Justified: Bloody Harlan

"I think we can both agree that bloodletting is bad for business."

I liked season one. But I loved season two. It started so powerfully with the deadly "apple pie," and ended with it, too. (In terms of American symbolism, I think it's fascinating that this entire season centered around Mom and apple pie.)

That expression on Raylan's face in that final scene with Mags — what did he know? He must have suspected that there was poison. Did he actually swallow that drink? Did he guess that there was poison in Mags' glass and deliberately let her kill herself? Was it hatred he felt for her, compassion because she'd lost two of her sons as well as Loretta, or both?

I think it was both. And that speaks to Timothy Olyphant's strength as the lead in this series. Gorgeous leading men rarely have that much acting talent, but he does. There's a lot of subtlety and humor in his performance. The characters in Justified don't feel like faux southern stereotypes; they feel like people you know, because there's good and bad in pretty much everyone. (Except maybe Dickie.) There's definitely bad in Raylan; it's a big part of what makes him so appealing. He was absolutely going to walk away and let Boyd kill Dickie, because he almost killed Dickie in cold blood in the previous episode. And who could blame him?

Mags was a fascinating, believable villain because even though she made me shudder, she had some measure of conscience. She must have seen young Loretta as the innocent girl Mags herself once was. She felt justified in killing Loretta's father for business reasons, but she actually thought she could "make things right" by raising Loretta and making a good life for her. Margo Martindale had better get an Emmy nomination. Justified isn't fantasy or science fiction, so maybe she'll get one.

Kaitlyn Dever as fourteen-year-old Loretta was also a stand-out, especially in this finale. I was totally invested in what happened to her, from the very beginning with her father's death and the stalking pervert, to the end with her having the courage to steal a gun and confront Mags. A powerful performance from someone so young.

And speaking of Emmy nominations, how did Jeremy Davies manage to be so terrifying and pathetic at the same time? After killing Raylan's aunt Helen, shooting Ava, and hanging Raylan from a tree in order to beat him to death with a baseball bat, Dickie still thought he could appeal to Raylan to save him from Boyd. Dickie has no directional compass whatsoever. And I sure wouldn't have taken odds on him being the lone survivor of the Bennett Crime Family. I like unpredictable when it's done so well.

Like the way they've developed Boyd Crowder as a character. He's so twisted and complicated that he probably meets himself going out the door. I find a lot of what he's done totally repugnant, but he has his own moral compass of sorts, his own set of principles. I knew he would show up and rescue Raylan from Dickie. Boyd getting involved with Ava — another complicated character I like — was so unexpectedly sweet. And damn, Ava had better pull through, or Boyd will be uncontrollable in season three. The odd sort of friendship and respect that has grown between Raylan and Boyd, who are constantly on opposite sides, is one of the best things about this show.

So now what? Will Ava live? Will Raylan still want to leave after Art showed up and saved the day? The situation with the money Winona stole and returned is still unresolved. And of course, Winona is pregnant. Will she leave Raylan again? Come on, Winona. Raylan is what he is. Love him as he is, or let him go.

Bits and pieces:

-- The season began and ended with Loretta McCready going to Mags. Loretta also shot Mags in the leg, like her father was shot, and Mags' final speech to Raylan was almost exactly what she said to Walt McCready. Nice bookends.

-- It's also interesting that last season was about fathers and this season about mothers.

-- I loved that Boyd was ready for the Bennetts to double-cross him.

-- Dickie left another minion to die. Dickie is hard on his minions.

-- The scene where Dickie hung Raylan by his leg from a tree looked really, really uncomfortable for Timothy Olyphant.

-- Raylan really does love ice cream.

-- We never saw what happened with Gary and Wynn Duffy. Next season?

-- [Added in 2012] Margo Martindale did indeed win an Emmy for her performance as Mags Bennett. Jeremy Davies, Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins were nominated, but didn't win.

I have no idea what they'll do next season, but I'm definitely watching. Five out of four jars of apple pie,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

8 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Great review, Billie.

Season two has been amazing and I agree that Margo Martindale and Kaitlyn Dever were both standout stars. I'd love to see them both get Emmy nods, along with Timothy Olyphant, but the Emmys have a habit of continually shunning shows I love regardless of genre (The Wire and Community being two very good examples).

Josie Kafka said...

This episode--this whole season--was wonderful. The actress who played Loretta is one to watch, too. She would have made a great Katniss in The Hunger Games, too.

Meredith said...

That final scene with Raylan and Mags just left me breathless. I was sure Raylan was going to keel off that chair onto the floor. Timothy Olyphant was so powerful in that scene, the way he was so still and just sat there staring at Mags. WE all knew the Apple Pie was poisoned, but we were waiting for him to figure it out--after he drank it. RIP Mags.

CrazyCris said...

Totally agree on the loving Season 2 more than Season 1... and Mags Bennett is 100% the reason!!! (That and the evolution of Boyd Crowder)

That final scene... I was sure she'd poisoned the both of them, and hoping that mini-sip Raylan drank (anyone notice it looked as though he didn't swallow) wouldn't kill him... I thought she'd want to take her "ennemy" with her, 'cause I was sure she was doing some poisoning. Damn that woman sure knows how to make an exit!!! She will be missed.

I don't think Raylan hates her, I think he pities her. And I love the two of them together managed to get through to Loretta in time.

I'm sure Ava's going to pull through. The wonder for me is wether or not Winona will be there for Raylan (she'd better!).

I'm thinking season 3 is going to be the Dixie Mafia trying to encroach in Harlan and Bennett counties now that the Bennetts are gone.

Dikie being the lone survivor?! *shock*

Gus Brunetti said...

I'm totally a fanboy of Timothy Olyphant's. Loved him in Deadwood and Damages too.

Jess Lynde said...

Great season, fantastic final episode. Watching Deadwood, I was never overly impressed with Timothy Olyphant. I guess because Seth Bullock was so tightly strung that we rarely saw much from him except anger and barely repressed anger. But he's been a revelation to me as Raylan. A character still carrying a lot of barely repressed anger at times, but having a much wider range of emotions. I've particularly enjoyed his comic timing in this role.

I knew going in to this season that Mags wouldn't survive, and I knew that it would be the apple pie. What I didn't know what was that it would be something she did to herself. I kept thinking Dickie or Loretta would take her out. So when she reached for the glasses, then poured and took her drink, I found the scene surprisingly affecting. I'm sorry she's gone, but it made sense to me that she'd choose death after losing everything else she cared about. At least one of her final actions was saving Loretta from a fate like hers. It was almost a redemptive moment. Almost.

Thanks for being the final push to get me to try this series one more time, Billie. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Billie Doux said...

Thanks so much for your terrific comments, Jess. I'm really looking forward to season three, too. Although I honestly don't know how they can top season two. Maybe I should just enjoy and not expect too much.

ChrisB said...

A fantastic finale to a wonderful season. Billie, your review and the comments certainly hit all the points I was aware of while I watched it, but I need to add my kudos again to the actors on this show. They all do a wonderful job.

The writers certainly enjoy leaving power vacuums at the end of a season! Looking forward to what happens next.