Justified season 5 episode 9 review: Wrong Roads

Has Justified's fifth season merely been going through the motions? Here's Matthew's review of Wrong Roads...

This review contains spoilers

5.9 Wrong Roads

Though it’s hard to find fault with a show that has drug-dealing gangsters quoting King Lear during an extortion scene, I think it might be time to admit that this season has mostly just been ‘going through the motions’, however much I respect it. Honestly, not much has happened this year to further develop Raylan’s character or speed up the endgame for him. In fact, the biggest thing that went on during this season, when Art finally found out about Raylan’s involvement in the murder of Nicky Augustine, has been pushed aside. It’s as if Raylan’s fate being tied up in Art’s hands and the inevitable showdown with Boyd is being saved for Justified’s sixth and final season.

I am not going to say I’m disappointed in the show, but I will say that it is time for the endgame to be accelerated. In regard to this week’s episode, Raylan instead of going to Florida to visit his family, decides to take a trip to Memphis to track down Hot Rod Dunham. It’s here that Raylan finds out that Hot Rod’s henchmen Roscoe and Jay have turned on him thanks to Boyd’s late cousin Johnny. As such they have Hot Rod held hostage and are trying to get him to turn on Boyd so that they can retrieve the money and drugs stolen from them. Hot Rod gives up Boyd’s location and Raylan, with the help of a Memphis DEA agent, follows the henchmen back to Kentucky where they’re caught in the midst of trying to rob Boyd and his crew. Naturally, Raylan arrives just in time and the henchmen are apprehended while Boyd and company are able to go free.

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Canyou explain to me how the leadership of a growing criminal empire who are discussing all sorts of illegal activities in the presence of a US Marshall and a DEA agent are able to walk away from this mess without any sort of repurcussions? As I said, the usually high level of narrative storytelling is starting to diminish.

This brings me to me next plot device, The Crowe family. As much as I love Michael Rapaport as an actor and I think that his character of Daryl has been an asset to the show at times, he really has not been asserted into the plot in any meaningful way. The weird family dynamics between him, Wendy, Kendall, and Danny seem to exist only on a superficial level to show that Daryl, like most people, is a somewhat conflicted character who at times lets family ties circumvent his judgment. In season two the Bennett family, thanks in large part to excellent acting and equally excellent writing, helped to augment the level of the show’s narrative by introducing unique and ruthless criminals into the show each week. Besides that, the Bennett family raised the stakes for Raylan and for the show as a whole because they inserted themselves directly into the plot. It was excellent writing because the Bennetts were not in Justified for the purposes of getting involved with Raylan on a weekly basis, rather they had their own plans and motivations and these just happened to overlap with Raylan’s duties as US Marshall. It is a shame that the Crowe family has not been able to be as successful as the Bennett clan because they seem like the easiest adversary that Rayaln has ever dealt with.

Ava this weeks asks Boyd to kill a man for her so that she can cement her relationship with the prison nurse who will help her smuggle drugs into the prison so that she can keep herself alive. The tension between her and Boyd continues to rise and the deterioration of their relationship also continues to be dragged out at an incredibly slow pace. As poor Ava’s bad luck never seems to end, after Boyd does this favour for her, naturally the prison nurse is not satisfied and wants something else. She wants Ava to kill Judith for her and gives no explanation as to why except that perhaps this red herring of a plot device is simply there to get us into next season. I do not want to be overly critical of the show but the writing appears to be on the wall that the show’s best days are behind it.

That said, the scene between Wynn, Boyd, Picker and Daryl was interesting and possibly trying to call attention to the fact that in capitalistic ventures the independent businessman is always at a disadvantage when dealing with larger corporate entities. Essentially, Daryl offers the men a more or less fair deal for the services he’s going to provide and Wynn and Picker are not only unimpressed, but Wynn, as only he can, explains to Daryl that his price immediately brings down his own profit margin as well as those of his de-facto shareholders. Picker immediately suggests ten percent to be a fair price to pay for Daryl’s services. Greed drives all of the men at this table. It seems that Daryl is planning on killing the men he’s negotiating with, so perhaps their petty squabbles over percentage points ultimately means nothing. On the other hand, as I mentioned in a previous review, if these men actually put aside their differences and work together they would all get rich. This was the promise that could have been fulfilled if Daryl and Boyd continued with their partnership. Cooperation could be a far more powerful weapon then competition and arguably this tension between individualism, cooperation, and competition has always been part of the American struggle. A struggle that almost all of the classic western movies have dealt with on either a conscious or subconscious level and as Justified is a modern-day western it makes perfect sense that this theme is present.

The dichotomy of these conflicting viewpoints also makes Roscoe’s King Lear reference exceptionally important. Roscoe and Jay are only concerned with getting “theirs.” They do not care about how the “bitches” divide up the rest of the riches. Arguably one of the cautionary warnings from King Lear is that greed corrupts and that when everybody fights for the same thing ultimately everybody winds up with nothing. This could also be foreshadowing Raylan’s future. It is possible when all is said and done that Raylan will end up with absolutely nothing. Of course what makes Raylan’s journey all the more tragic is that he is responsible for his own isolation. My only concern is that by the time that we finish our journey with Raylan will the stakes be so low that we won’t even care? I hope not and maybe the fact that the series has decided to end after next year means that everyone knows that it is time to move on and hopefully this season will start to come more into its own over the next four episodes.

Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, Whistle Past The Graveyard, here.

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