“Everyone knows Harlan County elections ain’t over until the dead have voted.” If that’s the case, the late-voting constituency increased by four this week in “Loose Ends”, although once again, Raylan isn’t responsible for any of the corpses. I’m fairly certain Raylan hasn’t killed anyone since shooting Layla over attempted kidney theft.
I’d take this as a sign of personal growth, but then Raylan ignores Art’s warning that the Marshals’ Service has no reason to investigate or further pursue Quarles.
The other victim of Quarles’ frame-up triple-play, Boyd Crowder, sends Ava as his emissary to Raylan, who, perhaps understandably, seems to think that Ava is being manipulated by Boyd. Raylan gives Ava a kiss and then a lecture, both of which she ignores with considerable aplomb. As we will learn later in this episode, Ava is no longer the damsel in distress Raylan thought he was rescuing back in season 1.
Indeed, she rescues damsels herself, to whit the hapless Ellen May.
It seems that Delroy, not content with being a pimp and domestic abuser, has decided to expand his resume to stick-up artist/bank robber. Of course, Delroy doesn’t do anything himself; he gets three of his girls (including Ellen May) into wigs, trenchcoats and armed robbery. The attempted robbery of a check-cashing joint goes horribly wrong and one of the girls, Krystal, is gut-shot. She dies in the back of Delroy’s van, at which point, Delroy gets Ellen May and the other surviving (but not for long!) girl to dump her into a lake of toxic slurry before he shoots the other girl. Ellen May isn’t too addled to run her for her life, seeking refuge with Ava at the Crowders’ bar.
Ava pretends to listen to Johnny Crowder’s advice that since Delroy pays protection money to Boyd, they had best hand Ellen May back to Delroy. Johnny also unwittingly reveals that he has a crush on Ava and that he is not technically confined to the wheelchair in which he’s usually seated, both facts that may have an impact on future storylines. Satisfied that Ava’s listening to him, Johnny goes to wherever it is that Johnny goes, while Ava lures Delroy to the bar by promising him Ellen May. Instead, she delivers a shotgun blast to Delroy’s chest, and then she and Ellen May clean up. Poor Ellen May!
Meanwhile, thanks to Ava, Raylan visits Boyd in jail and learns about Tanner Dodd’s association with Quarles. Having just been accused of being in Boyd Crowder’s pocket, Raylan fudges the origin of this tip to Art; it’s probably not a good sign that Raylan is deceiving Art in his pursuit of Quarles.
On the other hand, I certainly can’t fault Raylan for deceiving Sheriff Napier to effect Boyd’s release, first of all because Napier is rotten to the core and secondly because Boyd was—in this rare instance—innocent of the crime but most importantly because the whole setup is hilarious. Raylan hires a truck-driver, dresses him in a bullet-proof vest, and pays him to say nothing while Raylan pretends he’s an ATF agent who’s investigating the bombing of Napier’s car.
As entertaining as the hoax of Sheriff Napier was, though, I actually found the scene where Quarles visits his new ally Limehouse to discuss the Harlan County elections even more fun, as we meet the new “campaign manager.” There was a point in the endless recitation of electoral minutiae where I actually felt sorry for Quarles; he looked like he was about to turn his nifty wrist-gun on himself just to escape.
More seriously, Raylan visits Tanner Dodd’s dear old mum, who is not nearly as addlepated as we (and Raylan) initially assume. She won’t give up her son, who has just bought her a flatscreen tv—the ultimate sign of love—though he didn’t get a chance to hook it up. Mrs. Dodd calls Tanner who is still hiding out chez Limehouse.
Limehouse sends Erroll to keep an eye on Tanner, a move that will ultimately backfire. Tanner decides to make some extra money by taking Erroll to meet the man who sold him the bomb-making equipment he used to blow up Sheriff Napier’s car. Tanner’s proud of himself for figuring out that he can get another $5000 from the bombmaker back for selling him “defective” equipment (on top of the $10K he’s blackmailing Sheriff Napier for). Tanner may love his mama, but he’s clearly not the not the shiniest bullet in the cylinder, because this has “bad idea” written all over it. And that’s even before Sheriff Napier sets out to meet Tanner with a shovel in the trunk of his squad car.
