Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Justified, "The Collection": Art, gallery

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?

30 comments:

Michael said...

I had just convinced myself that the green screen effects were intentional, as if they were a homage to something. Don't really know what though.

David J. Loehr said...

That's the one part of the show that drives me up the wall. Even if they have to green screen the driving, surely they could do a better job of it. Even "The Dukes of Hazzard" managed better looking driving scenes with rear-projection shots what, 30 years ago?

Aside from that, I'm really enjoying the Leonard vibe. They're doing a pretty good job of capturing his style (if not quite his voice) on a regular basis.

Matt in Raleigh said...

Kind of an ironic episode to run on Hitler's birthday, don't you think?

Stiff Shots Photography said...

I'm more bothered by the high-tech but INCREDIBLY fake-looking green screen scenes in "V," so a fake car ride through the Kentucky countryside is not going to take me out of the moment.
(And I agree, there's definitely an NBC MYSTERY MOVIE vibe to Raylan's questioning the perps, but the feeling I got was more McCloud than Columbo. Must be the hat.)

Rollie said...

I have a very strong sense of loyalty to actors who just happen to involve themselves in projects that endear themselves to me, so as Rick Gomez made his appearance tonight (I had somehow missed him last week), and proved amusing as usual, I was come over with glee. I hope to see much more of him.

Also, I love Walton Goggins.

GMan said...

This definitely feels like the darkest show that USA ever produced. I say this is a good way. And I agree, the problem here is that for the most part I want the B story to disappear so I can get to the A story. And I think that the B stories can be fine, but would like the A stories to shine just a bit more. The scenes with Groggins were my favorite in this episode.

Anonymous said...

I think this was just wishful thinking on my part, but I thought it was funny that Tony Hale's character was threatened with teaching an Art History class at a community college, after playing an art teacher at a community college on Community. A complete coincidence, I'm sure, nevertheless, every time a character brought it up, it made me laugh.

Dennis/Ohio said...

I was thinking the Columbo interviewing technique had to be an homage. Rawley used it on both of the central characters, and I didn't notice anything like that in any of the previous episodes.

After the tense showdown with the gun-hiding David Mortimer, I half expected Givens to re-enter the room, and say, "there's just one more thing..."

Anonymous said...

I honestly have a hard time paying attention to the conversations they have in vehicles because the green screen effect is so bad. It is a daring effort, but it doesn't work at all.

Alanna said...

The pilot was filmed in Pennsylvania standing in for Kentucky, but all of the subsequent episodes have looked very SoCal. (The IMDb listing is vague.) That would explain the bad greenscreening, though I'd think the crew could still do better on a limited budget. And if the show has moved production, then it's a pity because I like seeing shows filmed on location outside of LA or Vancouver, even though I know it's not always feasible.

gnet said...

When FX began promoting the show, they really played up the Goggins vs. Olyphant story, which really got me pumped for the show since I loved both The Shield and Deadwood. I honestly want to see Walton G. every week. The side stories are fine and all but I keep watching to see when Boyd is going to get sprung so the show can really get started.

Stiff Shots Photography said...

gnet, I've noticed something about how Goggins plays Boyd (that I didn't really see in THE SHIELD's Shane): whether he's spouting Klan gobbledygook or preaching the Good Lord's word, his mouth convinces you that he sincerely believes what he's saying -- even as his eyes tell you "This is a crock, and we both know it." Masterful stuff.

Target-Addict said...

I'm sorry, but this episode fell flat for me, and in IMO was the weakest thus far in the series. I do like the advancement in character development for Raylan, but the "crime caper" this time around seemed way too contrived. I mean, forged Hitler paintings? C'mon....

Liz said...

You know, I was so enthralled with the rest of the episode, that I didn't notice any weakness in the primary crime storyline. I love the conversations with Boyd, and the scene at the end with Robert Picardo just about gave me goosebumps.

Really great show.

Chuchundra said...

I liked this episode. It's always nice to see Picardo again. He was one of the few watchable things on Star Trek: Voyager.

It bothered me a little that neither Raylan nor Mullen knew that Hitler was a painter before he got into politics.

The green screened driving scenes don't really bother me. Maybe it's because I grew up watching a lot of 70's-era cop and detective shows that used a lot of bad rear projection for their driving scenes. I guess I just learned to block it out.

Not to mention that Cablevision compresses the hell out of the FX HD signal. With all those compression artifacts, the obvious green screen is the least of my concerns.

Greg said...

As a resident of Lexington (Tates Creek Road actually, of Walt Goggins rocket-firing fame), I'd say they are doing a pretty good job of creating a plausible Kentucky out of SoCal material.

The only nit I'd pick is that they make Lexington look like a sleepy mountain town, when it is actually a fairly large city of about 250,000 people sitting on somewhat of a plain.

