Justified has always done a wonderful job balancing it’s gritty noir and Western tendencies with a solid dose of humor. The best episodes of the show are often funny and thrilling all at once. “The Trash And The Snake” is one of those episodes. It boasts a handful of intense scenes that see characters backed into corners, but also adds levity when needed.
We pick up where we left off last week, in the hotel room with Ava and Boyd. Boyd is preparing to go out for the day with Wynn Duffy. They’re going on a little shopping spree—by which I mean they’re looking to hire someone who can crack that massive Excelsior vault that’s sitting in the basement of the Pizza Portal. He tells Ava that she should just enjoy the day and the hotel room, and that he’ll be back sometime that evening.
Of course, Ava’s day isn’t going to be spent relaxing. Her first run-in of the day is with Raylan, who she’s getting sick and tired of seeing. She tells him about the visit from Markham and Walker from the previous episode, and Raylan begins to put some of the pieces together, understanding that Boyd accidentally stole from someone he shouldn’t have. That’s all exposition though, as it’s stuff we already know. The scene is more effective as an insight into the relationship between Raylan and Ava. It’s clear there’s still some sort of romantic or sexual tension there, and it suggests that maybe Raylan’s insistence on staying in Harlan has less to do with his duty as a Marshall and more about his need to make sure Ava is out of harm’s way.
Ava is hardly out of harm’s way though, as Katherine Hale is sitting in her hotel room when Ava gets back from her conversation with Raylan. Hale invites her to lunch after a brief introduction; it’s the jumping off point for the episode’s best storyline, which sees Hale and Ava paired up. The beauty of the storyline isn’t in the plot movement, but rather the complexity of the character interactions. Ava and Katherine don’t do a whole lot: they pull off a little heist, sure, but they mostly just drive around, eat food, and have a good time with one another.
The reason it works is because, coming on the heels of Markham’s speech last week, where he tells Ava how hard it is for women in this business, their scenes together take on new meaning. There’s a tension to their interactions because it’s unclear whether Hale poses a threat to Ava and her plan to avoid prison, or if she’s mentoring Ava in a way, showing her what her life could be like if she really took control and fully committed to running some sort of criminal operation. It helps that Mary Steenburgen and Joelle Carter seem to have this natural chemistry on screen that befits the Thelma and Louise-esque story line.
NEXT: The return of Dickie Bennett