, who may seem like your favorite uncle, is instantly on to Raylan’s involvement in this mess and could this factor into the endgame for Raylan or will Art save Raylan as he almost always does?

We also have Daryl Crowe’s arrival in Kentucky to visit Dewey and thus place Raylan’s new adversary firmly into position. This week’s episode then ended on a cliffhanger where we see that Boyd’s shipment of dope has been hijacked and naturally Boyd wants to learn the identity of the culprits. Next week is thus set up for more interesting twists and turns. 

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Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, A Murder Of Crowes, here.

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