Justified: “Coalition,” Season 3, Ep. 12

Ava and Boyd on Justified, Season 3 Episode 12
The only coalition left standing?
The ironically-titled “Coalition”, this week’s episode of Justified, the penultimate of the season, had a dizzying number of plots, counter-plots and shifting and false alliances (Dickie and Errol; Dickie and Errol and Boyd, though Boyd saw through that one in this episode; Wynn and Boyd; Limehouse and Quarles; Limehouse and Raylan).

As best I understand it, Limehouse tried to set up Quarles and Boyd to take each other out in the course of a bank robbery that he’d alerted law enforcement about, whilst also taking out Dickie Bennett and his irritating sense of entitlement to Mag’s money by having Boyd kill him. Furthermore, Boyd and Wynn were semi-allied to take down Quarles but Wynn was secretly planning to have Quarles take out Boyd first, before he claimed the entire reward from Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin. Unfortunately for Limehouse and Wynn, their plans failed to take into account the fact that Boyd is very smart and that Quarles is crazy. A sure-fire Wynn-win situation turned into a nightmare at the end!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the law, Raylan had three goals: get Dickie Bennett back in jail, arrest Robert Quarles and recover Mags’s money. He succeeded on one count, failed on a second and at least traced Mags’s three million, before he decided that rather than have the money languish in Federal impound (where it could be stolen by a Marshal in twenty years, perhaps), it was better for Loretta to keep it, as Mags intended. Just so long as she doesn’t plan on a van Halen concert for her birthday, of course! I absolutely loved Loretta and the teasing father-daughter relationship Raylan has with her, so I applaud Raylan’s decision.

The curtain was finally pulled back, and we discovered that Limehouse, the Wizard of Noble’s Holler, might talk the talk, but he sure doesn’t walk the walk of a Big Bad. Thinking back, during the course of this season, Limehouse never actually claimed to be anything more than the banker and keeper of secrets, even though he used lots of innuendo and gestures with meat cleavers to pretend at being a tough guy. I was one of the people who kept wondering all season when Limehouse was going to reveal his evil genius, and I think it’s a brilliant move to have him just be this guy with one foot in the criminal world because of the people he deals with, but who doesn’t actually have an appetite for being the Big Boss, like Bo Crowder or Mags Bennett (or what Boyd hopes to become). Limehouse just keep doing what he does best—making barbeque and taking care of the people who don’t matter to the rest of Harlan County. 

It’s a brilliant move, because as a Big Bad, Limehouse could only ever have been a shadowy follower of Mags’s folksy cunning. But as the keeper of truths, Limehouse has a lot more mileage. (Although I wouldn’t go so far as Raylan did, in intimating that Limehouse is, like the Wizard of Oz, a pussy.)

Dickie Bennett on Justified Season 3 Episode 12
I’m alive!
If Limehouse was revealed as the Wizard, then Dickie Bennett was surely the Scarecrow, still searching for a brain, and vicious to the end. I have no doubt he would have hurt or killed Loretta for Mags’s money. Although I find Dickie (and his hair, which was in toned down “I’ma rob a bank and get my mother’s criminal proceeds back” mode tonight) hilarious, he’s also a dangerous creep. I don’t think Raylan shot to kill, so Dickie’s back to the Federal pen; with luck Dewey Crowe has gotten in with the popular crowd in Dickie’s absence, so they can resume their beautiful friendship and braid each other’s hair. Moreover, Raylan did Dickie a solid there, perhaps unintentionally, since he saved Dickie from the long and painful death Boyd had planned for him.

Robert Quarles is my candidate for the Tin Man; he’s indestructible and lacks a heart (although surprisingly, he didn’t kill his captors at the whorehouse after getting the better of them). At the end of this episode, Quarles knows he’s as alone as he’s ever been—there’s no refuge left for him in Harlan County or in Detroit. Every one of his erstwhile associates has sold him out; he’s a killer with nothing left to lose, which makes him more dangerous than ever. And, as we know, he sees Raylan as the author of all his woes. I have a horrible feeling that he’s going to kill someone close to Raylan next week, and I’m just hoping it isn’t Winona, because Raylan will never get over the guilt.

Boyd and Arlo on Justified Season 3 Episode 12
Boyd and Arlo have a *father and son* moment
Also waiting in the crazy wings is Raylan’s daddy, Arlo, who has definitely gone of the deep end, having hallucinations of the late Helen and calling Boyd “Raylan.” If this were a different show, I’d almost imagine that Arlo will somehow save Raylan from Quarles next week, but this is Justified and Arlo is Arlo, so, although I cannot imagine how, I think it’s a safe bet Arlo will, in fact, screw things up even more for Raylan.

The one thing I found somewhat wanting in an otherwise stellar episode of the show was how easy Boyd made it for Quarles to escape. Why leave this man, whom Boyd knows just killed two meth dealers with great brutality, to be guarded by two drug-addicted hookers and one not-very-bright henchman? And if that is indeed the deepest part of the criminal talent pool, first of all, Boyd may want to rethink his aims to be a criminal mastermind, and secondly, he might want to get some shorter chains when he wants to hold people captive. I could sort of see why he left Johnny to guard Dickie and Errol (he was deeply worried about Ava) but I just didn’t think a man of Boyd’s brains would be so lax with Quarles, especially not with a share of $200,000 at stake.

