Justified, Ep. 5.03: “Good Intentions” attempts to shake the arc-establishing blues

Justified, Season 5, Episode 3: “Good Intentions”
Written by Benjamin Cavell
Directed by Dean Parisol
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX


As a general rule, the longer a heavily serialized series goes on, the more laborious the early episodes of seasons become, as they strain to incorporate new elements while servicing long-simmering plotlines and characters. In the past, Justified has gotten around that problem by sprinkling those episodes with standalone or short-arc elements to liven up the pace while moving its longer-term pieces into place. “Good Intentions” sort of fits into that template, only even denser than usual. It’s not a series-best outing by any means, but it is delighfully head-spinning.

It would seem that Justified is very intent on leaning on the ins and outs of happenstance, especially as it relates to the thoughts and actions of Raylan Givens. While there’s no progress on Art’s investigation this week (though that will surely rear its head again before long), “Good Intentions” probes the idea that Raylan has become so interconnected within the criminal element in Kentucky that virtually nothing he does doesn’t come with wider ramifications. Take the setup, which seems innocent enough, by Raylan’s standards: he takes Alison, Loretta’s quippy social worker, up to the Marshals-seized home of the mob accountant we met last week. He gets maddeningly close to sealing the deal, before a tough outside starts setting off the cr alarm outside. After a typical Givens verbal spar, he returns to find Alison packing up to leave, resulting in what might be the most defeated line reading in series history: “…what?”

Raylan leaps to the most obvious conclusion – a la Season One’s “Blind Spot” – and threatens the mob accountant, though it turns out the real culprit is a disgruntled father who suspects Alison planted evidence to separate him from his child. The threatened party doesn’t know that, of course, and decides that someone who’s after the loot hidden in his house must have been responsible for sending someone over to distract Raylan long enough to access it. To cut short what would amount to a ton of recapping, the end result winds up incorporating the accountant’s “maid” Gloria (Gabrielle Dennis), the increasingly combative Marshal Rachel, and eventually the incorrigible Wynn Duffy, whom Raylan (briefly) charges himself with protecting, given that the whole mixup was pretty blatantly his fault. By episode’s end, a body has been dropped, all because Raylan caught a bad case of blue balls. Raylan is being painted, as he often is, as the sort of creature of pure impulse that Justified‘s criminals tend to be, except he’s armed with that most destuctive of tools: legal impunity.
The Boyd Crowder half of the episode plays out entirely seperately, as is par for the course for the series so far this season, though if past is prologue, we can expect another Raylan/Boyd confrontation before too long. There’s a serious fracture between Ava and Boyd now, and if that doesn’t result in Ava taking a proactive approach to getting out of the clink, it will reflect either a lack of imagination on the writers’ part or an indication that the production can’t afford another influx of new characters and locations. In the meantime, though, that means a lot more interaction between Boyd and Mara, who really takes center stage this week, thanks to a highly charged interaction in which she examines his tattoos, supposedly as a means of fooling Paxton into thinking Boyd’s been offed. The whole Boyd/Mara/Paxton/Mooney plot is just this side of contrived, and the episode-ending reveal that cousin Johnny is the true culprit behind the ambush is a little underwhelming (it’s hard to shake the feeling that Johnny has outlived his usefulness, story-wise), but Goggins remains so magnetic  to watch that his subplots are never even remotely boring to watch.
That’s why it’s important that “Good Intentions” underlines the fact that Boyd Crowder and Daryll Jr. are in for immediate conflict, because as amusing as Dewey’s scenes are this week, the Crowes as a criminal or even character enterprise isn’t all that compelling quite yet and I’m beginning to understand viewer misgivings about Michael Rapaport, whose vocal turn this week feels a bit wonky, as though pitch-shifted at random. It’s best, however, not to judge the season arc too quickly, as the last two seasons in particular took their time in unraveling. Therein lies the difficulty of assessing Justified on a week-to-week basis. If this season can tie in its multiple threads of character and theme into a cohesize whole in the same way that Season 4 did, however, no one should have reason to complain in the end.
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