Justified, Ep. 4.06: “Foot Chase” sticks to the show’s periphery, with mixed results

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Justified, Season 4, Episode 6: “Foot Chase”
Written by Dave Andron and Ingrid Escajeda
Directed by Peter Werner
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX

Justified is generally wonderful at balancing a ludicrous array of plots and characters, but “Foot Chase” demonstrates that the show can;t function properly without Raylan at its center. With too much time spent in the company of peripheral characters, some of whom we’ve only just met, and without tying it back to Raylan directly enough (at lest, just yet), “Foot Chase” is either a move-the-pieces episode that will take us where we need to go, plot-wise, or just an odd set of digressions. Only the coming weeks will tell which.

The episode opens promisingly enough, with Art tossing out roughly two dozen awesomely cringeworthy foot puns, and Raylan heckling Shelby’s deputies relentlessly while he attempts to collect evidence that will lead him to the culprit. Unfortunately, we actually spend most of the episode with Colt, who winds up roughing up Johnny Crowder’s main squeeze in his search for a score, and, surprisingly, Marshal Tim, who accompanies a wayward pal on a tricky errand.

Season 4 has done very well by the ensemble so far, but “Foot Chase” shows how delicate that balance is by giving us too much of too little. The more time we spend with Colt, the more he seems like a standard-issue junkie getting himself into progressively worse scrapes. It’s well-worn material from a series that’s generally very good at working out new angles on familiar subjects. Similarly, Marshal Tim’s corner of the episode feels awfully tangential, aside from his cohort remarking upon Colt’s obvious plight. While it’s great to see Graham Yost and company finally making good on their longstanding pledge to put the others Marshals to better use, Tim’s scenes this week feel more akin to the mostly-misbegotten Rachel-centric Season 2 episode “For Blood Or Money.” Elsewhere, we’re hanging out with Romy Rosemont’s shady lawyer and her dullard partners in crime, in scenes that feel barely sketched out.

Then there’s the small matter of just how rambling the Drew Thompson mystery is getting. This week, Boyd and Ava think they have it narrowed down to 13 or so candidates, and arrange to get into a highfalutin swingers’ party – and that’s it. Gerald McRaney’s aging con man is ruled out, and points to the next source of potential information – Hunter Moseley (Brent Sexton), the lawman Raylan put behind bars way back in Season 1…and that’s it. It’s understandable that with a season-long mystery, it’s necessary to occasionally move at a measured pace, but the constant misdirects and A-to-B-to-C plotting are getting a little tiresome.

Better is most of the material we get with Shelby, who gets paired up with Raylan for most of the episode. A late scene where he tells of the last time he shot a man opens up the character’s backstory nicely, as well as thankfully making it incredibly unlikely that he’s actually Drew Thompson, which would be an odious development indeed. And the episode even finds time for a surprisingly affecting capper: Boyd proposing to Ava, backlit by the night lights of Lexington. It really shouldn’t work, given that Ava and Boyd as an item has never really been easy to square with the Ava we met in Season 1, and also given that they’d just been discussing Ellen May’s supposed “death,” but damn if it isn’t one hell of a proposal scene. What really sells it, beyond the fine work of Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter, is Boyd’s mention of the generations to come, and how their union would help to bury a history of bloodshed. It’s a powerful moment that manages to honor the show’s pet themes and be immensely affecting, while not at all involving Raylan. If only all of that “extra” material were working on the same level.

Simon Howell

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