The most recent episode of Justified, “For Blood or Money,” continues to hint at trouble to come between Raylan and Mags Bennett, although it focuses primarily on a stand-alone episode involving Marshal Rachel Brooks and her brother-in-law Clinton, who goes to all sorts of trouble to deliver a present to his son on his birthday. The trouble includes beating up a parole officer, leaving his mother-in-law bound and gagged, shooting a drug dealer through the hand (much to the dismay of Flex, the drug dealer, who has been learning to be a magician by watching how-to videos on YouTube and who is distressed that his sleight-of-hand has been compromised).
Although we don’t know exactly the nature of the trouble in the past between the Givens and Bennett families, we get some hints of it—Mags comments that her boy Dickie who “hasn’t walked right in 21 years” since the “trouble.” I guess we’ll find out more as the season continues.
The most interesting part of this episode was the focus on Rachel, a character that the creators have thus far struggled with. Clearly, as an African American woman, Rachel might run into some difficulty as a law enforcement officer in rural Kentucky, but her characterization thus far has been based on little more than those two facts, that she’s black and a woman. In “For Blood or Money,” we finally get some back-story for her, as her own past history comes back to complicate present events. Her brother-in-law, we’re told early in the episode, killed her sister (and exactly how and under what circumstances that death took place is slowly revealed). At the end of the episode, she joins Raylan and Tim in the Chief Deputy’s office for a shots of whiskey and an exchange of insults, and it’s good to see her invited to join in for a change—although she did have to kill a man (I won’t say who) to make it into this inner circle. At any rate, I’m glad to see the series start to explore the character of Rachel as something more than a vehicle for racial commentary, to see her begin to be fleshed out as a complicated character with a history that is uniquely her own.
Four episodes in, the new season of Justified continues to be less explicit than season one in making references and allusions to the show’s roots in the genre western. In part, that’s because Raylan is shooting less, negotiating more, as a way of resolving conflicts. However, there was a nice “western” scene in this episode, one that neatly encapsulates the series’ playful relationship to the genre. In “For Blood or Money,” we have our first shootout in an Old West saloon (complete with swinging doors), but it’s in a children’s restaurant called Billy the Kid’s (or something like that) that’s decorated with a western theme (servers in cowboy outfits, a manager with a big tin star badge, lamps shaped like cowboy hats hanging from the ceiling)—a nice joking way of reminding us of Justified‘s western roots.