A Primer on JUSTIFIED Season 3 Before We Start Recapping Season 4

     January 5, 2013

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One of TV’s most badass and clever shows, Justified, returns with its fourth season on Tuesday, January 8.  This time around, Collider will be doing recaps each week, as well as some other fun Justified related stuff.  But before we return to the moral chaos of eastern Kentucky for season 4, let’s take a look at where the heroes and villains of Justified currently stand.

Season 2 set the bar incredibly high.  The arc of the Bennett clan and the coal mining industry added a lot of flavor and depth to the Justified universe.  Season 3 wasn’t as deep, but there sure as hell were a lot of twists, turns, and colorful new characters to fill any void left behind in the wake of apple pie moonshine.  The playing field expanded too, as we were introduced to Noble’s Holler and its seedy BBQ enthusiasts led by Mr. Ellstin Limehouse.   More after the jump.

justified mykelti williamsonLimehouse isn’t exactly a villain but he certainly as shit isn’t a hero either.  He’s more of an “interested party” who enjoys backing the “winning side” – as he put it to Quarles. He exists in that moral grey area that’s a playground for shows like Justified.  His currency is information and his services include banking and offering a safe haven for anyone who can pay.  People from both sides of the law came to him for the lowdown and in the end, his “disarming” of Quarles saved Raylan’s ass.  Hell, even the renowned racist Boyd Crowder needed Limehouse’s services a few times.

Johnny Crowder also did some dirt with Limehouse – behind Boyd’s back! This may bite Johnny in the ass later on, but for now it adds some spice knowing he might be a snake in Boyd’s crew.  Ava’s stepped up and become the violent pimp she never thought she’d be.  After killing Delroy she beats the piss outta Ellen May and takes the prostitution reigns.  Her and Boyd are 100 percent ride or die for each other. And now that Quarles is dead, Sheriff Shelby is in his pocket, and Arlo locked up for the killing of Devil, Boyd is sitting kinda pretty going into season 4.

Will there ever be a villain on Justified as complex and tragic as Mags Bennett? Probably not.  Season 3 managed to graze Mags’ greatness with the character of Robert Quarles – a carpetbagger from Detroit who had his impossibly blue eyes set on the Harlan Oxycontin trade.  But unlike Mags, Quarles’ unshakable, cold demeanor and penchant for sexually torturing young men made him impossible to empathize with. Even after Quarles spilled his guts in front of Wynn about how his dad used to whore him out, I couldn’t find an ounce of empathy for the guy.  The sleeve-pistol payoff during the finale was brutally hilarious.  Limehouse finally got to use his cleaver on living flesh and Quarles’ gun finally jammed (because his arm was no longer attached to his body). Neal McDonough is a fantastic character actor and his turn in the Justified universe was great while it lasted.

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I actually felt bad for devil-faced Wynn throughout season 3.  Wynn’s a fantastic villain and throughout the first two seasons he sparred well against both Raylan and Boyd.  The presence of Quarles shook him though. He gets his hands dirty in an assortment of criminal activities (murder included), but Quarles was pure, toe-headed evil that Wynn could barely stomach at times.  He finally broke down during the finale, when Raylan played Harlan Roulette with him.  What a great and hilarious moment Jere Burns‘ “JESUS CHRIST!” meltdown was. Not sure how much of Wynn we’ll see in season 4.  He may be doing time for that car bomb.

RIP Dickie Bennett. I’m honestly sad to see him go.  Jeremy Davies was such a good weasel and had the most baffling haircut on television.  He got deservedly jerked around by nearly everyone as it became open season on Mags’ alleged $3 million.  Sure he’s not above shooting women and probably would’ve killed Loretta if she stood between him and the money, but I couldn’t help liking the dude.  It felt like Raylan was putting him out of his misery when he bucked him down in Loretta’s house.  It was an imminent end for the Bennett clan.

The first season ended with a grand ol’ fashioned shoot-out and the second season ended with Raylan getting beat up and shot while Mags chose death by apple pie moonshine rather than jail time.  The third season ended without Raylan firing a shot (besides during Harlan Roulette) or getting shot.  But the emotional blow delivered by his father’s hatred must’ve stung worse than a bullet. Arlo’s done some miserable shit to Raylan in the past, but this was Arlo pulling the trigger himself – even if he shot the wrong man in a hat.

justified timothy olyphant walton gogginsWhat a huge downer season 3 ended on. Raylan’s sitting in the room his child will soon sleep in, talking with the woman he loves but can’t be with.  And he’s left to brood over the fact that his father is willing to sacrifice himself for Boyd, who he loves more like a son than he ever did Raylan.  Like Boyd said, Arlo isn’t part of his crew, he’s part of the family. Ouch.

At the end of season two, during “Bloody Harlan,” Raylan told Winona he’s willing to quit his job for the sake of their relationship and their unborn child.  But we knew that wasn’t true.  First off, the show would be incredibly dull if Raylan left the Marshal service for another line of work like blogging or something.  Secondly, Raylan can’t change who he is. He was raised up in a culture of violence and guns.  Like he said himself during Dickie’s pardon trial in court, he loves being a Marshal. Chasing fugitives and always being the quickest on the draw is all he knows.  As season 3 closed, Raylan’s lost a lot because of this lifestyle: his girl, his unborn child, and his father.

Also, Raylan’s drinking escalated during season 3- thanks in part to sleeping above a bar with a very friendly bartender.  It would be interesting if his drinking became an actual problem during season 4.  He’s managed not to show up for work wasted, but his whiskey intake by the end of season 3 might be pushing him to cross that line.

Justified returns Tuesday, January 8 at 10pm (EST) on FX.  Guest stars this season include Patton Oswalt as a constable, Joseph Mazzello as a Pentacostal preacher out to convert the heathens of Harlan, and Ron Eldard as an old war buddy of Boyd. Raylan gets involved with a 30-year-old case his father is mysteriously tied to.  Sounds like fun to me.

What say you, dear readers? Any predictions, hopes, fears?

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