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 dissects Episode 2 with Jeffrey Bloomer.
Rachael Larimore: Jeffrey, I need to know: Did you wake up this morning to a delivery of booze and/or unwelcome guests?
Jeffrey Bloomer: Ha, I’m beginning to worry to Raylan has historic bad luck with women. Why can’t he date a nice schoolteacher?
Larimore: Well, he had a very nice real-estate agent in Winona. But it’s the tragic plight of the hero who puts his life at risk in service of the public, that they are too dangerous for their true loves: Spider-Man, Jack Bauer, and now, Raylan Givens. But it wasn’t just Raylan. Ava started her day with a delivery of beer she can’t sell and a visit from Ellie May, who’s apparently tired of selling herself. And morning brings Art a gift of Pappy Van Winkle from Patrick, who’s after his job. Our friends have all awakened to big headaches, and they didn’t even imbibe. Let’s talk about Ellie May and Preacher Billy. Sheriff Shelby thinks that the Last Chance Holiness Church is harmless, but Boyd suspects that they come into towns trying to shake down the criminal element. Is Boyd spot on?
Bloomer: He has to be. Any serpent-infested church is bad news, and Joseph Mazzello is laying on the boy-prophet charm a little thickly to be a benevolent preacher. I was especially convinced when he so cunningly manipulated Ellie May back into the church’s fold. But what do you make of his sudden declaration that the church isn’t interested in money? Perhaps it wants some sort of turf soldiers instead? Sister Cassie looked none too pleased.
Larimore: And Boyd noticed! He guessed afterward, in his huddle with Ava and Johnny, that she’s the one running the show. But before we jump ahead too far … Preacher Billy welcomes Ellie May back, and then he sends some kiddies over to Boyd’s to sing hymns. Naturally, that taunt prompts Boyd to show up at the evening’s sermon. Can we just take a moment to admire the fine acting by Walton Goggins in that scene? Boyd has grown on me during the course of the series, but he was commanding in warning against false prophets, forcing Billy to say he wouldn’t take any money from congregants.
Bloomer: Yes, Goggins certainly has found a role uniquely suited to his duality: He has an easy, boyish smile that quickly turns into fiery menace when he needs it. And I think Boyd has grown on us all, though his bid to get into the heroin business in this episode puzzled me a bit. His speech to Billy reminds us that while Raylan came back to Harlan County against his will, Boyd is at home by choice. He might actually care if interlopers are exploiting people on his watch.
Larimore: Well, Boyd is ambitious. If there’s going to be heroin in Harlan, he’s going to want to be in on it. About that confrontation with Wynn Duffy: I have a grand unifying theory on Boyd, Preacher Billy, and Wynn. Wynn comes to meet with Boyd, who offers to spare a dealer of Wynn’s he caught in Harlan in return for a cut of the heroin trade. Wynn kills the dealer himself,and when Boyd offers to clean up the mess, Wynn says, “How … Christian of you.”* So, here’s my theory: Boyd suspects that Preacher Billy is in town to shake him down, and all signs point to that. Which makes it almost too obvious. I think Wynn Duffy has something to do with Preacher Billy’s arrival. Am I out on a limb?
Bloomer: Interesting! Justified’s winding mythology is such that I’m not inclined to rule out any unsavory connections coming out in the episodes ahead. I’ll never get tired of Wynn—how many characters on TV can make a bullet to the head almost feel like a sight gag? I think you may be right the Preacher Billy has arrived at the behest of someone else, challenging Boyd’s rough-hewn gospel at the source
Larimore: Up in Lexington, we don’t have to wait long to solve the Waldo Truth mystery, or so we think. Raylan tells Art about the diplomatic bag and mysterious driver’s license, and before we know it, Raylan and Art and Tim are loading up on weapons to go find Waldo Truth, who miraculously just happened to have some outstanding warrants against him. (Art to Raylan: “We’re going to stop for lunch before we get to the Truths in case you shoot one of them, then we don’t get to stop after.”) Not surprisingly, the Truth family is 1) unhappy to see a group of “federals” and 2) not exactly who they appear to be. At least, “Waldo” is actually a family friend who’s been posing as him for 30 years now, to keep the family’s “draw.” What did you think of Mrs. Truth? I couldn’t help but have some affection for her.
Bloomer: Yes, she gave me the faintest memory of Mags Bennett, the fallen matriarch from Season 2, in her wrangling of that silly, ragtag crew of hers. The show had fun with the government-allergic family nearly causing a firefight over disability checks. But it’s interesting how the show this season is using this larger mystery as a way to have a “bust of the week” structure as it usually does. Do you have any sage theories on where this all might be headed? I confess I do not.
Larimore: I feel like our parallel major story lines—Boyd vs. Preacher Billy, and Raylan and Art vs. Waldo Truth—will twist and intersect, perhaps sooner rather than later. Why? Arlo, naturally. Wynn wants to know why Arlo killed that prisoner, and he thinks Boyd knows. Beyond that, I can venture only that the show has a LOT in store for us this season.
Bloomer: Yes! I suppose Justified has earned my patience while it forms its arc into a coherent whole. For now, over-under on the show going a single episode this season without anyone being casually shot in the head?
Larimore: A whole episode? I’m going to give long odds on that one, maybe akin to Raylan ending up lucky in love.
*Correction, Jan. 26, 2013: The article originally misstated when Wynn Duffy said “How … Christian of you” to Boyd Crowder. It was after Duffy killed his dealer, not before. (Return to the corrected sentence.)