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'Justified' Recap: An Already Shaky Season Comes Completely Unmoored in "Whistle Past the Graveyard"

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 5, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 5, 2014 |

There’s still some time to turn it around, but after an incredibly strong fourth season, and a solid opening to season five, the last few weeks of Justified have felt aimless and half-assed. The series hasn’t been the same since “Shot All to Hell,” the Alan Tudyk episode which saw the Art and Raylan arrest Theo Tonin. Since then, Jere Burns’ Wynn Duffy (who was elevated to series regular this season) has been mostly absent, Raylan has been drifting through the season, and I honestly don’t even understand Boyd’s endgame anymore.

In fact, it’s the Boyd subplot that seems to be sinking the season the most. Raylan is often given to side diversions in pursuit of fugitives (it is his job, after all), but there always seemed to be clear motivations behind Boyd’s actions. This season, I don’t know what the hell he’s doing, in part because it’s been muddled by so many shifting alliances and back stabbings that it’s hard to know who is on whose side anymore. Besides his two one-dimensional henchmen, Jimmy and Carl, he doesn’t seem to have much of a support system, which has necessitated he join forces with the Crowes, a tactic that had short term gains, but unfortunate long-term consequences.

The Crowes themselves are a mess, too. Danny is equal parts obnoxious and destructive, while Daryl doesn’t seem to have a master plan, so much as he’s just flying from the seat of his pants. Frankly, I don’t care about either of them enough to want them to succeed or find much satisfaction in their failures. Meanwhile, Dewey — the connective tissue between Boyd and the Crowes — has become a non-factor pushed deep into the background, while Daryl and Boyd attempt to outsmart one another. If the previous two episodes are any indication, whoever comes out on top will do so by deus ex Moffat. No groundwork will be laid: Boyd will simply face an insurmountable obstacle in one scene, and in the next, it will be explained away by foresight to which the audience was never privy.

Meanwhile, Wendy Crowe seems like a decent person who has no business supporting her brothers, and yet, here we are. And while we’re at it, let’s just further complicate matters by revealing that she’s the mother of Kendal because it gives Raylan something to do while the writers figure out where they are leading Boyd Crowder. To me, Wendy has been the bright spot in an otherwise dim season, but even there, I don’t know where the writers are heading, and I’m not sure the writers do, either.

Meanwhile, Ava’s stint in prison has been nothing but frustrating, a side diversion in a season that’s already too scattered, from Florida to Detroit (and Canada) to Mexico. Centering the action in the prison is just piling on, especially on a show that’s best served by staying Harlan. It’d be one thing if the prison subplot was even a little bit interesting, but this odd friction between religion and heroin seems like an idea that was never properly fleshed out.

As for Raylan? He’s drifting, seemingly stalling for time until the final season when he and Boyd can finally go head to head in the only confrontation any of us feel invested in at this point. What’s going on between Raylan and Art is not entirely clear, except that we’re waiting for either Art to retire or die, because the series can’t continue with their troubled relationship. Meanwhile, Raylan only pays the occasional lip service to the fact that he’s got a daughter in Florida. After establishing a romance with Amy Smart’s Alison, she abruptly ended it last night, dead-ending that relationship either to set up a reunion the audience isn’t that interested in anymore, free Raylan to bed Wendy, or simply so that the writers can reset. The latter seems the best option at this point because what’s going on so far this season with Raylan simply isn’t working.

Maybe it’s just an off season for Justified, like the third season, and even the first season in retrospect. Maybe Justified is only a good show in the odd seasons and an excellent show in the even ones. The series has obviously done nothing to dissuade us from continuing to watch, but for now, it’s disappointingly stuck in a bad run in the middle of what almost feels like a lost season.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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