'Justified' Recap: 'The Gunfighter' (3.01)
Here's why I call Justified the best series on TV: because every season, I ask myself "How can this possibly get any better?" and it always does.
"The Gunfighter" starts off simply enough, but within minutes we're reminded that everything in this world is much more complex than it appears. Winona finds herself being pulled over by the state police; seems that Art has been trying to reach her. She arrives at the hospital, where Art tells her "he's going to be all right," and we don't need to be told who he's talking about. Yes, that's Raylan taking a nap in a hospital bed, where we know he's been before and probably will be again.
Three weeks after that, he's on medically restricted duty. As he struggles to regain his aim, Art talks about issuing him hand grenades, which makes me laugh out loud, because that's what he needs - more firepower. Their conversation ends when Boyd arrives at the Marshals' Office, so that Raylan can ask him what happened to Mags Bennett's stuff after her death. The situation escalates into an argument and then a fistfight that sees Raylan tackled through a window into Art's office. This does not surprise me at all, but it's another reminder that Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins make for one of the best matchups on television. I think I speak for many fans when I say the original idea of Justified sans Boyd Crowder seems unfathomable now.
This season's got an awesome big bad, and his name is Neal McDonough. He plays Quarles, who's from Detroit and concerned about his investment. Check out the other new guy in the room: that's Dexter star Desmond Harrington, with a different hairstyle and that cold stare that served him so well in the flick Ghost Ship. Here are two of television's underrated, most intense actors in the same show. What a fabulous surprise. The latter goes and invades a guy's house, shooting the homeowner and the innocent pizza guy he used to get in the front door. There's a reason Harrington played a soul collector: the man is very good at pretending he doesn't have one.
At the end of the day, Raylan goes home to a still-pregnant Winona, who's now crashing with him at the hotel and telling him that he's not getting any younger. Everything seems fine, but knowing that they didn't work out the first time for several very valid reasons, and knowing that Justified is not the show where Raylan will settle down with a baby and a picket fence, I can't help but wonder if they'll really last.
The next morning, Tim briefs him on the homicide and Fletcher "The Icepick" Nix, with the added bit of info that Wynn Duffy's company installed the security system at the dead guy's house. He eventually persuades Raylan to skip out on desk duty and help him with the case. And so after seeing him on Burn Notice, we get to see Jere Burns return to his other recurring bad guy role. Tim suggests they talk to Arnett, Duffy's boss and the shot-caller of the Dixie Mafia, as Duffy calls Arnett and tells him about his not-so-bright idea to send The Icepick after the dead guy.
This is how The Icepick and Raylan end up in an elevator together. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it's actually a pretty cool scene, with that added bit of comedy Justified is known for when an elderly woman gets on the elevator momentarily. The two talk like they're friendly when we know they're anything but. It's uncomfortable and a bit creepy and definitely makes an impression even though it's such a brief scene.
Raylan arrives at Arnett's office to find that he's not there, and takes his assistant out for a drink. Oh, Raylan, you are a sneaky one. She spills that she doesn't believe her boss is in the real estate business and that Arnett cancelled a meeting with The Icepick at the last minute, but rescheduled for that evening. He suggests that she quit her job as he plots to crash said meeting. What he doesn't know is that the assistant was feeding him information on Quarles' orders. The assistant asks him what he came all this way for, and he makes some excuse about liking the scenery.
Back at the office, Raylan tells Art that he thinks the information about the meeting came too easily, but Art tells him to go home. His father is enjoying Ava's cooking, before she relays Boyd's instructions from prison: to burn the marijuana they swiped from Mags Bennett before they get caught with it. When Devil objects to the idea, she hits him in the face with a frying pan. Ava really came into her own last season and that seems like it's continuing here.
The Marshals are determined to break up Arnett's meeting with The Icepick, but it doesn't go well. The Icepick looks on as they arrest someone else, and slips away in a taxi. Art is forced to call Raylan and admit that the bust was...well, a bust. Raylan finds that out for himself when he and Winona walk into the hotel and find Nix sitting there with a gun aimed at the both of them. He tries to play the same game with Raylan that he did with the man he killed, but this time he's the one who ends up losing. At least he's not dead, so I can lobby for Desmond Harrington's return. Seriously, can we find another use for this guy?
Meanwhile, Quarles shoots and kills Arnett and his assistant in front of Wynn Duffy without a second thought. "You know me now?" he asks Duffy, who is clearly cowed. The surviving Bennett brothers spy Boyd in prison, and surely they all still have parts to play in what looks to be a fantastic season.