Thursday, 14 July 2011

Justified 2.13 ‘Bloody Harlan’

“If it makes you feel any better, you can tell people I asked…” – Raylan

Justified’s sublime second season was rounded out by a finale entitled ‘Bloody Harlan’, yet contrary to what the title might have had you believe this wasn’t a blood-soaked ending to Graham Yost’s brilliant drama’s sophomore year.

The blood in the title, although some was spilt physically, must be more of a reference to the strained relationships that were finally slaughtered after building to a crescendo of tension throughout the season.

It feels almost right that I muse on season two’s finale today, the same day that Justified managed to shake-up (at least a little) the usually boring and predictable Emmy nominations. Timothy Olyphant was recognised for his always stellar work with a leading actor nod and both Walton Goggins and Margo Martindale were nominated in their respective supporting categories, and it’s no more than any of them deserve.

The performances throughout season two have been nothing short of brilliant and it really would have been a travesty had some academy recognition not come the way of Raylan Givens and the rest of Harlan’s cast of colourful characters.

I’m digressing in to an Emmys rant though and there will be a separate post for that later, so back to the finale.

In a nice call-back to the pilot we began with Boyd on a bridge making an underhand deal with Doyle’s deputy, and with this came the indication that both sides are far from ready to back down in the turf war for Harlan’s weed business.

After almost winding up dead several times in recent weeks our first glimpse of Raylan in the finale was him requesting Art allow him to head off to become a fire arms trainer as he and Winona had been discussing in the back half of the season.

The frosty relations with Art were still evident from this scene and Art’s reluctance to help Raylan was a little foreshadowing for later in the episode.

Whilst pregnancies are always a favoured card to play in TV land, especially with reconciling partners, Winona revealing she was with child kind of came a little out of left field. Maybe it’s an attempt by the writers to keep Raylan and Winona’s relationship interesting as we move ahead, but if it keeps the two of them together it’s alright with me as I do enjoy the two of them together.

Their happiness was short-lived though as Raylan got a call that Loretta had gone missing from her foster home and unable to leave matters to the police Raylan took a detour from his journey to drop Winona off at work.

Raylan’s sense of duty to Loretta is indicative of his persona and his unflinching need to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Givens reminds me a lot of Jack Bauer in that sense, willing to break/bend the rules in order to do the right thing irrespective of who he hurts in the process.

Winona had what appeared to be an epiphany in that moment and told Raylan he could do what he wanted but there was no guarantee she’d be waiting for him at the end of it.

Her frustration with the above aspect of his character may be a source of frustration for the former Mrs. Givens but her love for Raylan is obviously strong as ever as she marched straight in to Art’s office upon arrival at the court house and pleaded with him to send some back-up for Raylan who was marching in to the hornet’s nest of Harlan alone and was more than likely to catch a bullet, or several, as a result.

Art’s continued reluctance to aid Raylan in any way remained though and it sure as hell looked as though it was going to be Raylan against the entire Bennett clan.

It didn’t take long for Raylan to find himself in need of help as he was duped by Dickie and hung from a tree where Dickie proceeded to exact his own brand of poetic justice by nailing Raylan with a baseball bat repeatedly.

It was certainly a surprise to see Raylan, normally quick to outwit his enemies, so easily captured by Dickie but it could have been the Loretta factor, as her involvement in anything seems to cloud Raylan’s judgement. Maybe he sees a little bit of himself in her – a young kid trying not to get sucked in to the life that their parents lead and make something better of themselves, only to fail spectacularly.

Art might not have been rushing to Raylan’s aid but thankfully Boyd showed up hell bent on revenge for Dickie shooting Ava earlier in the episode.

Boyd had been smart enough to know the Bennetts would betray him and had managed to deplete most of their forces but not without the collateral damage of Ava being struck.

It was nice to see Raylan and Boyd on the same page again, even if it was for very different reasons, and again it was kind of symbolic to have Boyd once again helping Raylan out in a finale.

The inevitable showdown between Raylan and Mags that had been building all season eventually occurred and it certainly appeared that the deaths, and arrest, of her sons wasn’t the tipping point for Mags but rather Loretta, the daughter she never had but always wanted, calling her out for what she really was and then putting a bullet in her leg was.

The season then bookended nicely as Raylan, after succeeding in talking Loretta out of ruining her life completely by killing Mags, shared a drink with the Bennett matriarch, only for Mags to kill herself in the same way she bumped off Loretta’s Dad in the opening episode of the season; the closing image of the season being a simple handshake that seemed to signify the end of an age-old feud.

Although the ending felt a little abrupt it fit nicely with the tone of the show and the season in general and whilst there was tragedy for the Bennetts, we at least got some sort of happy ending as Art and the Marshals came to Raylan’s aid just before Doyle was about to put a bullet that had been “twenty years” in the making in to him.

Art relenting and helping Raylan seemed to set things up for season three with Art unable to not feel sorry for Raylan even if he is a huge pain in his ass.

A Hail of Bullets:

- I was a little surprised there was no reference to the mystery woman who talked Jed in to taking the fall for Helen’s murder in the ‘The Reckoning’. It appeared as though she was being set-up to be some sort of major influence but maybe I took that the wrong way and she was just a Mother or Grandmother telling their son/grandson that he better not upset the Bennetts.

- I was really taken aback by how little Arlo was used in the finale; I think I counted one line of dialogue in total? I get that his shining moment in the season was last week with Helen’s funeral and they couldn’t really write him out for the finale with him being a major member of Boyd’s rather small gang, but if you have Raymond J. Barry for an episode you’d think you’d make the most of such a great actor.

- Doyle getting a bullet (presumably from Tim?) straight through the head was about the most satisfying moment of the season. Although all the Bennetts were pretty loathsome creatures the corrupt sheriff was by far the worst.

- No Justified next week now on Five USA, but you couldn’t really ask for a better replacement as Sons of Anarchy returns in its place.


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