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Justified – Blaze of Glory

Travis,

*grabbing some snuff* (Just kidding)…but what a classic scene!

So we have another absolute winner in my opinion…but with a much lighter, softer tone. I have to say this season has thus far been impeccable. No bad episodes, no bad writing, and nonetheless a variety of types of episodes. So, on the whole, this week was a sort of pause from all of the major storylines…it is a testament to the quality of the writing that this episode still worked so well. Part and parcel of this pause was that we also took a pause (except for the awesome beginning) from the Boyd storyline which we have been so intently discussing. It was interesting, however, not only how Ava agreed to Boyd’s scheme, but also how Boyd framed it to Raylan. I wasn’t quite sure which moment Boyd had in mind–was he referencing the final showdown of last season (the finale), where Raylan told Boyd and Ava to leave? Or was he referencing the episode where Raylan originally shot Boyd? Or both?

The biggest shocker of this episode was of course Winona stealing the sole $100 bill. I thought this was so well executed–Natalie Zea’s expression just standing before the bank teller window was amazing. There is much to be said about why Winona did this. What I am certain of is she herself was not certain. That’s how I read the whole scene at the bank. This also ties neatly into our (or at least my–I’m not sure if you agree) analysis of Boyd’s actions. I take the philosophy of action in Justified–at least as far as Boyd and Winona is concerned–to essentially argue that intentions are not some sort of internal states that are eventually externalized in actions. Rather, the show wants to complicate this whole picture and argue that in a very deep sense intentions gain their full content only after an action. And not only after the action itself, but after the action has been interpreted, perhaps disputed, but certainly taken up and assimilated by, others. There is no transparency, not for others, nor for the self; we are each a mystery, to ourselves as much as to others. This how I see Winona concoction of the story of wanting to check to see if the money is real…which isn’t a horrible story…it’s just not the whole story. Part and parcel of this approach to action is to get us as the viewer analyzing the action(s), as much as, say Raylan, or the other potential characters. This all makes for interesting TV, and perhaps even more interesting philosophy (if we can, with a show as good as Justified, even separate the two!) To muse a little bit longer on Winona’s action. Did you get the sense that when she asks Raylan about whether the FBI will “just ignore” the bill, she is actually talking about Raylan? The whole action could be read as a sort of plea for attention, since Winona seems to find Raylan as continually silent. With the action, she is able to shift roles, and Raylan’s quip that, “someday” they’ll have to discuss it is exactly where Winona seemed to be in the beginning of the episode. Something about this explanation rings true to me…but something about it makes Winona out to be a weaker woman than she actually is. Thoughts?

Now, as far as Raylan, I see this episode and the tension between him and Winona exactly paralleling the tension that we had between Raylan and Ava last season. In both cases, Raylan pulls away after a certain closeness and vulnerability. In both cases, he also uses something like the excuse of the law. With Ava, it was the pretense of having to put Boyd back in prison, while with Winona it seems to just be the continual pull of the law. In this regard, it was quite clever to have the parallel storyline of Art. Art is the guy who is able to have a family life, who is able to let criminals go, but nonetheless, who ultimately catches up to them. It’s another model of law enforcement and we’ll see if it’ll not only have any pull on Raylan, but also whether it is a possibility for him.

Finally, I just have to say that this episode features the most epic, the fucking most awesomest, the coolest, the slickest, the absolute totally most badass chase scene of all time, of all history of any sort of live action television. Just totally genius. And so fitting for the mood of the whole show (also absolutely classic was his wife: “What if something happened…to his brain…you know ‘cuz of the emphysema?”)

Looking forward to next week, especially to returning to the main storyline, and presumably, the much feared appearance of the Dixie Mafia.

Best,

Martin

 

Martin,

First of all and most importantly, thank you for that penultimate paragraph. It’s almost as good as the scene itself – I agree, the absolute totally most badass chase scene of all time. Who knew Art was in such bad shape? I had a few more quibbles with the episode than you did, but the scene between Art and Frank on Skype absolutely sold the episode for me – that picture of two rivals, in a relationship once bitter, now coming close to something like collegial, was pitch-perfect. It’s what this show does so damn well – I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true – the writers’ ability and willingness to invest (presumably) one-off characters with vividly rendered personalities and histories always impresses me. And yeah, I do remember the ending of Jaws.

So this episode is all about relationships, and the parallels between them. The Boyd-Ava dilemma clearly foreshadows the developments of this episode between Raylan and Winona (and yeah, I wasn’t totally sure what Boyd meant either); I hadn’t seen it before, but I think you’re right – with the events of “Blaze of Glory,” Winona and Raylan take on many of the dynamics of Raylan and Ava last season (nice parallel – the bag of hundreds Boyd gives to Ava last week, and Winona steals a hundred this week). What is more, Raylan’s implication of himself with Winona takes things into a new territory for him – he’s always played a little loose with the law – when “justified,” of course – but this is a different kind of compromising action. I agree that at some level we have to see Winona acting from a desire to get Raylan’s attention, because she knows that he at some fundamental level must protect his women. I also agree that this seems just a bit below Winona, so I don’t know that we can ascribe that to a conscious intention; the show has been just at the verge of taking this kind of move to something really interesting, and developing both Winona’s and Ava’s roles into something much more subversive, but I don’t know that that step has been taken yet. The developments of this week do put Ava and Winona both in places where they can emerge more, agentially, than they have so far; but I still can’t help wondering if Loretta isn’t going to be significant in this respect.

Now, I didn’t love the slightly contrived feel of the plot – Winona taking the bill didn’t totally work for me, but you’re right, Zea made it work, and moreover, it makes sense in terms of the way intentionality works on this show. I like your thoughts on this issue, especially at the point where characters’ actions blend into the web of meanings and intentions woven by others on the show; this, I think, is a lot of what I meant when I was talking about tragedy last week (something you were right to call me on), but it spins things in a slightly different way, and helps explain why the “bandit of the week” format always works (at least for me) on this show. That is, the meaning of actions only occurs in a web of relationality (if I might be forgiven for using such a cliched word), both at an interpersonal and communal level. So what Raylan or Boyd or Dickie do doesn’t matter so much at the individual level, as it does in its interrelationship with the actions of others. So Raylan can’t act except insofar as that action is embedded in a highly specific tradition and thickly articulated context. I don’t mean that in a MacIntyrian sense – that tradition and context can be as toxic as life-giving – but simply that the final referent and agent of the show is located in its sense of place and community – or rather, the highly charged multivalence located at the convergence of a number of different such communities. Being from Harlan means something (like being able to tell dynamite and road flares apart). I’m not saying this very well, but I think it helps explain why Raylan is both such a singular and such an inscrutable character, and why roles like Rachel, Tim, and Winona can come and go but always work so effectively when they’re needed. I’m surprised to hear myself say this, but the only show I can think of that illustrates quite what I’m trying to say is Lost.

Alright – speculation aside, agreed, another great episode. Looking forward to the return of Mags et al, and really fascinated to track the continuing development of Raylan’s ability to defuse, as it were, a situation without taking a shot.

Travis

Written by Martin

March 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

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