Since we’ve known him, Raylan’s worst enemy has always been Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), the violent, mean drunk who sired him and terrorized his mother and him. Arlo was a petty criminal his whole life, so Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) became a lawman, but he’s always feared that there was more of Arlo in him than he wanted, which was one of the reasons he found it so hard to commit to Winona (Natalie Zea) and to their baby – what if he turned out to be an awful husband and a terrible father like Arlo? (One of the brilliant things the show did, by the way, was to create the monstrous Arlo Givens and give us the rich seam of conflict between him and his son; in the novels on which Justified is based, Raylan’s father was a coalminer who died long before the books opened, and Raylan and Winona were divorced but had two kids already.)
Given that history, it was entirely fitting that “Dark as a Dungeon” opened and closed with Raylan confronting the ghost of his father, figuratively in the opening scene and more literally in the final scene of the episode.
We open with Raylan going through Arlo’s things, emptying out bottles of liquor, going through letters and photographs from Arlo’s days in Vietnam, stashed away in a footlocker, and finally deciding to burn the lot in a cathartic bourbon-fueled fire. (It’s been quite a while since Arlo died two seasons ago, even on the show’s timeline, so it’s interesting that Raylan couldn’t bring himself to jettison the past until Winona brought him tangible evidence — in the form of his daughter of the future.)
Meanwhile, Ava and Boyd (Walton Goggins), who are trapped by their own pasts, continue where they left off on their trip to Bulletville. Upon their return, they’re met by Carl (Justin Welborn) and Errol (Demetrius Grosse), who bring news of The Pig’s death in the mine (unbeknownst to any of them, of course, it was Ava’s uncle who murdered The Pig.) Boyd hands Ava over to Errol as his watchdog and I think about how far Boyd would have gone with better henchmen! Boyd keeps Ava’s phone, asking Ava if she trusts him. Ava has no choice but to answer yes.
Raylan discusses moving the remains of his parents from their macabre backyard gravesite with an undertaker, shocking the poor man when he tells him that he buried Arlo in the “cheapest piece of shit” coffin available. He also tells the undertaker that he wants his mother interred in the town cemetery but his father can go to a potter’s field. Tim (Jacob Pitts) interrupts this exercise in filial piety by showing up and being awesome. He sees the remains of the burnt-out footlocker and asks whether he interrupted a goat sacrifice. (Please, TV gods, could there be a spinoff series about Tim being laconic and hilarious? Please?)
Tim’s setting up headquarters at Raylan’s place for the manhunt for Ty Walker (Garret Dillahunt); Raylan says he’s not involved with that, but he’s going to see Zachariah Randolph (Jeff Fahey), Ava’s uncle, because getting Boyd Crowder is Job #1 as far as he’s concerned.
Ava and Errol walk into Ava’s house, only to find a desperate and sweaty Ty Walker waiting there for them. His beard is well on the way to Crazytown.
At the abandoned mine, Boyd and Carl show up to hear Jedediah lie about how The Pig died. Carl looks increasingly doubtful about Boyd’s loyalty as he hears Boyd callously dismiss The Pig’s death and called Zachariah out for wanting more money for the job. What Carl doesn’t realize (though I wonder why he doesn’t!) is that Boyd can’t afford to get attached to his henchmen because they all have the lifespan of goldfish. Carl does seem to be storing away the perhaps new idea that there is no honor among thieves, however. Zachariah accepts another $5,000 from Boyd to keep doing the job with just Carl.
At Ava’s place, it turns out that Ty just wanted Ava to use her needlework skills and patch up his bullet wound while he waits to talk to Boyd. He still has her tie up Earl, though I’m thinking that Ava is actually the more dangerous of the two.
Raylan pays Zachariah Randolph a little visit, and after some fisticuffs in which Zachariah is surprisingly effective, Raylan discovers the big box of dynamite that Zachariah was trying to hide from him. He tells Zachariah he isn’t going to arrest him for being in possession of exploding things because he has bigger interests. Zachariah tells Raylan that he’s not doing this job for the money, which would seem to be contradict by his share of $15,000, but maybe he really does just want to kill Boyd for the sheer joy of it.
