'Justified' - 'Long in the Tooth' Recap
by Danny Gallagher, posted Apr 7th 2010 4:50AM
(S01E04) "I knew that deep down, I was capable of this. I yank a guy's teeth out and now I kill a guy. You gotta get away from me." - Roland to Mindy
The real challenge for 'Justified' is finding new ways for Raylan Givens to blow people away. Of course he's going to do it in just about every episode. He's a borderline renegade U.S. Marshal with an eagle shooting eye and a distemper for disrespect. He's a colonial cowboy with a beat-up heart. He's Dick Cheney on Zoloft.
The trick, however, is changing the game just a little bit each time so the surprise doesn't wear away over time. This week's episode not only found a new way for Raylan to put a bullet in another smart-ass criminal's torso, but the ride getting there was just as fun.
Raylan has been tasked with tracking down another old case, this time a former mob accountant who fled, even though he was promised protection in exchange for testimony against his former employer. Roland, played by Alan Ruck, seems like a typical squirrely nerd who takes care of poor people's teeth for homemade tamales, but he's also got a mean streak in him as evidenced by that awesome, visceral scene where he pulls out a yuppie patient's teeth who refuses to pay him for his work. The scene felt pretty gut-wrenching, except for maybe someone who runs an HMO.
Ruck knows how to play that guy in his sleep. I'm sure he gets this a lot, and I know I'm not the only person who thought this, but I just imagined the grown-up Cameron from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' wielding that tooth yanker as his angst-ridden Excalibur, extracting (no pun intended) his revenge on the evils of the world. Ruck made this week's episode really fun to watch.
It also set up an interesting scenario for Raylan, having to race to save "Rollie" before the mob puts a bullet in him as he and his girlfriend try to get across the border. Of course, Raylan is doing so "under" Rachel who seems to have a beef with Raylan for reasons not known until now. Their scenes together, while short, did a nice job of helping us get to know a character a little better who has almost been a virtual stranger, even though we're four episodes into the season.
In fact, there were a lot of little things that really made the show fun. The humor came in small doses but it worked, like when one of the mob flunkies asked if the boss mentioned him on the phone and when the girlfriend got the "Missouri Squirts" right as she and Rollie are trying to outrun the cops. The dialogue was quirky without being too stereotypical for the character. The twists helped the episode break from predictability in fresh and interesting ways.
Even the drama worked on a level that I didn't think was coming, like when Rollie kills the "coyote" as they try and sneak across the border, and he suffers a moral breakdown about himself and the person he has become. He brought such passion and depth to his character, particularly in his reaction to that moment, that he turned out to be the real hero of the episode, not an easy order up against the likes of Raylan Givens. It made his dramatic ending (both chronologically and physically) all the more powerful, as he sacrifices himself to save Rayland and his girlfriend.
It's rare to see a show mix serious, silly and sad moments so well in a single episode, especially when it only has to be one of those three.