A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I can't keep staring at your nipples...
I was less troubled than many of you by the more self-contained natures of the early installments of "Justified," but "The Collection" was an episode where the arc stories were a whole lot more interesting than Raylan's case of the week. And that's despite a very strong guest cast (Brett Cullen, Tony Hale, Katherine LaNasa and the ever-reliable Robert Picardo) in that portion of the episode.
Part of the problem is that this is already the third story in six episodes about a group of thieves double-crossing and trying to kill each other. While that's a staple of crime fiction in general and Elmore Leonard books in particular, Leonard's books come out with much less frequency than episodes of "Justified," and by the time LaNasa's character started blackmailing Hale, all I could think was, "Oh, this again? And so soon?"
And unless an episodic story is executed as well as the Roland Pike one from "Long in the Tooth," it's just not going to stack up well next to Raylan's ongoing problems with his father, his ex-wife, his boss, the Crowder family, etc., etc., etc., and this was an episode that featured movement on all those fronts. One of the advantages of serialization is that, done right, we grow more invested in characters and their stories with each passing week, and that means the stories that aren't continuing have to work even harder to make an impression. It's not a coincidence that the one scene from the art forgery plot that really stood out for me was when Picardo showed Raylan his collection of burned Hitler paintings, because it was such an obvious parallel to how Raylan has built an entire life on defying Arlo Givens and men like him.
But in terms of the ongoing stories, "The Collection" worked splendidly. After Raylan dropped bodies in three of the first five episodes, it was only going to be a matter of time before someone started looking into him, and why not smilin' David Vazquez? And how much worse will said investigation become if Raylan's relationship with Ava screws up Vazquez's case against Boyd Crowder? (Always nice to have Walton Goggins back, by the way.)
And after noting last week that I was starting to forget Natalie Zea is even on the show, Winona was back in a big way here, asking Raylan to look into some shady people her new husband is involved with, and then showing up at Raylan's place to show us a bit of the crazy chemistry that led him to break into her house at the end of the pilot episode.
So Boyd's back (and has some dirt on Arlo), Winona needs Raylan's help, Raylan's in all kinds of trouble at work, and Ava has no interest in running away from Bo Crowder. With this many plates spinning, the show is clearly embracing its serialized qualities. Ultimately, that's a good thing.
A few other thoughts:
• As Raylan was questioning Brett Cullen about all the possible murders being committed, I got an odd Columbo vibe off of Raylan - albeit a Lt. Columbo who'd just as soon put a bullet between his suspect's eyes as trick him into incriminating himself.
• I understand that "Justified" is being done on a basic cable budget, and that therefore some corners have to be cut, but the cheapness of the green screen effects whenever two characters are having a conversation while driving has become really distracting. If they can't afford something more convincing, they need to start placing those conversations in some other setting. Maybe Raylan starts walking a lot?
What did everybody else think?