In the latest episode of Justified, we gather that Boyd’s fist fight with Raylan in the previous episode was primarily a way to get Boyd into prison—and in close vicinity with Dickie Bennett, with whom Boyd has a score to settle. Raylan figures this out as well, and changes his statement to see that Boyd gets released. Boyd, as we might expect, turns out to be resourceful.
Justified also returns to making western allusions in this episode with Art Mullens waxing poetic with fellow Marshal Bill Nichols about old West sheriffs, including his favorite, Bass Reeves. Marshal Nichols works for WitSec, and he is working with a witness who has moved from New Mexico. In the conversation with Art, Marshal wonders how he would stand up against those old West marshals. Given the circumstances of what follows, probably not too good. With Nichols off the board, the witnesses are divided up for protection.
Raylan leaves behind a pregnant Winona to go off with Assistant Director Goodall, someone whom he has had a relationship with in the past. AD Goodall is pretty awesome.
Art gets a chance to spend some time in the field as well, and, as things turn out, he’s not adverse to departing from protocol when it comes to interrogating prisoners.
There’s quite a bit of shooting before the episode comes to an end.
For the first two seasons, Justified has emphasized Raylan’s difference from his fellow law enforcement officers. He’s presented as an anachronism, his fast-draw justice in contrast to modern policing, a throwback to the days of the old West. This episode departs from that central set up of the show. Art, who spent most of last season at odds with Raylan because of his tendency to step outside accepted procedure, in this episode beats, tortures, and threatens to kill a suspect. Art’s reference earlier to African American Old West sheriff Bass Reeves (he thinks “Denzel” should look into the character as a movie role) also seems to set up what happens later in the episode. African American Marshal Rachel Brooks coolly and calmly shoots a gunman in the head at point blank range. The reference to Bass Reeves seems to be suggesting that Rachel could certainly measure up to her law enforcement predecessor. When Raylan asks Rachel afterwards how she’s doing, she reports that she’s fine, just another day at the office. Killing, when it’s justified, seems to come to Rachel as easily as it does for Raylan.
This seems like a shift in emphasis from the way the show was originally conceived. Raylan as an anachronism at least suggests some critical distance from the genre western, some commentary on the western’s celebration of violence as itself anachronistic. That doesn’t seem to be the case so far this season, as everybody in the Marshal’s service now seems like Raylan, and I guess the fantasy of the series is that we really are in the new Old West, and that justifies whatever violence the lawmen (and women) think is necessary.