Halfway through this season, Justified Season 4 is still searching for its way. While Season 2 and Season 3 had clear cut “big bads” in Mags Bennett and Robert Quarles, Season 4 has instead spent its time setting up multiple chess pieces.
The search for Drew Thompson continued following up last week’s cut-off foot cliffhanger, with Josiah being crossed off the list for Thompson’s identity. Relevantly, once again slutty teenager Roz showed up for questioning by Rayland. With her continued insertion into the plot, it would not be surprising if she played a role in the eventual climax of the season.
The most memorable subplot of the episode is Boyd’s muscle Colton going off the deep end, out of fear he’ll pay the price when Ellen Mae is found and his drug addiction. Colton is a loose cannon and his presence will not lead to good things for Boyd, Ava and Johnny. In the scene where Max gets beatdown, Johnny seems to catch onto Colton falling off the deep end. Johnny is no less sharp than Boyd and Ava and the eventual showdown for power between Johnny and Boyd, should be one of the highlights of the season. Personally my prediction is that Boyd and Walton Goggins’ performance doesn’t make it to Season 5. Between Johnny, Winn-Duffy and the sister of the preacher his snake killed gunning for him, losing Shelby’s allegiance and the Colton loose wheel, he doesn’t have the control and loyalty of his territory that a true drugpin needs to survive for an extended period of time. His flaw is having too much of a soft heart compared to his cutthroat father or Mags. His proposal to Ava and discussing their family in the future, shows his mind is focused a life outside of the drug game, which may end up his undoing. We've seen Boyd try to be a neo-nazi, a preacher and we've seen him try to get clean. In all cases he didn't really believe in this lifestyle, he was just searching for a role he belongs in and can be loved in. His turn towards trying to be the Don of Harlem County is for the same reasons, it's not because he loves the power or the money, it's because he believes it'll make him feel at peace with his place and appreciated. Without this obsession for the role as King, it's unlikely he lasts on top for long.
It’s nice to see Shelby and Jim Beaver’s performance being given an extended run, as he and Rayland make a 1-2 punch on the search for Thompson. Jacob Pitts as Tim also gets his first real foothold in the show’s plot, with his drug addict brother character surely headed nowhere good.
As has been the case with most episodes this season, the episode was enjoyable thanks to its lines and performances. The tension between Shelby and Boyd, Boyd acknowledging by brushing off the danger of giving Thompson to Winn-Duffy, Shelby sharing his dark past to another officer with one in Rayland, Ava’s growing authority blackmailing Arnold and Boyd’s proposal all stood out as memorable moments.
As it hits the 2nd half of the season, Justified has many sprawling subplots but will likely turn to connect them. The power struggle between Winn-Duffy (and boss Theo Tonin), Boyd and Johnny will likely pick up steam, the preacher’s sister and will bloodlust for Boyd will likely return and the Drew Thompson search can only go on so long. One criticism I have of this season is that Rayland the human being is somewhat getting lost in the shuffle, it’s almost as if the fighter/bartender subplot earlier in the year was included just so he had enough to do personally this season. Nevertheless he still lights up the screen whenever he’s on it, to go along with Boyd, Ava and Johnny’s fascinating characters. Justified is a very good show having a decent season, but I’d like to see the plot take a more clear direction for it to have a great season.