Justified: Season 4, Episode 5
Foot Chase
Justified has begun, this season, to take seriously the idea that Raylan is an asshole and that may be problematic for him in the long term. From the show's inception, its been clear our protagonist was a son of a bitch, but over the course of the show's first three seasons, this was mostly played for laughs. Sure, he would be a dick to the fugitives in his charge, but it was funny because we all sort of felt they deserved some approbation. Art might groan at Raylan's selfishness and commitment to doing things as he saw fit, but we knew that our man was getting the job done. This year, Justified has been less likely to let Raylan off the hook for his flippancy, and I think it has taken the show to interesting places.

"Foot Chase" isn't the strongest episode of this season so far, and in fact, its likely the weakest. But it does play with what is becoming the overarching theme of this season quite well. This week has Boyd and Raylan on the trail of Josiah, whose foot Raylan found last week. Both are hoping to track down Drew Thompson, in part because of the role he played in their respective fathers' criminal careers, and in part to further their own ambitions. There is certainly a curiosity for both men to see what they might find when they catch Thompson, and it may drive both more than they recognize. But if nothing else, Boyd wants to muscle into the heroin market, and Raylan wants to ensure Arlo never gets released from prison, and for the moment, finding Thompson seems the likeliest route to both goals. Of course, we know Boyd is misinformed about the chances he will achieve his aims by grabbing Thompson, and Raylan too may be surprised at what he finds. But for the moment, both are after the same prey, and that provides a bit of fun throughout the episode.

Raylan begins his parade of assholery by criticizing Sheriff Shelby and his men, who Raylan thinks aren't taking the case seriously. Turns out Shelby takes it quite seriously, and that the thought many of us shared last season, that Shelby might use Boyd to get into office but never intended to be a toady for a criminal enterprise, proves true. Shelby brings Boyd in for questioning (an act that is sure to have repercussions in the coming weeks), and when Arlo's attorney shows up to get him released, they follow her to find Josiah's kidnappers, in the midst of attempting to cauterize his wound with a blow torch.

This is kind of a classic Justified set piece, with a psychopath bouncing off a more disconcerted accomplice, the two deciding to do something supremely idiotic, and Raylan showing up to stop them and crack wise about how stupid they are. Here, one of the duo tries to run through a locked door, to which Raylan wearily queries, "Are you serious?" Once the struggle ends (the psycho tries to use the blowtorch as a flame thrower against Raylan and Shelby shoots him, the lawyer admits her client is "the dumb one" and Raylan retorts, "That don't narrow it down." Just another day for our asshole Marshall.

Boyd's plan involves a different, and arguably less fruitful, mode of assholery. He and Colt decide to break into the houses of various rich people and force them to prove they are not Drew Thompson. Boyd reasons that these men couldn't get rich without ruining someone's day, and so absolves himself of guilt for ruining theirs. Ava comes up with a better plan, though, securing an invite to ex-Sheriff Napier's high scale party, where many of the potential candidates will be gathered all at once.

All of this can't help but feel a bit inconsequential. "Foot Chase" is blatantly a plate setting episode, moving our characters one step closer to their goals while mostly just providing us with a lot of exposition we'll need later, and while I don't normally have a problem with these, this one comes across as somewhat subpar. Usually, Justified hides the ball a bit better, with a colorful setpiece or some excellent monologues that distract us while it piles on the exposition, but here, it all feels a little rote. A lot of people are just standing around saying things, and while the episode didn't entirely lack the show's signature flair, it certainly felt a bit flatter than I would have hoped. When Shelby arrests Boyd, its a moment that should carry a lot of dramatic weight. These two men have been in an uneasy alliance, and Shelby is brazenly breaking that here. Instead, there's a perfunctory exchange ("Son, you are turnin' a corner you can't walk back around," Boyd tells him. "That's like warnin' a man its gonna rain when he's already wet," Shelby replies), and the show moves on from it. It seems like there is so much "Foot Chase" needs to accomplish, it never pauses to savor the moments. And the moments are often the most enjoyable part of Justified.

The moment that does land, for me at least, is Boyd's proposal to Ava at the episode's end. She is guilt-ridden over the death of Ellen May (who, of course, is not dead) and wonders where all of this is going. So Boyd shows her the money he's been saving up, offers her a ring, and tells her he is hoping to buy a big house far away from Harlan County, where someday the Crowder name might carry some respectability. This is a sweet idea, full of the optimism I would hope accompanies a proposal, but its also a painfully naive one in a way that resonates with me. The people of Harlan County often try to hide from their pasts, but they never really succeed. Things have a way of bubbling back up that makes me think Boyd's fantasy of a happy ending for he and Ava is just that--an ill-conceived notion that things might get better, ignoring the fact they likely won't. It makes the proposal sweet and romantic enough, but it also undercuts those feelings with a sense of dread. Ava has increasingly tied herself to Boyd over the course of this show, and at some point, she will pay the consequences of that allegiance.

There are plenty of instances of assholery tonight. Raylan's flippant treatment of pretty much everyone, Boyd's willingness to threaten strangers on the off-chance they may be the man he seeks, and Colt's decision to beat a man, nearly to death, for something he did himself. Its interesting that the show seems more willing to condemn this behavior than it has previously. But in "Foot Chase," it isn't really clear whether that condemnation is going anywhere. Its symptomatic of the episode's larger failings, I think, and its something I hope the show will avoid once it moves past table setting and into some actual plot movement. I don't think we'll have to wait all that long, though, and for that I am fortunate.

Grade: B-


-"You mean to tell me that all rich people don't live in a constant state of domestic bliss?"

-"You gonna be stupid enough to step in blood, at least be smart enough to wash it off after."

-"I think Lynyrd Skynyrd is overrated. I know you're in Boyd's pocket."

-"Maybe help you with your menstrual cramps, then?" "Nah, those went away once I got on birth control." Tim's dry humor cannot be oversold.

-"Hey Boyd Crowder's ride." "Hey, Marshall Givens' sidekick."

-"We're not using a blowtorch." "Why not?" "Because I want to retire on a beach somewhere and not take an open flame to a man's leg."

-"Patience might be a virtue. But waitin' sucks."

-"That's what assholes do, Raylan. They get old and die from bein' assholes."
Tags: Justified
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