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Justified, Ep. 5.10: “Weight” another unexpected season high

Justified, Ep. 5.10: “Weight” another unexpected season high
Justified, Season 5, Episode 10: “Weight”
Written by Taylor Elmore and Keith Schreier
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX

More than any past season of Justified, this year has had both the widest quality gap between episodes, as well as the least consistency in terms of which plotlines feel rewarding at any given time. “Weight” reshuffles the deck once again, a fast, funny, exciting hour that introduces another big name, nails the surprise re-appearance of an old friend, and takes another Crowe out of the equation (two if you count the one with four legs), but makes the previously intriguing adventures of Ava in prison feel like a drag. On balance, there’s still much more good than bad on offer here.

For starters: scribes Taylor Elmore and Keith Schreier deserve a whole heap of credit for turning what could have been a cheap ploy for our attention into one of the most delectable set of scenes in recent memory: the surprise return of Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) is an utter, unadulterated delight, doubly so because he’s here in his natural born capacity as Harlan’s immortal, ragged jester par excellence. The fact that seemingly about half of his scene with Dewey amounts to giggling is delightful; Raylan and Dickie’s tete-a-tete, though, is on another level, just a nonstop volley of great digs and delectable performance beats. John Dahl’s direction does the scene a great favor as well, quietly emphasizing their difference in stature and poise. If that winds up as Dickie’s final appearance, it’ll be a hell of a way to be remembered. (Another nice touch: Raylan making no mention of Dickie murdering his Aunt Helen, as though it’s either too painful to recall or he’s not even worthy to even hear her name uttered. Or both.)

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Almost as great: the sorry fate of mean sonofabitch Danny Crowe, played to sadistic, dumb perfection by AJ Buckley. One of the key maxims of Elmore Leonard is that criminals are, by and large, dumb. So far, the most consistent throughline of Season 5 has been that “dumb” can mean a lot of different things, and many of those things don’t rule out danger. Danny’s insistence on the “21-foot rule” was already a great running gag, but the definitive conclusion brought about by Danny’s choice of weapon and lack of situational awareness was a stroke of genius, and according to Graham Yost, that’s one of the many series chestnuts for which we have Olyphant to thank. He earns that producer credit, folks.

There are other reasons to think we might be able to comfortably expect smooth sailing for the remaining three episodes. (Pretty please?) I was concerned that we might have seen the last of Amy Smart’s Allison, especially since she was last seen very sensibly dumping Raylan, but here she is again, briefly giving shelter to young Kendall Crowe, who quite understandably wants out of this whole living-with-Danny-and-Daryl-Jr. bit. It was strange to see Dewey Crowe as a henchman in the midst of big things, so it was nice to see him back in his element this week as the world’s most inept would-be gangster ever. Mary Steenburgen, turning up here as an old associate of Wynn Duffy’s, is a pleasantly unexpected addition, at least partially because it promises to finally give Jere Burns something to do other than complain in hotel rooms. More broadly, though, any new female characters that aren’t merely hookers or love interests are always good news. (To be fair, however, the hooker scenes we get this week are golden.)

Lastly and leastly, there’s the small matter of the Ava-in-jail plot, which goes into full-on grim territory with the death of Judith at Ava’s hands. It’s not that Ava doesn’t remain a compelling character, and it’s not that the Ava-Boyd relationship doesn’t remain, against all odds, somewhere near the heart of the series. It’s just that we’re approaching bleakness-for-its-own-sake: this week brings a fatal shivving, forced abortions, a breakup, and a Boyd so disillusioned he can’t even bring himself to even lay a blade on Danny Strong. When the rest of the series is this fleet and witty, it’s tough to get dragged back down to something approaching Showtime territory. That being said: the only reason these scenes can be characterized as a letdown is because virtually everything else here is, for the first time in a little while, humming along quite nicely. With the final act of the season about to begin, there are plenty worse positions to be in.