Last but not least, RIP Trooper Tom. I liked his steady presence in the background and the way he sometimes made fun of Raylan. I hope he’s not truly dead!

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.

See all posts by Regina Thorne on Criminal Element.


  1. CatherineS

    I completely agree about Boyd’s leaving Quarles so, um, lightmindedly guarded. That felt out of character as we were watching.

    Wynn-win situation, *g*!

  2. Carmen Pinzon

    Boyd has been a disappointment to me this season. I like Boyd when he’s ruthless and cunning, both qualities which have been missing this season, imo.

  3. AllisonBrennan

    Great summary.

    I actually like Boyd a lot this season–last season not quite as much (the being a little too depressed, then some of his decisions didn’t fit his character, IMO–this season he seems more like the Boyd of season 1)–but I agree about Quarles. Boyd should have been smarter than that, because he doesn’t usually underestimate people. Wynn has been very interesting and proving smarter and more ruthless than I thought he was. But I think that stems from self-preservation, because you can always tell that he truly was fearful of Quarles because he knew he was crazy. (I was kind of thinking, when he was painting the room after Quarles killed the kid, that he was going to tell Raylan, but of course he didn’t.)

    You nailed it–Quarles is crazy with nothing to lose. Smart, too, which makes him doubly dangerous. I love how they have a Big Bad who is so different from Mags but just as compelling of a character. He’s not going to go quietly!

    I wished they’d done more with Tim and Rachel. Tim has a very intriguing character in particular — I’m thinking the VA episode specifically where I really wanted to know more about him. I hope they give him more time next season.

    About killing someone off — Graham Yost said she and the baby were safe, not that I believe him per se, but I don’t think that’s going to be it. Arlo is at risk. I’m more worried about Ava (I really like her and want her to stay, but if she’s killed that makes Boyd doubly dangerous next season. I’ve always liked Boyd, even when he’s bad, he just doesn’t *quite* cross the line to evil, but if Ava is gone, he’ll go to the dark side completely.

    Anyway, can’t wait for tonight!

  4. bitsy08

    You know, I love the way Jeremy Davies plays Dickie. He talks really quietly and you have to listen real good to hear how really crazy he is. I almost said stupid, too, but I don’t think he’s stupid. I just think he wants what he wants and he’s going to get it any way he can. Now that I think of it, Raylan talks real soft, too, and so does Boyd. I guess the common thread is that danger doesn’t have to be loud and in your face. I was afraid for those boys when Quarles got ahold of them. Thank God they didn’t write anything like that in. I think that would have turned me off completely. Well, here we are again in hiatus. God it’s boring, isn’t it? I’ll miss the boys.

  5. Regina Thorne

    [b]@CatherineS[/b] – As insane as Quarles was they did give him some great lines. (I loved his glee in the finale that Limehouse literally kept his money in a piggy bank. Although, for whoever was unwrapping the baggies of money – I hope they had lots of hand sanitizer :P)

    [b]@bungluna[/b] – I think I view it a bit differently in that I think Super!Villain Boyd who skates off scot-free and anticipates his enemies’ every move would get boring and unbelievable. One of the things about Elmore Leonard’s writing that I like is that quite often the criminals just aren’t very bright. Boyd IS bright but even he can’t foresee every eventuality (he did figure out the double-cross about the bank robbery of course, and he outfoxed Quarles and Napier with the election!) As for the way that Quarles was basically encouraged to escape, I kind of fanwanked it that Boyd didn’t issue specific enough instructions to his henchpersons, who obviously thought they had nothing to fear from a naked man. And I did like that we got to see some of the earlier, master-manipulator Quarles in his scenes with the henchpersons!

    [b]@AllisonBrenna[/b]n – Wynn has been very interesting and proving smarter and more ruthless than I thought he was. But I think that stems from self-preservation, because you can always tell that he truly was fearful of Quarles because he knew he was crazy.

    My husband is just now watching Season 1 of “Justified” and last night he watched the episode where Wynn beats up Gary and Gary’s friend … and I sort of remembered how crazy and mean Wynn really is. I guess in contrast to Quarles this season he’s seemed pretty low-key and self-posssessed but he has managed to survive what his boss Arnett didn’t so I wouldn’t write off Wynn Duffy!

    As for Tim and Rachel, I agree, but I believe that it’s a budget consideration – they have to space out the appearances of the actors and only use them when they’re really needed. I did love Tim’s low-key snark at Raylan and the episode early in the season when they went to see Duffy together was hilarious. I hope, if they’re not paying Natalie Zea to be a regular any more next season (which I read that they aren’t!), we will get more of Raylan’s fellow Marshals onscreen. (Though I have to say that Art is my absolute favorite of the office people.)

    [b]@bitsy08[/b] – Yeah, I was TERRIFIED for the boys when Quarles separated them from their mother. I was almost relieved when he just used them to lure Raylan to him because I figured Raylan could handle the situation no matter what. Heh!

    I think Dickie was always the “runt” of the Bennett litter (Mags evidently favored his brothers over him – between the big dumb one who was the baby and Doyle who was the eldest) and that’s one of the reasons why he always tries so hard to prove himself (with such mixed results.) I always have to remind myself that Dickie’s actually quite dangerous because I usually get caught up in how funny he is.

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