Justified, Ep. 3.11: “Measures” readies us for war in Noble’s Holler

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Justified, Season 3, Episode 11: “Measures”
Written by Benjamin Cavell
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX

“Measures” is far from the greatest hour of Justified‘s so-far stellar third season, but it’s a crucial one. After a season full of shifting allegiances, double-crosses, schemes, and new threats, we finally have a (relatively) clear picture of just how things will be aligned for what’s shaping up to be an almost ludicrously epic conclusion. Let’s take stock, shall we?

By the end of “Measures,” here’s how things shake out. Boyd will mostly likely form a tentative partnership with Limehouse’s lackey, who’s working with Dickie to retrieve the (still possibly mythical!) Bennett family fortune. Meanwhile, Boyd goes Quarles-hunting, and manages to tazer him and leave him stripped and bound in a whores’ trailer, awaiting some foul treatment of Boyd’s future determination. Wynn Duffy, upon deciding that maybe the whole working-for-Quarles thing isn’t so great after all (a wise man, this Duffy), is more than willing to accommodate a pair of Detroit boss Theo Tonin’s thugs (including…Michael Ironside!) in their effort to take down Quarles. Raylan ends up tailing and nabbing the thugs himself after he finds himself, not knowing it’s Quarles they’ve been sent to kill – which would have made his life a whole lot easier. Duffy figures he can try to take on Quarles himself in the aftermath, but ends up getting beaten to the punch by Boyd (the aforementioned tazering), and they also seem to find common ground, thanks to the reward Tonin has ponied up for Quarles’s return (worth more alive than dead, but Tonin’s pretty sure you’ll want to opt for the latter option). Oh, and everyone seems to be pretty sure Quarles is going to shake loose and mess things up no matter how tightly Boyd’s got him hog-tied. And then there’s the small matter of Limehouse and his many, many knives, prepared to take all comers and defend his holler at seemingly any cost.

Got all that?

With all the duelling villainry, there’s not much time left onscreen for Raylan and his fellow Marshals to strut their stuff, but what little there is works splendidly. We get some more Rachel and Tim action, this time unencumbered by Raylan’s misadventures, which is always a plus. (I’ll be surprised if they get much play in the season’s endgame, but the show’s proven me wrong plenty.) Even better, we get Raylan partnered up with Art, who seems to be taking it quite a bit easier on Raylan now that he’s an expectant father. (Maybe his brief trip to Raylantown earlier this season, when he roughed up a Marshal-killer, helped align them a bit as well.)

A word of praise for Adam Arkin: I didn’t think the season could support another Big Bad, but he leaves a hell of an impression in his one scene this week, to the degree that I hope he manages to survive what’s bound to be a pretty packed chain of events and stick around for whatever the fallout is next year. Here’s hoping that the outlandish anecdote about how he carries around a human ear is just a tall tale meant to spook green henchmen, though.

Given all the goodness on display, it seems churlish to complain, but here I go anyway. For those of us who’ve been keeping up with FX dramas for a long time, it’s not always easy to work up unqualified excitement for hotly-anticipated season finales. Justified itself slipped up a bit last year on the mostly-good “Bloody Harlan,” which featured one too many instances of Raylan getting his sorry ass rescued conveniently at the last minute by third parties. Sons of Anarchy (which still boasts better ratings than Justified, for some reason) is a serial letdown when it comes to final acts. Similarly, earlier efforts Damages and Nip/Tuck routinely squandered promising storylines following their respective solid first seasons. Those last two might seem like ancient history, but given the high levels of plot and character to wade through here, and the network’s spotty track record, there’s reason to be a little apprehensive. Of course, this is all basically hoodoo. There’s no real reason to think they’ll drop the ball when the season’s been this incredibly consistent so far – eleven weeks without a duff week is no small feat. Here’s hoping Yost and company can break the network’s (very possibly invented by me, just now) finale curse.

Simon Howell

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