Justified: The Moonshine War

"So you want to transfer me?"
"Honestly, Raylan, I don't know who would take you."

Clean up and put away season one. Yank out a brand new story for season two. You'd think it would be disjointed, but this episode flowed beautifully from one major plotline to another.

They started by repeating a portion of the awesome climactic gun battle in "Bulletville" and then proceeded to tie up the Miami cartel plot thread in a satisfying way. This is a good thing. The Miami cartel stuff suffered from being too far removed from Kentucky, at least until it was embodied by the late and unlamented Bo Crowder. Although I guess it's always possible that Gio will be stupid and change his mind. I guess it depends on how fond he was of Ernesto and Tommy Bucks, and if he was intimidated by Raylan's old boss Dan Grant.

(I loved the paperwork and internal investigations sequence. It made complete sense, after all that happened in the last couple of episodes.)

The introduction to the Bennett crime family happened sort of sideways because a pervert was pursuing fourteen-year-old Loretta McCready, and her father made the fatal mistake of reporting it. Raylan's rescue with the gasoline was smart as well as fun, although it bothered me that Loretta was tied up and helpless right above the gas tank of that car.

I immediately liked Loretta McCready. Terrific young actress, and Loretta's courage in facing down a full-grown man who was planning to sexually victimize her was impressive. Jimmy Earl Dean was interesting casting, since television usually has skeezy-looking individuals play child molesters, and he was an outgoing, good-looking young man. At least he was until Loretta led him into that fishing hook trap. That looked horribly painful.

As bad as Dean was, though, the Bennetts left him in the shade. Doyle Bennett is a local, very crooked cop, and Coover Bennett is dumb, mean and nasty. But Dickie strikes me as the worst of the three. He seemed friendly and rational next to the stoned, rat-shooting Coover, but his smile was artificial. (Don't they call that a "crocodile grin"?) Forcing Walt McCready to voluntarily put his foot into a bear trap was about as horrible as it could be.

But it was Mags Bennett that blew me away. When we first met her in her little general store, she seemed like a rather nice middle-aged woman who happened to make money growing and selling weed, someone who would never have anything to do with, say, forcing a man to put his foot into a bear trap. But the way she murdered Walt McCready with the poisoned "apple pie" was just chilling. For me, the most frightening thing about it was Mags telling McCready that she would raise his daughter. What a horrible thing to contemplate in your last moments on earth. (I was also creeped out by the way Dickie caressed McCready's hair.)

The bizarre violence in this episode, mostly perpetrated on the body of the unfortunate Walt McCready, was memorable. It certainly let us know that the Bennetts are very scary people. And Mags is the worst because it was all at her direction. She's the boss, a sort of modern day Ma Barker with a trio of criminal sons. Mom and "apple pie." Wow.

In other news, Raylan was asking around about Boyd all through the episode, with no success. But there he was in the final scene, once again blowing shit up -- but this time, legitimately. Boyd is going straight and digging coal again. I wonder how long that will last?

Bits and pieces:

-- The season two cast is the same as season one, but with the welcome addition of Walton Goggins. It's no secret that I love both Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in these roles. They could very well be my favorite frenemies.

-- Raylan doesn't want to go back to Miami now. It's a little sad that Art wants so badly to get rid of him.

-- Raylan went back to his motel room and found crime scene tape on the door, tape outlines of bodies on the floor, and bloodstains on the bed. Not funny, but the visual made me laugh. There's no place like home.

-- Arlo slightly redeemed himself by not telling the cops that Raylan deliberately shot him. I said "slightly."

-- Rachel took Raylan along because she was uncomfortable dealing with "his people." She was right that the people in Harlan mostly treated her with distant coolness. And Coover called her a "negress." Some serious distance from politically correct.

-- Kentucky state trooper Tom Bergen was in several scenes. Fun character. I liked him.

-- Winona and Raylan ended up in bed again. But she didn't take the ring off this time.

-- Mags said that what killed McCready was "medicine" and "all natural" and that it had been handed down from her grandmother and her grandmother's grandmother. Multi-generational poison. Wow. My grandmother was frightening, but she never passed the recipe for a homemade poison down to me.

-- Two of the three Bennett brothers, Dickie and Coover, are played by Lost alumni Jeremy Davies and Brad William Henke. Margo Martindale and Brad William Henke also had key continuing roles in the early seasons of Dexter.

-- Gold acting stars for Margo Martindale (Mags) and Chris Mulkey (McCready), especially in that final scene. Outstanding.

Quotes:

Raylan: "I didn't think you missed me."
Dan: "You know, I had a wart once when I was a kid."

Tim: "Relinquishing a firearm can be a very emotional moment. There always must be another deputy in attendance. Add in some premium alcohol, what could possibly go wrong?"

Tim: "What you gonna get next?"
Raylan: "Probably the same thing."
Art: "You should think about an Uzi."

Raylan: "Who we going after?"
Rachel: "Jimmy Earl Dean."
Raylan: "Three first names. A triple winner, right off the bat."

Loretta: "Any man over eighteen talking to me about my period is a pervert. Shit. Any man, period, talking to me about my period."

Mags: "All the troubles of your hard life, it's all gone now. You get to know the mystery, Walt. You get to see your Sally Ann again."

Raylan: "Son of a bitch."
Winona: "Yeah. That's what a girl wants to hear for pillow talk. Regret."

They managed to completely change direction without giving the viewer whiplash. Four out of four bear traps,

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

4 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

This is already head and shoulders above last season for me. In that it gripped me and engaged me on a far more intense level (once we got through all the S1 wrap-up stuff). Like I said, last season it was mostly about watching and enjoying without thinking about it too much afterwards. But after that closing with Mags, McCready, and Dickie ... whoa. She is positively terrifying, and it is definitely the calm, soothing words as she sends her enemy to his maker that makes it so chilling. Shudder.

Loved the scene with Raylan putting up all the photos to document the season finale's body count. Wow. And his return to his motel "home" was definitely funny.

Josie Kafka said...

This was incredible. Even knowing how it was going to go, I though the scene between Loretta and Jimmy Earl Dean (never trust a man with three first names!) was horribly tense. I wish the actress who plays Loretta had been picked for the role of Katniss in The Hunger Games movie.

The bear trap scene--equally tense! This whole episode put me on edge, in fact, until the gasoline scene. That broke the tension perfectly.

Fascinating to note, particularly in reference to my Mines On Justified theory (which comes into its own soon, with two important scenes this season and a prediction for season three): this episode ended in a manner very similar to what I think is the key scene of the pilot, Boyd and Raylan running away from the mine explosion. Here, though, Boyd is mastering that traumatic event with a controlled blast, in addition to channeling his firebug tendencies into something slightly more productive. Plus, I love his tacky glasses.

Josie Kafka said...

Forgot to mention two possibly spoilery things--skip if you haven't seen the rest of the season:
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Mags referring to Raylan as a big baseball star, and...

Dickie looking at Coover when he introduced Raylan, astonished that Coover didn't immediately recognize the name.

x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

ChrisB said...

Incredible start to the new season. Looks as though we are going to get a Hatfield/McCoy situation with the Bennetts and the Crowders. Interesting!

Loved the shout out to the pilot -- Raylan is back in Miami and being offered his old job back. I laughed out loud when he said he was going 'home'. No kidding.