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[pagebreak]
Speaking of mentoring, Raylan has always been a man to do exactly what he wants and on his own terms, but a visit with Art, who’s still recovering from being shot last season, may finally shake him out of his usual routine, which generally involves neglecting his family in Florida. The physical absence of Winona, as well as Raylan’s daughter, this season has lessened some of the emotional impact of Raylan’s story line, so his visit with Art, wherein he’s reminded that his family should come first, is a nice reminder to the audience of what Raylan is fighting for (or running from, depending on your perspective).
After a visit with Calhoun, and the discovery that Markham’s men seem to be murdering anyone who doesn’t give up their land after two cash offers, Raylan and Tim begin to put the bigger picture together. Markham’s plan isn’t all that sinister–he wants to buy up land in Harlan because he thinks weed will soon be legalized in Kentucky, and can therefore run a very profitable, and legal, business in the state–but the execution certainly is. He’s forcing people out of their homes, and as we know, Harlan is filled with people whose roots in the county run deep.
The discovery of Marhkam’s plan leads Raylan and Tim to question Dickie Bennett, still tucked away in prison, and it’s great to see Jeremy Davies get some screen time in the final season. After a few questions about the Bennett home, Raylan and Dickie come to the realization that the house was sold to Loretta McCready, also known as the youngest (she’s about 14 or 15 years old) weed dealer in Harlan. Raylan and Tim thus pay a visit to Loretta, where they find Walker making his second, and final offer, to purchase the Bennett property.
There’s tension throughout the scene, as we now know that if someone turns down Walker and Markham’s second offer, they’ll be killed. When Markham shows up and has a sit-down with Loretta, along with Raylan and Tim, there’s palpable history there. We can feel the tension between those who’ve made their living in Harlan and stand by the town no matter its hostilities, and the outsiders who are trying to buy their way in. Markham is smart though, even getting Loretta to test the “apple pie,” the drink that Mags Bennett used to poison so many of her adversaries, before he takes a swig. The scene serves the purpose of building up Markham as a truly bad man, one who won’t be so easily denied access to what he wants.
NEXT: The Wiz goes up in smoke[pagebreak]
The comedic portion of this episode comes in the form of a road trip undertaken by Boyd and Wynn Duffy. The two, as characters, have a natural rapport. They’re witty and speak eloquently, and putting the two together, along with a dimwitted vault-cracker called The Wiz, is a foolproof way to create some laughs; Duffy has the funniest line of the night, mentioning that the Pizza Portal is full of dough, and then, making sure that Boyd is paying attention, says, “do you see what I did there?”
The Wiz, Boyd, and Duffy find an abandoned warehouse that just happens to have an old Excelsior vault in it, which is a fortuitous stroke of luck because they need to run tests on how to get into it. In other words, they need to see how much dynamite it takes to blow it up. In a shocking, funny, and grotesque callback to last season’s exploding cigarettes, Boyd and Duffy look on as The Wiz constructs a plan to get into the vault, only to have his own cell phone go off, therefore triggering the explosive and turning The Wiz into many flying projectiles. The reaction shot, where Boyd and Duffy stand in awe, covered in blood, but not the least bit surprised that another wrench has been thrown into their plans, is Justified‘s particular brand of black comedy at its finest.
After all is said and done, we’re back to where we started, and so are many of the characters. Ava and Boyd are back in the hotel room. Boyd is back onto a plan that will keep them in Harlan. With the idea of the legal weed business in Kentucky getting out, Boyd thinks he and Ava can get in on the ground floor and make a killing in the years to come. He tells Ava all of this in a fit of enthusiasm, as if all of their problems are now solved.
But Ava has never really wanted to stay in Harlan, and that’s especially true now; Hale, in one last moment of intimidation, suggests that she knows something about Albert Fekus, the guard who framed Ava, and eventually recanted his testimony after some “influencing” by Boyd. The look on Ava’s face after Boyd tells her his plan to stay in Harlan is devastating. These characters are trapped in their way of life, and it’s looking like no one is going to get out without shedding some tears, and a whole lot of blood.