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Justified, Ep. 5.02: “The Kids Aren’t Alright” brings Raylan’s parenting issues to the fore

Justified, Ep. 5.02: “The Kids Aren’t Alright” brings Raylan’s parenting issues to the fore
Justified, Season 5, Episode 2: “The Kids Aren’t All Right”
Written by Dave Andron
Directed by Bill Johnson
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX

In case you missed the news, FX’s John Landgraf announced that Justified will end next year with its sixth season. This lines up with what Graham Yost and Timothy Olyphant have been saying for years about the series having a natural endpoint that wasn’t too far into the future, but today that became official. Assuming it gets a standard episode order for 2015, Justified has 24 episodes remaining after this one, “The Kids Aren’t All Right.”

While Landgraf admitted that he’d be perfectly happy to keep the show around in perpetuity, he deferred to the wishes of the creatives, and it’s hard to fault them. After all, Justified, for its astounding guest casting and ever-expanding geographical span, is ultimately about Raylan Givens and his tortured relationship with his hometown. (It has also become a series about his old friend Boyd Crowder and his odyssey through the criminal underworld, but that remains a close-second consideration.) As enjoyable as the series always has been and remains, there are only so many stories to tell in this millieu without the whole enterprise feeling strained, especially since the series often leans on the interconnected nature of its many cops and robbers.

The fact that the series is now into its final third is as good a prompting as any to consider Raylan Givens, the father. With the passing of Arlo last season, Raylan no longer has the physical presence of his contemptuous father to contend with, but his shadow continues to loom over his life and his notions of what it is to have created life. Last week he found himself unwilling or unable to even go visit his daughter in Florida despite having been given the explicit opportunity; in “The Kids Aren’t All Right,” his quasi-surrogate-daughter, Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever, popping in for the first time in nearly two full seasons if memory serves) asks for hs help after a pot deal she engineered goes sour, which finds Raylan in a familiar position: being exploited for the predictable nature of his behavior. When, near episode’s end, Loretta claims not to have “played” Raylan, instead merely counting on him to handle the stuation as she knew he would, the difference is a purely semantic one. The end result is the same: Raylan cleans up the mess, and Loretta doesn’t suffer any significant consequences. As if Raylan needed more fuel for his parenting issues.

Where Raylan’s problems are purely existential, for the moment at least (Art is soon to be hot on his heels if he keeps apace with his investigation into the demise of Nicky Augustine), and he at least has a new “love interest” (in quotes as these characters tend to be hilariously short-lived as prospects) in the form of Amy Smart’s social worker Alison, Boyd is facing a much harsher set of problems. For starters, after losing his cool and beating Holland Manners nearly to death last week, he has to satisfy the demands of his wife Mara (Karolina Wydra), who, like so many other characters in Justified history, just wants some scratch so she can get the hell out of Kentucky. To make matters worse, his ability to pay her off, not to mention raise the dough he’ll need to spring Ava from jail in some illicit manner, has just declined drastically thanks to his criminal empire taking two hits: first Detroit’s decline (witnessed last week), then a violent ambush that leaves some of his men dead with no shipment to be distributed.

Putting Boyd’s back against the wall so soon in the season is a good move, as that’s when Walton Goggins tends to get the broadest range of emotion out of the character, but it might be even more interesting to see just how it all goes wrong. His underlings are already gruumbling about the inconsistency of their work (a problem not even Wynn Duffy seems capable of addressing this week), and Mara is being threatened by slimy Sheriff Mooney to name Boyd as her husband’s attacker. Oh, and Holland Manners could still wake from his coma at any old time. Amidst all of this, it’s wise to remember that Ava Crowder is not one to rest on her laurels, and if we don’t see her start to make her own plays with the aim of getting out, I’ll consider that a serious oversight on the part of the Justified writers room. Waiting for rescue just isn’t her style.

While Boyd feels like he’s trapped in a neo-noir nightmare akin to Red Rock West (directed by last week’s John Dahl, let’s not forget), it’s Dewey Crowe who might qualify for the week’s rudest awakeming, as he is once again pried from a poential hooker threesome by the arrival of Daryl Jr. and his pals. The likelihood that Boyd is also going to be after sme of that sweet Dewey settlement cash is high, especially as the only reason Dewey was able to collect in the first place is because Raylan just couldn’t help busting the poor guy up one time too many; the poetry is just too great to ignore. On Justified, it always comes back to not being able to help yourself from taking things a little too far, against your better judgment. Perhaps that’s a temptation Yost and Olyphant recognized in reality; better a blaze of glory than diminishing returns.