I really enjoy the show though, and it's a real thrill having it set in my town.

Anonymous said...

The green screen as no effect. It is the acting from the star, to the supporting cast to the guest stars that blow me away. Plus the lines, the dialogue is just super and flows perfectly. This is a great show and very good episode.

Lionheart said...

The green screen effects which have so many so anguished are not noticed by me. I guess watching actors act keeps me from nitpicking the rear view scenery. Now if a walking cow seen through the back window overtakes the speeding car, yea I'm distressed. Maybe the money saved on fancy green screen helps pay for Olyphant and Goggins?

alex s. said...

I'm really enjoying this show. I liked the way the various conversations at the start of the episode advanced various plotlines without seeming forced (particularly the interactions with his boss).

On the other hand, Rayland is getting a little bit too good at knowing exactly what the bad guys are up to. It fine when he sees a bad guy with a gun and starts talking about things that could go wrong, because he has that experience (and Olyphant is awesome at delivering those lines). But when he starts knowing about guns he can't see*, or meetings and plans he couldn't know about, that seems a little over the top.

*Granted, he could have seen the gun under the desk when he first walked in, but the jump to knowing everything the guys was involved in seemed too easy (and to typical of what we've see so far).

Kujo said...

Ha, I haven't noticed the green screen effects either. I think I'll look out for it now. :)

Yeah, it was probably too soon to have another crooks double-crossing ep, but it was an enjoyable episode.

Loved the scenes with Boyd, and Raylan's interrogation of Greg.

Looking forward to when papa Crowder gets released.

John said...

This was by far my favorite episode, I think because of the advancement of the story arc, but also specifically because of Goggins' interaction with Olyphant. Goggins seemed so sincere, but I assume he isn't, which will be kind of a disappointment to me. And I echo the sense of the weird but compelling chemistry between Olyphant and his ex-wife. I found her so sexy.

VisionOn said...

Green screen? I thought it was just very, very bad back projection.

Green screen composite should be better quality than the grainy video they use for the road shots.

Oaktown Girl said...

Finally got to see this episode last night, and I enjoyed it.

For viewing, this show is a little tricky. You don't have to pay attention to dialog as scrupulously as you would with say, Deadwood or The Wire, not by a long shot. But at the same time, if you let your brain slag off for too long, you're likely to miss some really key bit dialog (and thus story line). Every episode I find myself rewinding at least twice because I knew I'd missed something important and worth catching.

Media Mindset said...

It's funny people are talking about the green screen stuff since I was thinking the exact same thing. It didn't really look that bad but you could see it wasn't the real deal. Even the look of slightly fake takes you out of the story. That aside I loved this episode especially the colorful language from that blond chick and Tony Hale is always fun, no matter if he's Buster or not. Though, he's alwasy a little bit Buster.

Anonymous said...

alex, while I agree with your point, I thought it was great dialogue to serve as a parallel of his own destroyed marriage.

So, from one perspective, it was a failure but then from another it worked well.

jwiii

barefootjim said...

Oh wow, I TOTALLY got a Columbo vibe from last night's episode, only it was from one of the discussions that Raylan was having with the widow.

Haven't we pretty much known every week who the bad guys are? A big part of the fun of this show is Raylan's interactions with them, where everybody knows the score, but nobody is coming out and saying anything.

Dudleys Mom said...

I'm with Lionheart here: of all the things this show could economize on, I'm very glad that they choose to use greenscreen for those driving scenes and spent their money on good actors. I'm able to focus on the acting because the depth of the guest cast is really good, week-to-week (I always think of Brett Cullen as the poor man's Chris Cooper, for instance). I know that Alan is a critic and must write about these things, but if some economizing keeps good actors in good dramas on my TV, I can deal with it no problem. I wish more shows would focus on story and actors.

Anonymous said...

I think your Columbo vibe is apt. I think this show tips its cap to Columbo a lot. And that includes the green screen shots in cars. I think they have such a small amount of money for that stuff that they may have decided to intentionally make it look that way. I say that because each time I see it I'm reminded of 70s cop shows. So while it looks bad by today's standards, I get a little bit nostalgic when I see it. So it doesn't bother me too much.
Rich, Denver

Oaktown Girl said...

Testing, testing.
For some reason I'm having problems getting my comments to stick - they seem to just disappear. This is just a test.

Anonymous said...

I guess the green screen has no bearing for me. It is the acting that blows me away. They have cst the best actor for the part. I focus on dialogue, acting and the interaction. I mean when Raylan responds to the art dealer's invitation to see the Hitlers and he says he'd rather but his d**k in a blender, Art's reponse is equally as classic. So no issue from me on green screen when the dialogue is that much fun and the actors pull it off so effortlessly.