Before I begin talking about the season premiere of Justified, I’d like to raise a virtual toast (with clean glasses) to Mags Bennett, who gave new meaning to the phrase “as American as apple pie.” I can only hope that season 3’s villains, whoever they may be, can compete with her unique combination of motherly warmth and hair-raising terror.
Now, onto the show! The “previouslies” give us a good sense of who to watch out for this season: Wynn Duffy of the Dixie Mafia, whom Raylan encountered again last season when Winona’s second and soon-to-be-ex-husband Gary hired Wynn to kill Winona. (If that ten-second glimpse is the last we ever see of Gary, I will be a happy camper, because every time he appears onscreen, I question Winona’s judgment.) We’re also reminded that Dickie Bennett shot Ava Crowder, Boyd’s erstwhile sister-in-law and current girlfriend, and that Boyd saved Raylan’s life when Dickie Bennett was about have batting practice with Raylan’s skeletal system.
Three weeks after being shot (at the end of last season), Raylan is not feeling particularly lucky to be alive. He’s engaged in a painful (and partially shirtless) target practice when Art interrupts; after some of Art’s usual hilarious on-point comments about Raylan’s bitchin’ bod, Art tells Raylan that Boyd Crowder has stopped by, apparently in response to an invitation from Raylan.
Boyd gives nothing away to his favorite frenemy, asking only for an apology because he saved Raylan’s life. Raylan points out that the words Boyd wants are “thank you,” not an apology, and Boyd says the apology is because Raylan forgot his promise to give Dickie Bennett back to Boyd. Raylan is actually unable to believe what he’s hearing, asking Boyd if he really thinks a U.S. Marshal is going to hand a person over for certain murder “like a pig I’d borrowed.” Boyd reminds Raylan that he was a Givens before he was a marshal, and just like that, fisticuffs ensue, with Raylan getting the worst of things, given his injury. Eventually Raylan and Boyd crash through the plate glass window of the conference room and Boyd is arrested for assaulting a marshal.
Meanwhile, we learn that some things, such as the likelihood that Arlo Givens will be involved in a criminal enterprise, never change. Arlo’s living room is full of trash bags containing Mags Bennett’s weed, currently being inspected by the awesome bearded “Hot Rod” Dunham of Memphis (who was transacting business with Dickie Bennett last season when Boyd, Arlo and “Devil” held up the proceedings with shotguns). Hot Rod is deeply insulted when it turns out that—thanks to improper storage—the weed is mostly worthless, and things look like they might get ugly as Ava turns up. Yay! Ava looks wonderful and is apparently the only adult human being on the Crowder crew; she successfully defuses the situation, despite the fact that Devil won’t let her get a word in edgewise (this is a mistake, as Devil will come to realize).
As an aside, I really love how Justified re-uses characters like Hot Rod (and his beard) who might have seemed like one-off bit parts earlier. It adds to the feeling of verisimilitude and the sense that this is a *real* place.
While his father is trying to sell weed, Raylan is apparently still resident in his nasty motel room and Winona is with him. Raylan wants to find a bigger place to live together and Winona keeps deflecting that line of thought. Ironically, Raylan is finally willing to concede that he really does live in Kentucky just as Winona seems to be having second thoughts about whether she really wants a deeper commitment.
Really, given how often people drop by that motel to kill Raylan, I’m surprised he hasn’t already given thought to moving somewhere more secure, like, say, a clifftop fortress surrounded by a moat filled with alligators.
A Ray Liotta lookalike uses the cover of a pizza delivery to break into the house of a man who deals in extremely expensive watches. Apparently, Arnett intends to pay off his debt to Detroit by having Fake Ray Liotta rob the guy’s safe. Fake Ray, like many a movie and television villain, likes to complicate his killing with a game—he puts his gun on the table and has the pizza delivery guy count to ten. On the count of one, he tells the watch owner, they’ll both go for the gun and whoever gets it first will survive. Only, Fake Ray doesn’t play fair and stabs the man in the hand before shooting him in the head. Ouch!
Then Fake Ray shoots the pizza boy in the head, and I’m left thinking that life is deeply unfair, especially if you’re a minor character in a TV series. Poor kid!
At the Marshals’ office, Tim Gutterson (ah, Tim! How I’ve missed your deadpan humor!) fills Raylan in on the details of the killing and finally gives Fake Ray a real name, Fletcher “Icepick” Nicks. Icepick is a federal fugitive, which means that he’s wanted by the Marshals’ service.
Ava visits Boyd in prison and they have a coded conversation about some “wood” that Boyd wants her to burn. On the one hand, I’m sad that Ava is becoming a career criminal, but on the other hand, I think it’s fantastic that Boyd is treating her as a near-equal partner. He clearly trusts her more than he trusts any of his other associates, which, given that one of his associates is the eternally slippery Arlo Givens, makes a great deal of sense.
Later, at the Givens homestead, Ava, whose right arm is in a sling, is cooking up a nice meal for Arlo and Devil. She tells them that her fried chicken is to die for; I’m pretty sure she means that literally, since she shot both Beau and Boyd at the dinner table. She tells Arlo and Devil that Boyd wants them to burn all the weed, and when Devil starts to disagree, Ava says that they can either follow Boyd’s orders as relayed by her, or they can ignore Boyd and watch her get ornery. Devil, who has not learned from Ava’s history, dooms himself to repeat it and chooses “ornery.” Ava, who is self-actualizing with a vengeance, backhands Devil across the face with an iron skillet.
For some reason, Raylan doesn’t consider that he might personally be in any danger. He and Winona arrive at Raylan’s motel, where, of course, the Icepick is waiting to kill them. (Raylan, honey, you REALLY need to move out of that place.) Icepick plays his gun-on-the-table countdown game with a terrified Winona and Raylan, but he didn’t reckon with Raylan’s being familiar with his modus operandi. As Icepick grabs his icepick, Raylan pulls the tablecloth with the gun and blows Icepick away.
That same evening, in Arnett’s office, the Detroit guy has come to collect his money. Arnett can’t figure out where Icepick and the suitcase full of watches are, until the Detroit guy calmly informs Arnett he let the Marshals know where Nicks would be that evening. Just as Arnett is getting over his astonishment about why Detroit guy doesn’t want his money any more, Detroit guys palms a very small gun and shoots Arnett in the head.
In prison, Dickie Bennett and the hilariously clueless Dewey Crow are whiling away their time in a queue by discussing tattoos and whether they hurt. They fall silent as they realize the new prisoner being escorted in is Boyd Crowder. I realize that Boyd is much cleverer than I am, because I couldn’t figure out until this moment why Boyd had assaulted Raylan. Dickie begins to sweat bullets because Boyd looks like he wants to do a prison tattoo on the inside of Dickie’s skull.
And there endeth the first episode of Season 3! On the whole, it was a great episode, with the Justified blend of sardonic humor and suspense. (I was about 99% certain that Raylan wouldn’t actually die at the hands of Icepick, but I was worried sick for Winona.) If I have any quibbles, it’s that I’m not completely sold on the Dixie Mafia/outsider-from-Detroit villains though, because one the reasons that the Crowders and the Bennetts made such great antagonists for Raylan was that he knew them so well. They had a history with Raylan and he understood what made them tick, which made them all the more dangerous as enemies. I’m not sure we’ll get that with some natty dresser from Detroit.
And we’ve got commentary on the next episode, too, right here!
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.