by Cheryl Collins
The body count piles high in “Shot All to Hell,” the fifth episode of Justified this season. Yet beyond the fast and furious gunplay, a sense of doom and the ever-present power of the intangible abounds.
The episode opens with Boyd coolly, brilliantly, and brutally dispatching his enemies in a series of rapid-fire checkmates. He offs Paxton – not only setting it up to look like a suicide, but also tarnishing his memory for eternity – kills off the duplicitous sheriff, and terrifies Mara into silence without paying the hush money she demanded.
In the last recap, we discussed the show’s examination of power relationships this season through submission and domination, especially as they refract across race and gender. What is strength? Who gets to tell you what to do? What are the soft spots of your opponent that can be used against them? Those themes continue to play out.
Boyd’s trail of death sets the stage for Ava’s release from jail, finally. But the unpredictable happens: the wild card is played. For all of Boyd’s precision decision making, he could not foresee the motivation of the diminutive guard spurned by Ava and humiliated by the big dyke who protects her. The guard attacks himself with a shank just to pin it on Ava the morning she is set to be released. No one is going to castrate him and get away with it.
We finally see Boyd’s undertaker cool crumble. He collapses into a punch-throwing fit of raging hysterics when he leans that Ava has been transferred away to the state pen.
Elsewhere, Darryl’s trigger-happy brother Danny is supposed to buy groceries, but he is on strike, too busy reading Guns & Ammo and bullying his little brother. The Haitian Jean-Baptiste takes him on, telling him to put up or shut up – either fight him already or just do as he’s told. It must be noted that the very black Jean-Baptiste seems to be the only guy doing actual work around the bar. Danny seems about to submit, then dispatches JP with a surprise shotgun blast, turning him into “Haitian hamburger” while screaming “Suck on that, bitch!” Nobody is going to tell him what to do, especially that dark-skinned guy. (We already know where Danny’s weakness lies: his dog Chelsea, his “little chocolate lover.”)
Throughout this violent episode there is a sense of foreboding and self-destruction as well as an effort to examine one’s legacy. Early on, Dewey ruminates to his two favorite girls, trying to come to terms with his murder of Wade; he has suddenly found himself not the man he thought he was. Dewey gives away his two prize possessions to the confused and uninterested women, seemingly preparing for the end.
Then there’s the guy Boyd uses to kill the sheriff: a man doomed with black lung disease who will leave the money Boyd pays him to provide for his family after he’s gone.
And what about Paxton’s legacy? Boyd not only murders Paxton but sadistically contrives to poison the memory of him, and then informs him moments before he pulls the trigger.
On the other side of the ledger, Art has one of his best days on the job ever as the days tick down on his career – facing down a cadaverous Canadian hitman wielding a monster modified Tommy gun–looking thing, and then cornering the long-sought kingpin Theo Tonin. There is much talk of what a great cap it is to a long career.
Perhaps that gets Raylan to thinking about what kind of lawman he wants to be, what kind of man he wants to be. At the end of the episode, he is poised to finally come clean to Art about his role in Nicky Augustine’s murder at the end of last season. Art appears to be have been waiting for him to fess up.
In the past two episodes, we have had the strengths and vulnerabilities of both Boyd and Darrel set up on display. I suspect we’ll move on to Raylan next. Raylan has felt so adrift and passive this season, almost a minor character. Time for an episode all about him. The troika of Dewey, Boyd, and Raylan and their respective “families” will then be set up to combust.
Use of the word “pussy”: 1.
Just a note: Boyd’s cousin Johnny is turning into a formidable opponent. His understated cool combined with his barely submerged fury at Boyd is great to watch. David Meunier, who plays Johnny, in my mind is evolving into a kind of down-market Joaquin Phoenix.