'Justified' - 'The Lord of War and Thunder' Recap
by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 14th 2010 1:03PM
(S01E05) Ah, family. Probably the one thing Raylan didn't want to have to deal with upon his return to Kentucky. Unfortunately, a stakeout brought him to Harlan, where his father and stepmother live and operate. For the first time since 'Justified' premiered, we got a huge dose of the Givens family drama Raylan was running away from in the first place.
Can't say as I blame him. Family is always family, but if I had someone like Raylan's father Arlo to deal with in my family, I don't know how I'd handle it. Both Timothy Olyphant and Raymond J. Barry, as Arlo, did a masterful job of showing the layers of complexity in their relationship throughout the episode.
The hurt and frustration Raylan went through as a child never quite left him, and while there are traces of guilt and regret in Arlo, there's so much more of him that's never bothered to change and never quite will.
Because of Raylan getting pulled into Arlo's drama with the man who's renting Raylan's aunt's old house, we got two different takedowns this week. The time commitment we gave to Arlo and stepmom Helen tells me that 'Justified' is starting to flex its wings a bit more as a serialized drama with procedural elements, rather than the other way around, and that's a good transition.
It's still fun to see Raylan taking down the bad guys with that cocky grin and swagger from another era, but entrenching him more into this community, albeit reluctantly, will make us more attached to him as a character, and humanize his inevitable relationships. This week, he entrenched himself even further by shacking up with Ava, further complicating that situation.
Raylan's internal conflict between wanting to get the hell out of Kentucky, and finding reasons to want to stay, is a perfect parallel to his relationship with his father. For all that Arlo has done, and apparently continues to do, he is Raylan's father. You can see that glimmer of hope in Raylan's eyes that maybe his father will change, but overshadowing it is the conviction that Arlo is who he is.
And just like the wife of the man they were on stakeout to get, Helen is right there with Arlo, willing to break the law, lie and threaten just to make a quick buck -- well, let's be honest, it's more than a buck or two. Seeing the career criminal Arlo is offers us a better understanding of why Raylan is so committed to what's right; it's a full-on rebellion against his parental figure.
But that edge he has, the one that's seen more than one body drop in five short episodes, is another facet of his father. That's the man who will walk into a diner and take on two men twice his size and less than half his age with nothing but a baseball bat. That's guts the size of Raylan's hat, and that level of confidence is perhaps one of the only positive trait Arlo ever gave his son. That and that clever little mind of his.
I've a feeling that as the series progresses, we'll learn that Raylan is perhaps more like his father than he wants to admit. As much fun as the showdown with Boyd (Walton Goggins) is looking to be, I'm actually looking forward to watching Raylan spar with the old man.
What makes 'Justified' cool is the clever cool confidence of Raylan, and how he's always a step ahead of his prey. But with Arlo, he may have finally met his intellectual match. I've no doubt that Raylan will do what he can to see Arlo pay for his continuing crimes, but it's not going to be an easy ride. With the old man's health the way it is, coupled with his bouts of rage, he may not live long enough for Raylon to put behind bars. He certainly won't go without a fight, and with Helen standing by his side.
With each episode, like 'Sons of Anarchy' did, 'Justified' is becoming a better and better show. I fell in love with it at first because of Olyphant's performance, but now I'm getting pulled into the deeper complexities of the people he left behind, and the craziness that seems to permeate all through Harlan.