by Cheryl Collins
The themes of Justified this season have finally now come clearly upon me, gentle readers. They were simply muddled by the uninspiring shoot-’em-up, blow-it-up season opener. They’re all about power and the exercise thereof: submission and domination, or if you will, the relations between master and slave. What is most interesting in Justified now is the way this is being played out across sexual and racial lines. (Thesis alert!)
However, as we know from many a short story class, who in any given relationship holds power, who exactly is the master and who is the slave – or, in Justified parlance, the “bitch” – is often murky, the lines fluid. The power plays that unspool to clarify these relationships is what Justified is about right now, it seems to me.
We’ve had plenty of references to the antebellum South of course; not just the plentiful Confederate flags, but the colonnaded homes, guns belonging to revered war figures, and open Confederacy worship. But there’s a lot more.
In this episode, there’s that scene in which Raylan and Tim – a sight for sore eyes – on the hunt for Wade, end up on the roofs of what looks like a Pinto and Town Car (!), held at bay by a snapping brown pit bull named Chelsea. Its affectionate master is a bare-ass scratching Crowe who calls his pet “my little chocolate lover” while fondling its very large collar. And Chelsea is really a he, not a she.
Then there’s Dewey. In “On the Mountain” Dewey is set up to kill Wade by his interloping cousin Darrell, unhappily cast out of his own Nirvana of endless booze and sex and idyllic romps in the pool with nude bathing beauties. But he bungles it. Dewey spends a lost night on the mountain – which surely has some biblical and/or hymnal reference that I am not sophisticated enough to recognize – and beseeches God to help him help finish the job. And lo! The Lord answers. Blood is upon the rock on which Dewey’s eyes rest, and he follows it to find the nearly dead Wade.
Dewey has always been a hilarious but harmless neo-Nazi halfwit, who seemed to have some kind of code in there, somewhere – a heart not quite of gold, but perhaps of some dully glinting cast-off fast-food packaging with a happy face on it. However, Dewey had a choice, and he chose the dark path. The humble peon crossed the line and become a killer, strong-armed by his cousin to enmesh him to the Crowes and buy his silence: a “full blown bitch,” in Darrell’s words. I suspect the ghost of Wade will haunt Dewey going forward, figuratively and perhaps literally. I wonder who will pull the trigger on Darrell in the season finale?
Lots of other interesting power plays and counterplays on display. Good to see cousin Johnny back, and he seems to momentarily shut Boyd up, one of the few capable of doing so, refusing his offer. Ava has to contend with a diminutive guard who orders her to strip and bend over; he is in turn beaten and humiliated by an imposing female guard who reminds him she is “protected.” Lee Paxton is back home, seemingly satisfied with the dead hand the sheriff brings him as proof of Boyd’s death, sweetly asking Mara when supper is coming. How much does he suspect? How will he try to ensnare the conspirators? And as coolness settles in between Ava and Boyd and they drift further apart, how long before he finds comfort in the dark-haired beauty with the long fingernails?
Meanwhile, Alison regales Raylan with a sordid tale of a man who chains up his son in the garage but is enraged at the prospect of the boy being taken away. This story seems to inspire Raylan. He shows up with an order to take away Kendall, Darrell’s smart-mouthed 12-year-old brother. For the first time, Darrell looks vulnerable, pained: a wound is exposed.
Find the soft spot, press it, leverage it – that’s the way the power game is played. The wheels keep spinning on Justified, and I am happy to be along for the ride.
Use of the word “pussy”: 0. Yay.
Postscript: Has there been any more dryly humorous shot than that of Tim and Boyd playing Scrabble, with Boyd saying, “You wanna challenge me?” Ah, bliss. May I join?