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Justified, Ep. 5.09: “Wrong Roads” boasts Eric Roberts and a little more focus

Justified, Ep. 5.09: “Wrong Roads” boasts Eric Roberts and a little more focus
Justified, Season 5, Episode 9: “Wrong Roads”
Written by Dave Andron and Leonard Chang
Directed by Michael Dinner
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
Now that it’s too late for Justified‘s fifth season to rank with the restof the series – relatively speaking, there’s simply been too much chaff to make that cut – there’s a case to be made that we’re all better off if we accept and enjoy what’s left of the season on its own merits. To that end, “Wrong Roads” marks animprovement from the last couple of outings, boasting what feels like genuine attention to theme and character, a valuable if unsubtle guest-cast addition, and a host of memorable,if notmind-blowing, sequences.

Eric Roberts (himself referenced by Art in an earlier episode!) turns up in what feels like the season’s thirtieth guest star part as a rogueish DEA agent whose behaviors and general lack of regard for his co-workers mirror Raylan’s misadventures. “Wrong Roads” is not at all subtle about drawing and underlining this parallel, but just letting Roberts sink his teeth into some decent material for the first time in an obscenely long period is a small delight, though his sudden ubiquity (Hot Rod greets him like an old friend) feels a bit forced.

Boyd’s Mexican adventure is, blessedly, finally over, and this week he’s back in touch with Ava, who’s doing her best to get a heroin pipeline up and running. That attention to theme I mentioned? That comes mostly via the Harris brothers, who finally get a chance to chew some scenery in a big way. The notion of reneging on a deal in the name of necessity (as repurposed via King Lear) is all over the episode, from the nurse who contracts Boyd to complete a task of vengeance, only to demandmore from Ava once the deed is done, to Wynn Duffy and Picker’s reluctance to accept new partners, to Raylan and Art’s hesitant renegotiation of terms regarding thetiming of his transfer.

Do this week’s shenanigans, which conclude with Dewey Crowe finally snapping and taking off with a goodly portion of the heroin shipment that has been the impetus of far, far too many plot points already this season,really take us any closer to a compelling destination? It’s difficult to say, but the thinning of the herd is at least a positive development. What has yetto be fixed is our investment in what exactly Raylan’s story is meant to be this year. While seeing Roberts’s alcoholic ne’er-do-well shun his kids does seem to rattle Raylan a bit, the notion of Raylan-as-parent has remained awfully buried, and if Amy Smart really is gone for the season, her time could have been capitalized on a little more impactfully. With at least one far-flung figure from thepstleftto make an appearance, it seems it’ll be a little longer before the writers attempt to derive any lingering emotional import out of Raylan’s carefully cloaked pain.