Sometimes the quietest episodes of Justified are filled with the most tension. “The Hunt” which was in some ways, a setup for the last half of the season, had a relatively low body count (except for the ambulance drivers who had the misfortune to take Ty Walker’s call), but it was filled with thematic density.
The three separate storylines – Raylan’s (Timothy Olyphant) commitment to the daughter he’s never met before and her mother; Ava’s (Joelle Carter) fraught hunting trip with Boyd (Walton Goggins); and the manhunt for Ty Walker (Garrett Dillahunt) played riffs on the themes of fraternity, loyalty, betrayal, love. and family.
Last week, Ty Walker reluctantly conceded to Avery Markham (Sam Elliott) that Choo Choo (Duke Davis Roberts) needed to be sacrificed for “the greater good” (which mostly is Avery Markham’s good.) This week it was Ty’s turn to learn that the supposed fraternity of having served in the “sandbox” together wasn’t strong enough to keep Seabass (Scott Grimes) from choosing Avery’s enormous piles of cash over his loyalty. There’s no honor among thieves, I guess. Left all alone, Ty extracted a bullet from his own shoulder (that was hardcore – nearly on a par with The Americans DIY dentistry a couple of weeks ago!) and menaced some frat boys before conceding that he would need medical attention. He lured an ambulance to where his car broke down, and then, once he realized he’d been recognized, murdered both the “hero” ambulance driver who tried to sedate him, and his far less heroic sidekick who pleaded for his life.
Meanwhile, Raylan – for the first time in six seasons – chose voluntarily to bow out of the action of the manhunt and keep his promise to Winona (Natalie Zea) and meet his baby girl for the first time. The baby is adorable, but suffering from an ear infection, and Winona is at the end of her tether being a single mom, and finally snaps at Raylan, asking how much of a part of their lives he wants to be. Also, the baby has a heart murmur, which is pretty worrisome so Winona has come to the end of her rope.
Raylan, wisely recognizing that these types of discussions are better when one party isn’t a sleep-deprived nursing mother, takes the baby out for a spin, and even brings her to the office, but unlike Raylan 1.0, doesn’t waver in his commitment to the baby over talking to Avery Markham or pursuing the manhunt. I’m starting to think that Raylan actually means what he says about making his family his priority, but it’s early days yet and twenty-four hours isn’t exactly a lifetime; I guess he’s got some pretty bitter memories of Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) to remind him of what not to do as a father, but perhaps actually meeting the baby and holding her and hanging out with her is what’s making him realize where his priorities truly lie.
Ironically, while Raylan’s been having his epiphany on full commitment to family life, Winona’s been having an epiphany of her own. When Raylan and the baby return, Winona, who’s finally gotten some much-needed rest, tells Raylan that she’d rather have Raylan in her life, even if his job takes precedence over his family, than not have him in her life at all.
All this happiness and joy (despite the baby’s worrisome heart murmur) suddenly makes me afraid for Raylan. There’s so much foreshadowing with the tombstone for Raylan in the Givens’ family cemetery, and with Art’s talking earlier this season about the possibility of Raylan not being the fastest draw, and given how Raylan now has everything to live for, I’m afraid he’s not going to make it out of Harlan alive.
Speaking of bullets and people whose survival is dubious, Boyd takes Ava on an impromptu hunting trip to his father’s old hunting cabin in the ominously named Bulletville, scene of the shootout at the end of the first season which saw Boyd kill his father to save Raylan’s life. Boyd and Ava have increasingly tense conversations about Bowman, and Boyd’s family, and Boyd tells Ava that he’s not his brother. No, because he’s much more into ratcheting up the mental and emotional tension rather than getting physical with her. Boyd tells Ava to hit him if it makes her feel better, so she does; apparently Boyd enjoys this, because they end up having sex. I’m starting to think that Boyd’s doing some kind of “Greatest Hits with Ava” thing before he kills her, especially when he wakes her up in the pre-dawn darkness to go hunting boar with him.
When they get to the site, Boyd first discusses members of his family and circle who betrayed him (Devil and Johnnie), and then abandons Ava to her guilty conscience and goes off to kill some pigs. By the time he gets back, Ava’s so keyed up that she freely confesses to being a snitch for Raylan and explains her reasoning for her betrayal of Boyd, her fear of abandonment in prison, and her knowledge that she’d have to fight for her life every day for the rest of her life. (I must confess I tuned out that prison storyline last season because it bored me, but perhaps I should revisit since it’s such a key point for Ava this season.) Poor Dewey and Johnnie and Devil were unlucky in the genetic lottery, because Boyd doesn’t greet her confession with an instant bullet to the brain (unlike his treatment of others whom he considers potential threats.)
In fact, Boyd seems more concerned about whether Ava slept with Raylan than the fact that she’s his CI. He tells Ava that if she had an affair with Raylan, she can just kill him right then and there and hands her his gun. Ava tells him she didn’t betray him that way, and hands back the gun, telling Boyd to go ahead and kill her if that’s what he wants. Boyd, satisfied on the important point, tells Ava that everything will be ok and they’ll run away together once he’s got his hands on the money he intends to steal. (Uh, I think Ava’s uncle, who’s apparently trying to kill off Boyd and his henchmen, may have something to say about that.) Since Ava’s passed his test, Boyd secretly replaces the blanks in his pistol with live ammunition and now I have the uneasy feeling that Ava’s execution has simply been postponed rather than abandoned entirely. Uh oh! They woudn’t kill everyone off, would they? Despite the apparent reconciliation, neither Ava nor Boyd looks entirely comfortable hugging it out to end the episode.
This one wasn’t quite as excitingly full of action and great lines as other episodes this season (though Rachel (Erica Tazel) and Tim (Jacob Pitts) both got some good moments), but I have the feeling that when we’ve seen the season as a whole, “The Hunt” will provide some pivotal moments.
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.