TV Club

Justified premiere: There’s a new kid in town.

How much damage can Arlo do from behind bars?

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, Terry Dale Parks as Henry, and Patton Oswalt as Bob Sweeney.
Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) made his Justified debut by bumbling his way to saving the life of Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant).

Still from Justified by Prashant Gupta/FX.

In Slate’s Justified TV Club , Rachael Larimore will IM each week with a different fan of the FX drama set in Harlan County, Ky. This week she chats with TV writer Tara Ariano.

Rachael Larimore: Welcome, Tara, and thank you for joining me. This season premiere seemed to be all about “fresh starts.” Not just for Boyd’s dealer/client who claims he has been saved by the Last Chance Holiness Church, but for the show itself. There were so many new faces. What did you think?

Tara Ariano: This is typical for a new season of Justified: a lot of tantalizing story threads without a clear idea of who or what the new Big Bad is going to be. Clearly, this Waldo Truth situation is going somewhere; and just as clearly, Arlo’s being incarcerated isn’t going to stop him from being a problem to Raylan (Timothy Olyphant). And to the state, I guess.

Larimore: I have always loved to hate Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and I’ve never found him to be a particularly adept criminal mastermind, just lucky. But when we met Billy St. Cyr (Joseph Mazzello), the snake-handling revivalist preacher who has his new followers convinced he (or God) can cure them of addiction, I had a feeling I might start feeling a little more sympathetic toward ol’ Boyd this season. Preacher Billy gave me the creeps. How do you think Boyd might handle this very different challenge to his empire?

Ariano: Boyd is always compelling as Raylan’s dark double. What will be particularly interesting about Billy as Boyd’s new antagonist is the faith aspect. Past seasons have shown Boyd grappling with his own relationship to religion. Billy may not realize that Boyd will be able to match him line for line in any scripture-based debate.

Larimore: There is indeed a glimpse of Boyd’s prowess at quoting scripture in the season preview trailer, where he appears to be crashing one of Billy’s sermons and warning of false prophets. It makes me wonder if the Billy-Boyd drama could steal the show from the season’s other major plotline: the cold case. The episode opens with a flashback to 1983 and a dead parachutist surrounded by bags of cocaine in a suburban cul-de-sac. Fast forward to the present, when two teenagers are breaking into Arlo’s house and searching for something hidden in his walls. They are chased away before they can get what they came for, but later, Raylan discovers a diplomatic pouch and the driver’s license of “Waldo Truth” in the hole.

Ariano: Indeed. Either Arlo (Raymond Barry) is not as senile as he has seemed of late, or in his version of the present, he hid the bag away relatively recently and fears the consequences of its discovery enough to dispatch a prison trustee with impressive haste.

Larimore: Since we know that Raylan will be investigating this long-forgotten crime that has something to do with Arlo, I’m curious as to what it will do for Raylan and Arlo’s relationship. Considering that Arlo thought he was shooting Raylan last season, it can’t get any worse. Do you think Raylan could possibly glean some insight into Arlo that would swing the pendulum back even a smidgen?

Ariano: I feel like Raylan has had enough cause and opportunity to take out Arlo over the years that he could have done it by now if he wanted. I also think any new information he learns about Arlo is unlikely to make Arlo look … better. But the show has certainly surprised me before!

Larimore: True! It’s not like Arlo has ever been up for Father of the Year. I just can’t help thinking that since Raylan is about to become a father that the writers aren’t concocting a storyline that has Raylan exploring his own childhood by chance.

Ariano: What seems certain is that Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt), whom Raylan’s hired to look after Arlo’s house, is going to continue screwing things up in the coming episodes. If his debut appearance ends with him and several others badly maimed, surely things can only escalate to him causing someone’s death.

Larimore: I was intrigued by the casting of Patton Oswalt, who certainly has a diverse body of work but is better known for his comedy. I like to think that there is more to Constable Bob than the bumbler we saw in the premiere.

Ariano: Oswalt has become more of a dramatic actor in recent years (in movies like Big Fan and Young Adult), but I found his casting a bit of a departure for Justified, which tends to cast character actors who the audience wouldn’t necessarily identify with any past roles. But maybe there’s less crossover in the Justified and “comedy nerd” audiences than I think.

Larimore: I liked Oswalt in the role. I was less impressed with how the show introduced Colt (Ron Eldard). It’s almost a cliché to have a guy show up at a bar, look threatening, and be almost chased off and then—hey, look everybody!—be a long-lost pal from the war. And then later, when Boyd said, “Take care of him” after they recovered the money from Boyd’s newly clean and saved dealer, I kind of saw that coming a mile away—how Colt killed him though Boyd had meant for Colt to untie him. It was a bit lazy, I thought, compared with the rest of the episode.

Ariano: Yeah, maybe lazy. Or foreshadowing for a moment later in the season, when Colt wants to take out someone whose life is, to Boyd, less inconsequential than that poor fool’s was.

Larimore: You are probably right! We’ve talked about all the new faces (well, except for a long-lost lady friend of Raylan’s who appears briefly early on, but really, who can keep track of all of his paramours?), which brings us to the end of the episode, when Arlo kills a fellow prisoner for knowing a little too much about that diplomatic pouch. Dramatic and telling!

Ariano: It’s a reminder that Arlo is still a bad guy, whose past crimes are never quite past. And a reminder of how hard it must have been for a young Raylan to escape his circumstances and start a career in law enforcement: Though the Arlo we first met seemed like a fairly small-time crook, we keep learning more about how ambitious his crimes actually were. And as for the lady friend: We see her naked ass and not Raylan’s? WEAK.

Larimore: Do you have any predictions for the season? Or is there anything you’re hoping to see (besides equal airtime for Raylan’s backside)?

Ariano: Sometimes it seems like the only thing worth guessing after a Justified season premiere is who’s going to survive the finale! And I don’t have a good feeling about Rev. Billy. His sister may bite it even sooner than that.

Larimore: In that way, Justified is a little bit like Dexter … the villain doesn’t usually survive the finale. In this case, though, the bigger mystery might be around just who gets to kill Rev. Billy. My money is on the snake. By which I mean the actual reptile, not Boyd.

Ariano: He did say he’s already been bitten twice. Rule of threes!