The bombmaker tricks Tanner into stepping on a stool that’s basically a disguised landmine. If Tanner moves, they will all be turned into bloody confetti. Errol sees a neat way to tie up his loose end (since he’s the one who got Tanner to hijack Boyd’s oxy operaiton in the first place); he shoots the bombmaker in the back, stranding Tanner atop the landmine, his only choices to call law enforcement or be blown up. (Or both, as it turns out.) He does promise to deliver the cash to Tanner’s mother, though, so I guess that takes care of Tanner’s loose ends.
Sometime later, Raylan and the bomb squad find Tanner, whose legs are going numb and who is afraid to drop his gun in case the slightest change in weight triggers the bomb. And that, of course, is exactly what happens; as Raylan desperately tries to get Tanner to link Quarles to the oxy trade or to corrupt Sheriff Napier, the gun slips from Tanner’s grasp, ominous beeping ensues and, mercifully after the bomb disposal guy and Raylan flee, the whole place goes sky high. (Now who’s going to hook up Mama Dodd’s tv, hmmm?)
Meanwhile, thanks to Raylan, Boyd is freed from custody just in time to attend the debate between Napier and Boyd’s candidate Shelby (who will always be Ellsworth from “Deadwood” to me.) Shelby is a man of few words, and his words are doing him no good at all against the comparatively glib Napier; that is, until Boyd’s “question” turns into one of Boyd’s spectacular speeches. It’s just as well that Boyd is a convicted felon who can’t vote, because he sure can get people to do what he wants them to; in this case, he calls on all the resentment and anger that the people of Harlan County have against the coal mines that have ruined their health and environment and essentially accuses Napier of being a stooge of the mining companies. If the election were held immediately afterwards, Boyd would win by acclamation and he isn’t even a candidate.
Afterwards, Boyd and Ava celebrate the triumph of Boyd’s rhetoric and Ava tells Boyd about the Delroy situation. Boyd doesn’t seem particularly phased by either Delroy’s death or Ava’s decision to kill off a protection racket client. Then Ava suggests that she should take Delroy’s place and Boyd is, again, not phased by that request at all. OK, so this is the weirdest conversation because on the one hand, Ava and Boyd are discussing murder and the sexual exploitation of women, but on the other hand, I’m marveling at how completely they have a relationship of equals. Raylan tried to “protect” Winona from the knowledge of Gary’s perfidy and in doing so, lost her completely; Boyd and Ava appear to operate with full disclosure and that only strengthens their relationship.
Erroll is a man of his word, and delivers the money from Tanner to Mama Dodd, who accepts it and the news of her son’s death with surprising calm. That’s because she already knows about Tanner, courtesy of Raylan, who’s sitting in her living room in the dark, and who’s just learned that Tanner, Quarles and Limehouse are all connected. (He apparently spent the time waiting for Erroll by hooking up Mama Dodd’s flatscreen, which is awesome! I love how even the minor characters on this show are indelible; Mama Dodd was onscreen for a total of probably 2-3 minutes, and yet she’s utterly individual and memorable and I’m glad she has at least her HD picture to remember her boy by.)
Finally, Raylan visits Limehouse, who denies any knowledge of Robert Quarles, and who deftly changes the subject to that of Raylan’s family. Apparently Limehouse was lying when he said he didn’t remember the monumental beatdown he gave Arlo Givens. He also claims to remember Raylan peeing in his pants at the sight. None of this phases Raylan at all, until Limehouse mentions things he knows about Raylan’s mother.
Although Raylan wasn’t responsible for any of the corpses in this episode, if steely glares could kill, Limehouse would be a dead man. Maybe next week!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.