I got a goldfish
So here we are back in Harlan County. In the first two weeks of the season, we’ve seen a big mystery set up, a raising of the stakes between Raylan and his father, and, well, we don’t quite have a new “big bad,” as our major interloper is a simply a Holy Ghost revival preacher. Still, we have all the pieces in place for a great Justified season.
But really, I’m just glad to be back in Harlan. It’s hardly novel to comment on how this show inhabits such a lived-in world, with people who pop off the screen with richly drawn characterization (like the Truth clan, with their sensible family policies about gun usage), and how it dwells at a particular intersection of geography and class not often seen on TV, like anything that comes from Elmore Leonard. But when that world is suddenly one in which Patton Oswalt lives, as the instantly immortal Constable Bob – well, I’m looking forward to a great season.
I’m keeping this short tonight, so I just want to highlight two interesting themes. First, in the absence of Winona (who got a bit aimless as a character), I like how much the women of Boyd’s little underworld are rising into prominence these two episodes, particularly in the smackdown Ava delivered on Ellie Mae. The latter has always been kind of a disposable character, good for shooting furries and being held hostage, but this season her involvement with the church seems to be something that could be a major development. I got a distinct Deadwood vibe from Ava and Ellie Mae (if Ava were both Joanie and Swearengen), and that’s never a bad thing.
Really, though, I’m fascinated with this revivalist who’s come into down. He seems to be legit, although on this show you never really know. And I like the use of the Last Chance Holiness Church because it fits this world so well. In the history of working class, rural America, the line between the con man or criminal and the self-reformed populist preacher is small indeed, and the tiny space (both ideological, economic, and geographical) within which both compete for the hearts and wallets of people like the citizens of Harlan was brilliantly depicted in Boyd and the preacher’s confrontation. Justified has always been about the relationship of insiders and outsiders, as befits its setting – a rural border state – and while last season we got Neal McDonough’s carpetbagger, this season we get a completely different kind of outsider. This theme of the threat of the outsider is illustrated literally, of course, by someone parachuting into town in the opening scene last week. And the tension between inside and outside has always been what defines Raylan as a character. So while I’m not sure what to make of our preacher yet, I’m intrigued by the pieces on the board so far.
Thanks for getting this started. I completely agree. It is SO nice to be ‘back’ in Harlan. And how I love this world and these characters.
Just to add a few things to your comments: I think what I am really appreciating this season is the extent to which the show is really stressing how nothing is black/white. All of the characters have complex motivations, and it is really fantastic to see a scene between Boyd Crowder and Wynn Duffy (“I don’t even trust the way that you just said ‘you can trust me.'” is epic Justified). Similarly, with Art’s breakdown of his office personnel, the fact that Raylan’s latest fling is married. Raylan’s world(view) is relatively simple, but his world is always quite complex. And what Justified does so well is allow the characters to create that world.
I think the Ellie May character has been fantastic and her scenes have been really interesting (it’s nice to see a character that’s mostly been comic relief go into full on drama mode…will we see the same from my favorite comic relief, Dewey Crowe?) I also think the religious showdown between the preacher and Boyd was fantastic, and I hope we’ll see more of the same. It is a clever idea to do what they’ve done here, which is to take a theme they’ve already explored, but this time do it in the context of repetition. Similarly, I like how this season is–as you mentioned–really gearing up to be a sort of extended mystery/suspense affair, as opposed to a typical ‘big bad,’ which could be fascinating idea.
One thing that I’m not sold on is the casting of Preacher Billy (Joe Mazzello)…he seems insufficiently magnetic and charismatic to me, but perhaps he’ll surprise me, and maybe that’s part of the point, if his sister is really the one running things, then it might work (the actress that plays her has certainly shown her chops in True Blood).
Until next week!