This week's Justified is a slow episode by comparison, but leave it to one of TV's top writing staffs to have something worthwhile in even the quieter hours.
Still dealing with Winona's departure, Raylan is getting blitzed at a different place, which happens to be the bar below his new apartment. Imagine his surprise when Quarles shows up at the bar beside him. "You're a bouncer in a dive bar," he says, and is not impressed. Raylan retorts with details of Quarles' propensity for roughing up male escorts that I didn't need. The next day, determined to take Quarles down, he needles Tim for more information from the FBI, and then shows up at Boyd's bar to slug him in the stomach. If you didn't already get the memo, Raylan can be a really angry guy.
Quarles is bribing the local sheriff and talking to the Detroit mob boss's son, Sammy (that's Max Perlich from Homicide: Life on the Street). Raylan's looking into their business dealings (in the most convoluted way possible) gets both him and Tim in trouble slapped on the wrist by the FBI. Undeterred, Raylan schemes his way into a face-to-face meeting with Sammy, which confuses everyone because Sammy is convinced Quarles sent Raylan to kill him.
Having convinced Sammy to stop the transfer of much-needed cash, Raylan next moves to seize Quarles' house and everything in it. Unfortunately for him, since Sammy is a pushover, he's equally intimidated when Quarles comes to see him and bullies him into saying Raylan is connected to Boyd. Boyd, who's convincing one of his old friends from the mine to run against the corrupt sheriff that Quarles just bought off.
Guess who shows up next? Gary, who's now in Tulsa as a motivational speaker under the name Walter Parks. I never expected to see him again. Quarles finds him and gets him drunk at a hotel bar, which is an opportunity for Gary/Walter to start talking about Winona. You can see where this is going, right? Wynn Duffy sidles up on Gary's other side and it's going to get ugly from here on out.
I can't say that I'm totally in love with this episode as a stand-alone episode. There's not too much memorable here, and when I realized Max Perlich was playing the mob boss's son, I had to laugh. The same actor who played a helpless security guard on Burn Notice? This is the guy Quarles gets his bankroll from? I didn't buy it. Then I realized that was probably the genius of the situation. Justified's characters are never straightforward, and how quirky would it be if the guy behind the curtain wasn't some big bad like we always see, but a guy who is a total pushover? That's definitely different. (Besides, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure there is an actor who'd be badder than Neal McDonough.)
It was certainly a surprise to see Gary back; as I mentioned last season, it was clear that he was a casualty of the Raylan/Winona subplot and he got a poor sendoff. I figured the writers were happy to push him aside. However, I can't argue that he's a brilliant "in" for Quarles and Duffy. What better way to go after Raylan than through the woman he clearly still loves, who's pregnant with his kid? Quarles is a psycho who ties people up - he's not going to be concerned with the fact that she's with child. Now, I fully expect Gary to be dispensed with again once we get to that point, but his reintroduction paves the way for making Winona relevant to the show again, even if only as the damsel in distress.
That's one of the interesting things about Justified. Whether it's Gary or Boyd's old friend from the mine or Ella Mae the hooker from last week, every character that's introduced on this show may pop back up again. On just about every other show, minor characters are around for an episode or two and then largely disappear. But on this series, characters never stop being part of this world, unless they happen to die. That's impressive continuity and it's another stroke toward making this world feel real.
This might have been a slower episode, but I still took something away from it. That's successful television.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.