In Lexington, Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) pays a call on Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) who’s exceedingly put out because he spilled guacamole on his dress shirt at nine in the morning and Mike hasn’t been to the cleaners and now Wynn doesn’t have a shirt that matches his pants. Wynn Duffy, I’m going to miss you and I sincerely hope you DO make it out of Harlan alive. Katherine says she doesn’t have much time because she’s supposed to play tennis with her sister-in-law, and Mike charmingly asks if she ever wants to play doubles with him because he once dated a tennis pro. Katherine’s look could freeze a volcanic eruption and Mike takes the hint to go the cleaners.
After he leaves, Wynn produces a file that supposedly proves Avery Markham (Sam Elliott) is the person who ratted out Katherine’s husband. Katherine says that if Boyd doesn’t get Avery’s money in time, it doesn’t matter because she’ll marry Avery and have access to his bank account in any case. Wynn correctly sees that he’d be the third wheel in that situation.
Boyd walks in as Ava is finishing up her sewing job on Ty Walker, at one point getting a little bit too close to the wound part, nearly causing Ty to blow off Earl’s head. Hearing Boyd enter, Ty walks Ava out in front of him with a gun to her head, saying that he just wants to talk to Boyd, and after a brief skirmish in which Boyd wants to kill Ty for “laying hands” on Ava, Ava convinces Boyd to hear Ty out. Apparently Ty still knows the combination of the safe that has all Avery’s money, and he knows that all the guys he worked with are dead (except for Seabass) so he and Boyd hash out a plan in which he will help Boyd get the money if Boyd helps him escape from Harlan.
Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) goes to visit Katherine Hale and they have a wonderful scene filled with fantastic dialogue about who the snitch was who betrayed Grady Hale and murdered a US Attorney in broad daylight. Katherine hands over the file that Wynn Duffy gave her earlier. Art wonders why Katherine is doing this, and Katherine asks how he felt about the man who shot him; Art says he was really glad to hear that the guy had died horribly and Katherine says she wants the same for the guy who betrayed her husband.
At the pizza parlor, Avery Markham is guarding himself since all his henchpeople are dead. Raylan walks in and puts a proposition on the table: if Avery Markham helps him get to Ty Walker, he will sell Avery his land because he’s ready to move on and put his past behind him. “The past is a shadow. Always there behind you,” Markham says (which certainly seems to be the case with Katherine’s planned vengeance on him.) “In Harlan,” Raylan corrects him, “it ain’t behind you. It’s vertical. Dig down another layer, turn up some horror.” He sketches out a plan with Avery to get someone to turn in Ty Walker; Avery goes on the radio to offer a $100,000 cash reward to the person who can bring in Ty Walker.
Ty, Boyd and Ava discuss how Ty’s going to escape from Harlan. Ty says if someone calls in an anonymous tip about his whereabouts the Marshals will stop watching the Portal so he and Boyd can walk in and rob it. Boyd decides that it’s worth burning the Ava-as-informant bridge for the cash in the Portal’s space, and is just getting ready to elaborate on how Ava will contact Raylan when the man pulls up himself. Boyd walks out to intercept Raylan, and they have a fantastic conversation about Boyd’s balls and what it is that Boyd is trying to hide from Raylan. Raylan tells Boyd that the one thing that’s keeping him in Kentucky is Boyd, and then Boyd tells Raylan that he’s like Captain Ahab. I’m not sure who won the verbal battle there, because Ava interrupts it to ask Raylan in for a drink.
Raylan walks in and mentions that there’s a $100,000 reward for Ty’s capture, and Boyd and Ava make the split-second decision to sell out Ty. “He’s in the back,” Boyd says as Ava looks on expressionless. Ty’s gone by the time Raylan gets there, but not far, and Raylan’s able to hit him twice as he runs away. Ty has time to complain that Raylan shot him in the back. “All for what?” Raylan asks him. “For money?” Ty says it’s not just for money, but dies before he can explain what he did all the killing for.
