26
Mar
2013
Justified: Season 4, Episode 12
Peace of Mind
Jordan
Remember, weeks ago, when I commented that Justified needed to make Ellen May important to the story lest all the time we spent with her feel wasted? And remember how I said if it pulled this off, I would eat my negative words? Well, "Peace of Mind" manages the trick of making not just Ellen May matter, but also making Cassie relevant to the season's larger plotting, thus resolving the largest dangling plot thread at this point fairly neatly. While last week's "Decoy" (apologies for missing. Illness and scheduling made reviewing it impossible, and in fact, I didn't even get to the episode until tonight. Needless to say, I loved it, and it probably would've gotten an 'A') was filled to the brim with suspense, fist-pumping moments, and awesome banter, "Peace of Mind" was, appropriately, a more contemplative hour, if no less tense as a result.

Impressively, "Peace of Mind" could very easily have been a direct sequel to "Decoy," and on a lesser show, it would have been. Once again, the Marshalls, Tonin's men, and Boyd are seeking a particular person, and the whole thing could have played out as a giant cat and mouse game with multiple shoot outs should the show have chosen that route. If "Decoy" was an action movie, well, "Peace of Mind" is the slow boiling noir that Justified has always been at its core. There are bodies falling here, of course, but what matters is the conversations that take place before them. When Colt killed Tonin's man last week, it felt like a classic henchman death from an action movie. I shrugged it off so quickly I actually laughed at it. But its impossible to shrug off the weight of anything that happens tonight, and if forced to pick, I think I'd choose this as the show I want Justified to be (especially because I am safe in the knowledge that it will be the other thing a lot too).

Most of "Peace of Mind" seems bound up in that great noir theme: free will. The characters seem compelled to discuss, again and again, whether they control their actions, or whether they are driven along by God, by circumstance, by random chance. Limehouse tells a great Limehouse story to Ava about selling off pieces of Noble's Holler, and we are reminded again of his actual loyalty to her as he tries to convince her not to stay on the path she currently travels with Boyd. Limehouse offers Ava a choice to take the high road, but in classic Limehouse fashion, he's not being entirely straight with her: he has let Ellen May go (in a moment that is completely inexplicable to me unless Limehouse is playing a longer game than we can see, since this is not a man who values conscience over the almighty dollar) and made the choice for her. Maybe Limehouse is playing a longer game, or maybe, for once in his life, the story he's telling is for himself as much as its for Ava. Maybe he really does feel like he has forgotten who he is, and by letting Ellen May go, he is trying to recapture a better version of himself.

Ellen May knows who controls her fate though. After a life of feeling completely hopeless, as if she has no choice, and as if even whether she sees another day is decided for her, she has chosen to put her faith in God, fleeing to Cassie to speak of the miracle that was Limehouse letting her go, and her desire to wash herself in His blood (she means Jesus, not Delroy, whose murder she confesses to Cassie). When Ava comes, she has her own answer ready, telling Ellen May everything that happened to her happened because people made choices. But when it comes right down to it, Ava cannot make the choice she knows she should. She cannot kill Ellen May, for better or worse.

At the end of the day, Ava is not as shrewd as her fiance, no matter how hard she has tried to become more like him this season. Boyd's scheming leaves him numerous options, to the point where he gets to have his pride with Nick Augustine, get his traitorous cousin handed to him on a silver platter, and get Ellen May all at once (if things had gone according to plan, of course). Boyd's silver tongue and quick mind give him one up on even Augustine, and as much as its a pleasure to watch him win, its also satisfying to see Ava find a line she is unwilling to cross.

Then there's Colt, who makes his final choice this evening, in a scene that plays out exactly as you'd expect, but is absolutely, breathtakingly wonderful nevertheless. Tim and Colt have a talk about Tim's poor friend Mark, whom Colt insisted "really died in Kandahar," Colt lights up a cigarette ("think I'll quit tomorrow," he quips), and his last words are a beautiful evocation of everything the episode is trying to say about free will and fate: "I guess I'll quit today."

There's one person we haven't talked about yet, and that's Raylan Givens. Raylan makes a choice at the beginning of this episode, and if the scene that closes it is any indication, that choice will have devastating consequences. Raylan refuses to take the win, to accept his suspension and rest on his laurels after getting Drew and getting him out of Harlan alive. Instead, he insists on going back to Harlan to be the one to rescue Ellen May. The first two seasons of Justified ended with the same song (and I would be disappointed the third hadn't, if it hadn't ended in a gut-punch that was equally effective): "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" by Brad Paisley. The show has made this point again and again throughout its run, and it made it this evening once more: Raylan could get out if he wanted to, but he won't. He chooses to be in Harlan, for all the good, and all the (infinitely more) bad that entails.

See, the most important choices in "Peace of Mind" are the ones that call the least attention to themselves. There's Raylan's choice to be pigheaded, to return to Harlan, and to make his presence known to Limehouse, Boyd, and Johnny. And there's the choice Nick Augustine makes when he asks Boyd, "Was that the Marshall in the hat? What's his name again?" Bad times are coming for Raylan Givens. But when they do, will he have any choice but to admit he made his own bed?

Grade: A

Notes:

-"A man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth deserves to have it permanently shut." "Who said that?" "Boyd Crowder."

-"Suspendees don't get to choose when they're suspended. That'd be called a vacation."

-I really never get tired of watching Justified chew up and spit out its carpetbagger characters. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the South or southern culture, but I will always enjoy watching arrogant people think the folks in Harlan are dumb just because they are uneducated (or worse, in the case of the educated ones, just because they are Southern). Seeing Nick Augustine fall, as I assume he will, will be quite enjoyable for me. Though I really hope nothing devastating happens beforehand.

-So, the State's Attorney is on Tonin's payroll, yeah? When Ellen May comes up, there are four people in the room. We know it isn't Drew. We know it isn't Raylan. And I'll be damned if Art is on the take. So it has to be him, yeah?

-I am legitimately nervous for next week. Especially because Natalie Zea, who plays Winona, is on Fox's The Following, which just got renewed for a second season. I do not want to see what Raylan Givens looks like less an estranged wife and unborn daughter. Please, Justified don't do that to me.
Tags: Justified
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