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Giving proper credit to the season four opener of Justified, I will say that I certainly didn’t expect…whatever the hell that flashback scene was. What I loved about it was, for the first minute or so, you’d think it was just an innocent piece of a storyline’s puzzle for this year. You see a middle aged man open his door, and you ask yourself questions like, is the man casually walking out of his house a major figure—if not the father of a major figure as the flashback takes place in the early 80’s, maybe it’s of Raylan’s past or just the catalyst for this season four’s “main bad guy/organization?” And then we see a complete stranger fall to his death with a parachute, staining the peaceful suburban street with blood and several bags of what looks to be cocaine.
The moment certainly echoed another unsettling opening motif in recent memory, the burned-up teddy bear from season two of Breaking Bad. Obviously, the significance of the “That’s no Santa Claus!” cocaine guy is far less vague than the artistic implication of the drowned stuffed animal. For Justified, seeing the oddles of drugs and dead bodies is a norm and all. But like Breaking Bad’s bear, we, the viewers, are just so flustered by the WTFery of…that that we can’t help but grapple onto whatever new story threads are being woven that can somehow connect to…that.
A key to the mystery is the ominous hidden bag, that just happens to be a mystery itself. But before going further, its best to backtrack to what happens after the flashback. It would seem our favorite Deputy U.S. Marshall, Raylan Givens, has been walking a dangerous line since we saw him last. It will be near impossible to be a part of his new child’s life thanks to the falling-out with ex-then-rekindled-then-turned-ex-again wife, Winona, that still won’t stop Raylan from trying; even if it doing underhanded bounty hunting jobs will give Givens his baby food money.
And that’s where we spend a healthy chunk of this episode watching; Raylan doing his usual spaghetti western shtick to capture a petty crook without any help from his law enforcing coworkers. This job was actually a lot more fun and memorable than several of the other one-episode conflicts for three reasons. The first (and best) was Patton Oswalt playing the only low-level cop Raylan could trick into helping out in his taboo mission. I’m the sure the dialogue the writers came up with was already hysterical, but Oswalt seemed to completely own his guest appearance as constable Bob from top to bottom. The show’s staff wanted an inept comic relief character, and Oswalt delivered in spades. Just hearing him explain the awesomeness of his “Go Bag” and talk about how relevant his unpopular job was somewhat Paul Blart (in a good way, mind you) was sheer gold.
I also feel completely in love with Timothy Olyphant’s sarcasm-ridden performance of Raylan here. As if it wasn’t already great watching him play the straight man to Patton Oswalt, having to keep his cool towards his talkative bounty and teenage dirtbag thieves who happened to rob his father’s house was the very epitome of why his character is so great. It has always been clear as day that underneath that showy cowboy hat lays a cold killer with a gun; yet he still confronts all this insanity with a calm and witty demeanor. And that’s why we love him.
What I also enjoyed was how this “one-episode conflict” actually turned out to be anything but. And this is where that mystery bag discussed earlier comes into play. It turns out the bag those teenagers found in Arlo’s house turned to be more than just an heirloom of sorts. More enough to be a a reason for Arlo to slice the neck of another prison inmate just for knowing the old bag carrying the license of an oddly-named gentleman by the name of Waldo Truth is more than aging luggage. And Raylan, being all-knowledgeable of how evil his father Arlo truly is, didn’t even need much to figure that out himself. Just him hearing Arlo say it was “nothing” was all the evidence needed. As we already know from earlier episodes, if Arlo doesn’t seem to care, he really does care.
And, thanks to that very ominous flashback, we the viewers also really care about that bag. But I would be amiss to say that this beginning to season four was fantastic just for Raylan’s not-so-simple bounty huntin’ and that mystery bag. Seeing Boyd start off the year displaying his book smarts, slyness, and a touch of the explosive theatric side as he handles his drug business like a pro what cemented how far his character has developed for the better over the past four years.
Oh yeah, and that new cult-like family using a brainwashing religious front to sell a hot new drug certainly does look like an interesting group to play the “Season Four Bad Guys of Justified”. I only wish that there was, you know, more time for them to praise the miracles of snake venom than what was shown here. But considering how fantastic this opening episode was, having to see what makes them tick over the next number of episodes will be interesting.