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Let’s face it. After last week’s spine shattering premiere of Justified’s third season, we all had unfairly high expectations for this week’s episode “Cut Ties”. And although it didn’t quite pack the punch we expected, the show did take a step back and remind us that Justified is still a serialized procedural, albeit an unconventional one.
This episode’s case-of-the-week brought things back down to earth for the US Marshal Service when one of their own, Bill Nichols, was gunned down by one of the witnesses he was protecting, a former mob enforcer named Terry Powe. But where the story lacked in suspense (Art already knew Powe shot Nichols the moment he received that phone call from Raylan), it made up in character development. Art Mullen (played by the awesome Nick Searcy) is one of those characters we tend to take for granted. Ever since the first episode of the series, Searcy has delivered many unacknowledged zingers that have been lost in the sea of awesomeness that is this show. It was refreshing to see the focus taken off Raylan for once. Art’s interrogation of Powe was particularly badass!
We were also introduced to two new characters this week, one good and one presumably bad. I was a little underwhelmed by Carla Gugino’s addition to the cast, considering her credentials. Her character Karen Sisco…uh…Goodall (I’m getting my Elmore Leonard characters mixed up) is an Assistant Director for the US Marshal service and I’m guessing a former flame of Raylan’s. Their reunion however, failed to make a significant impression. If the writers expected the viewers to witness the sparks fly between the two, I’m afraid I missed it. I can already see the proverbial monkey wrench being thrown into Raylan and Winona’s plans for the future. The other character we were introduced to (and a more significant one at that) was Ellstin Limehouse, an acquaintance of the Bennetts. He’s also the dude holding onto Mags Bennett’s secret stash of money the authorities are still looking for. Although the introduction was brief, the meat chopping scene did deliver the ominous vibe I’m assuming the writers were trying to get across to the audience, even if the scene was an all too familiar one (Game Of Thrones fans know what I’m talking about!).
Meanwhile, despite all the stuff happening around him, Raylan still took the time to pay the recently incarcerated Boyd a visit in prison. The conversation cleared up a few things for us as well. Boyd’s plan was always to start the fight with Raylan in order to get to Dickie Bennett (despite certain indications to the contrary last week). It didn’t take long for Raylan to figure out Boyd’s true motives for getting himself thrown in prison. The subtle craftiness with which he got his point across to Boyd was yet another thrill to watch. However, as it turns out, Boyd’s motives are a lot more superficial than we initially thought. Boyd Crowder is after the Bennett cash. You know, the same cash under Limehouse’s protection. And Dickie Bennett is the key. Which is good news! We get to see more of Jeremy Davies! Can you believe this guy used to be Daniel Faraday from Lost?? I’m assuming it isn’t easy for an actor to morph from Daniel Faraday to Dickie Bennett. The fact that we get to see more of him is a step in the right direction for the show.
I understand that Justified’s previous season is a tough act to follow, but the show is at its best when the characters drive the story and not the other way around. Robert Quarles was conspicuously absent this week, and that was part of the reason why “Cut Ties” didn’t quite hit the spot for fans like myself. After the absolutely brilliant manner in which the writers introduced us to Quarles, any sort of follow up, even a two minute appearance about things yet to come would have kept me satisfied. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this episode was boring, but it lacked the spunkiness we are accustomed to. Blame Margo Martindale for being so awesome!
– Where the hell is Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts)?? He is being sorely underutilized as a character and an actor. Some of the best lines of dialogue came from his lips last season.
– Did anyone else get the feeling that Karen Goodall is an uncool version of Karen Sisco?? It’s too early to make a fair assessment, but Goodall’s character needs to do something memorable to grab our attention, and not just look pretty.
– Although it was probably a ruse to shield his real purpose for the visit, I thought that the notion of Raylan asking Boyd for relationship advice was hilarious! Best scene of the episode.
– I’m still waiting for a face-to-face between Raylan and Quarles. How cool would that gunfight be??
The formula that works for this show is primarily the aura of invincibility that surrounds Raylan Givens. If the writers can get back to the show’s roots and focus on that, we’re going to have a brilliant season.