Justified, Season 6, Episode 3: “Noblesse Oblige”
Written by Taylor Elmore and Benjamin Cavell
Directed by Peter Weller
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
The notion of Boyd Crowder: Ultimate Hillbilly Crook has been a pervasive one on Justified for quite some time now, arguably to the series’ detriment. That near-deification might help to sell us on the stakes of the eventual Boyd v. Raylan cataclysm, but it doesn’t make Boyd a particularly interesting person to spend time with, at least on paper. (Being portrayed by Walton Goggins, one of the very best actors in the medium, helps a lot in this regard.) If “Noblesse Oblige” accomplishes nothing else, it at least briefly gets us back in contact with Boyd Crowder, the flesh-and-blood ne’er-do-well who occasionally just likes to get well beyond shitfaced with the woman he loves.
That hilarious opening scene also winds up doing a favor for Joelle Carter, whose one note of “being a CI is hard” was beginning to get a little tiresome already. She gets her best scene of the season just a little later, when she’s ambushed at her home by Raylan, Rachel, and Vasquez, all of whom she rips into with gusto despite (and because of) her raging hangover. She gets another very fun sequence later, in which she gets her chance to meet “Choo-Choo,” whose real name turns out to be Mundo. (We also discover that he does, in fact, like trains, and doesn’t merely throw his fists in a matter akin to one.) The point is, Ava gets actual things to do this week, and it’s a good look.
“Noblesse Oblige” mostly continues in the pleasantly casual rhythm of last week, and it’s similarly replete with a lot of strong, small moments of character and humor. One quietly enlightening sequence finds Raylan rifling through the office of an old coal-mining buddy, Luther, whom he suspects of having given Boyd the explosives he used to carry out the bank job. They swap stories of the old days before Luther talks of how things went downhill in the time that Raylan spent away from Harlan, having leaned on the bottle, tanking his marriage in the process. As it turns out, Luther’s son Tyler is the one responsible for lifting the Emulex, and when he and Boyd’s lackey Earl head over to Luther’s to lift more incendiaries, Luther winds up taking the rap, just as he always has in defense of his wayward offspring. As it did last week, Justified is finding ways that are only slightly on-the-nose to underline Raylan’s uncertain future as a parent, and the lengths he’ll need to go to ensure a clean break and a solid future for his daughter.
What still needs work: the Big Bad. While Sam Elliott continues to milk his incomparable screen presence for all it’s worth, Markham is a tad too similar to Sam Anderson’s similarly hifalutin criminal mastermind, albeit with considerably more gravitas. Markham’s dismissal of Boyd as “grown, but still just playing pree-tend” is the sort of underestimation that has felled many a Crowder foe. It’s a solid beat to drum on for an umpteenth time, but more will need to be done to differentiate this latest duel with the upper strata of established Harlan County badasses going forward. Luckily, there’s more than enough fine material between the showdowns to make that journey worthwhile.
“I come with no more lofty an aim than to apprise you of the situation in which you find yourself.” Dillahunt’s way with chunks of wordy dialogue is damned near the best in the business. Even Boyd is impressed: “Damn, son, you like to talk as much as I do!”
“Noblesse obligé” (it didn’t feel right to use the accented vowel in the body of a Justified review) refers to the notion that nobility is a function not merely of status, but of the virtue of one’s actions. Raylan uses it to describe Luther’s sacrifice.
Justified tends not to go for fancy or flashy direction, but the long tracking shot detailing the layout of the pizza parlor is really elegant; props to director/genre-film screen legend Peter Weller. Also nice the two-shot of Steenburgen and Burns near the end of the episode, in opposing black and white. I believe that’s what the fancy film books call “foreshadowing.”
Boyd uses the word “repast” to describe his hamburger; it’s an unusual synonym for “meal,” presumably derived from the French “répas.” Also, Boyd’s old coal-digging buddy uses the phrase “jot or tittle,” both parts of which mean “a tiny quantity.” The More You Know!
This episode also features Jere Burns in a thong. That is all.