In the aftermath of Ty’s death, Boyd’s lawyer manages to spin a great story about how Boyd and Ava weren’t trying to harbor a dangerous fugitive but were just trying to figure out a way to contact law enforcement. Raylan reminds Boyd about the reward which Boyd figures was Raylan bullshitting him.
Instead, Raylan takes great delight in bringing Boyd Crowder to Avery Markham’s for the payout. I too take great delight in the look on Avery Markham’s face as he’s forced to cough up $100,000 to a man who has thwarted him in Harlan. Avery opens his safe full of cash and you can almost see the wheels spinning in Boyd’s head, as we cut quickly to a shot of Zachariah and Carl working underground. As Boyd walks out, Raylan hears an underground rumble and figures out how Boyd plans to rob Avery’s place.
Ava and Errol walk into Boyd’s bar, and Boyd dismisses Errol before he shows Ava the fat stack of cash that he got as the reward for turning in Ty. Ava sensibly argues that they have their “get out of Harlan” money and should just go, but Boyd is on fire with the possibilities that the $10 million he thinks is in Avery’s safe will do for them. At his heart, Boyd’s a gambler who loves living dangerously and as Ava rightly figures out, every score just makes him want a bigger one. Even though she points out that this could all end with her back in prison, or both Ava and Boyd dead, Boyd persists, telling her he’s never done anything in his life by half-measures and he can’t start now.
Ava asks Boyd for her phone so she can call Raylan. She asks Boyd whether he’s worried she’s going to tell all to Raylan, and he says that he trusts he, but he also knows she’s a smart woman. He says that if Ava plays the game Raylan’s way, she’ll get a crappy witness protection identity and only $50,000 in cash, but if she sticks with him, she’ll get a share of $10 million. You can tell that Ava’s buying into this logic just by looking at her face. Aww, Ava, trust your sensible instincts, please!
Ava meets Raylan at her house and they argue (as always). She yells at him for trying to tempt Boyd or even herself. Raylan and Ava argue about what happened in Bulletville and Ava accuses Raylan of being embarrassed by his past, telling him to admit that he could just as easily have been an outlaw as a lawman. Raylan concedes that, but says “The past is a statement. The future is a question.”
Ava has a different perspective, telling Raylan that “The past and the future are a fight to the death.”
Raylan tells Ava he’s already talked to Zedediah and she tells him where they’re going up through to the safe (though I’m 99% certain it’s not the real location because after all, Ava’s now a double — or is that triple? — agent.)
It’s to no avail, because Raylan realizes that Ava’s turned and tells Rachel (Erica Tazel) during their phone conversation. She asks what tipped Raylan off, and he says “I just know.” Raylan just knows in a way that Tim or Rachel or Art never could because he and Ava (and Boyd) share a past, share that knowledge of how he could have been an outlaw instead of a lawman. Raylan closes by telling Rachel he’ll be in the office the next day but he has something he has to do in the morning.
After the phone call, Raylan goes into his father’s “hidey-hole” which turns out to be far more banal and empty than the feverish horrors Raylan imagined as a little boy. He encounters the ghost of his father, which I’m not sure is a great idea considering that Raylan isn't drunk or delirious from a wound or something like that (though he’s plenty wounded in spirit by Arlo). Raylan tells his father’s ghost that he though every evil thing inside Arlo was in this place, but Arlo replies that it’s just a “big, fat nothing.” Raylan sighs as the ghost disappears. Perhaps he’s finally ready to move on.
The next day, Raylan tells the undertaker he won’t meddle with what’s been done.
“Where would you like it relocated?” the undertaker asks as the bulldozer topples the gravestone set up for Raylan.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Raylan replies, saying goodbye to the past at last.
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.