Welcome back y'all! It's been too long since we saw those unbelievably dapper gunslingers and oh-so charming meth heads. But we're back. Back in the Holler: back in Harlan. The Season 4 premiere episode entitled "Hole In the Wall" manages to evoke both the pilot episode ("Fire In The Hole") and that other pair of charming southern boys: Butch and Sundace. But we're not here to talk about outlaws of the past (at least not any earlier than 1983), we're here to talk about Boyd and Raylan, snake charmers and bear costumes, bartenders and madams and the finest modern Western on television. So here's 10 Things We Learned from last night's episode. You'll excuse me while I do an appropriate dance of joy.
Things We Learned:
Back in 1983, some hapless drug dealer fell from the sky bringing with him a ton of Christmas snow. Apparently this storyline is based on a real-life incident known as The Bluegrass Conspiracy. Hopefully no actual bears were harmed in the making of this episode. Did anyone else mistake this 80s flashback for an extended promo of "The Americans?"
Speaking of flashbacks, I choose to believe that if Raylan Givens has seen you naked at one point, that's how he'll always remember you. That's certainly how he remembers "super hot bail bondswoman" Sharon. Nice try, "Justified" writers, but this is not the naked bum we were looking for.
Enter bail jumper Jody Adair who, in case he was making that "who is that guy?" section of your brain itch, was played by Chris Chalk aka Tom Walker on "Homeland" aka Gary Cooper on "The Newsroom." Adair's a fairly typically loquacious Leonard bad guy, but he's also got the Daddy Issues thing going for him. He mentions that he turned to crime in order to provide for his kids. Daddy Issues were huge last season and I'd wager they'll play an even bigger role this year. Rayan's slick "shoot the airbag" move was reminiscent of the tablecloth maneuver from last season's premiere.
We learn of a new presence in Harlan, the "Last Chance Holiness Church." Apparently they're using Schrute bucks to get the word out.
Roz is the brace-faced Bonnie to Benny's Clyde and they've been sent to get something from Arlo's. (Presumably the Waldo Truth driver's license and accompanying bag. But I don't like to presume.) You know, for a brazen little hussy, Roz has a surprising level of commitment to word play.
Raylan has hired Constable Bob Sweeney to watch Arlo's house for criminal activity. First of all, what a fascinating look into the role constables play in Kentucky. Secondly I'm not 100% sure on Patton yet. We've had cartoonish characters in the past with Dewey Crowe and Dickie Bennett, but I'm not wholly convince Patton's fully eased into the "Justified" tone yet. But I'm willing to withhold judgment. Because it's Patton and his line reading of "beef stew" killed me. It must be said though: RIP Trooper Tom. You will be missed.
You know who does fit the "Justified" universe like a glove? The amazing Ron Eldard (of Mystery, Alaska, "ER" and looking like a hefty Alessandro Nivola fame) plays Sergeant Colton Rhodes, one of Boyd's war buddies. It looks like he'll fill the Devil-shaped hole in our hearts.
I never thought I'd be so delighted to see Ellen May's raccoon eyes again. Apparently our favorite little Trigger Finger is still pissed that Ava punched her at the end of last season. I'm glad that's not being glossed over because kabong-ing Devil upside the head with a frying pan was one thing, but hitting one of her girls seemed to be Ava crossing a line.
You didn't think, just because Arlo's in prison, that he'd be out of the mix this year? Remember that both Boyd and Dickie Bennett started last season in the clink. And as much as I enjoyed Raymond J. Barry's off-season work as Future Nick on "New Girl", he is so delightfully sly and snakey as the daddy of all of Raylan's issues, that I am so overjoyed to see him back. T'would appear he's back on his meds, too.
BYE WINONA, DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOUR SHAPELY PREGNANT BUM ON THE WAY OUT. Lindsay the gun-totin' bartendrix? I love her.
Finally, we have what will have to pass for the "Big Bad" of the season. (Creator Graham Yost says there will be no Mags or Quarles-like figure this year.) Preacher Billy St. Cyr enters the action with a cute little hick-hop dance. It's no Goggins cloggin', but it'll do. Those of you who know me will know why the casting choice of Joe Mazzello excites me. Billy's joined by his sister Cassie (Lindsay Pulsipher of "True Blood" werepanther fame...yes, werepanther) and I expect them to pose quite the problem for Boyd in Harlan.
Cocaine Dealin' Parachuter (Cause of Death: Newton's Law Of Universal Gravitation.)
Roz's Left Foot (Cause of Death: Constable Bob's Pig Sticker.)
Prison Librarian, Trustee Sam (Cause of Death: Arlo Givens' Toothbrush, Whittled To A Fine, Slicey Point By Pressure And Time.)
Erstwhile Oxi Dealer And Born-Again Christian, Hiram. (Cause of Death: A Failure To Communicate.)
Deputy Marshal Rachel Brooks and Deputy Marshal Tim Gutterson Line Count
She's gone. GONE!
We'll be retiring this feature for the time being but I reserve the right to resurrect it should Natalie Zea guest star. Instead we'll be looking at...
Potential Yostian Guns
Yost and his merry band of writers are fond of bringing items and actions from the beginning of the season back around in the finale. (See: Rail Gun, Quarles or Apple Pie, Mags.)
Constable Bob's Go Bag
Preacher Billy's Snake (mmmhmm)
"Thank you Donny."
"It's from Lebowski. Netflix it, you can be one of the cool kids."
The Gist: An excellent premiere. We had a tightly paced single-episode arc with Jody Adair and the teenaged hoodlums along with the seeds of two season-long plots: The Cocaine Cold Case and The Problem of Preacher Billy. The first will enmesh Raylan with his father and his father's past just as he's preparing to become a father himself. Boyd, on the other hand, will have to revisit his own religious past in taking on The Last Chance Holiness Church. Crowder references Asimov at one point. Here's the full quote: "I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism." When Boyd's father killed his entire flock in Season One, Boyd lost his religion. Now he's playing the Bo Crowder role. The cynic. The faithless man. The writers drive this home when Hiram says to Boyd, "Truth always sounds like lies to a sinner." This is something Boyd said to Raylan in Season One. And even Preacher Billy, whose father and whose father's father died of snakebites, is grappling with some Daddy Issues. Those themes, along with the usual Boyd/Raylan two sides of the same coin drama, should make for some juicy television. At the end of the episode we saw both Givens and Crowder tucking money away for a rainy day. But when it rains in Harlan, it pours. It's good to be back.