justified-511-the-toll-michael-rapaport-timothy-olyphant.jpgThe suspiciously long and amiable conversation between Art and Allison before the opening credits of Tuesday’s (March 25) “Justified” likely tipped a lot of viewers off that something bad was about to happen. It’s a variation on the trope of a secondary character suddenly coming to the fore just as he or she is about to die.

That a lot of us saw something coming, though, didn’t necessarily lessen the impact of Art being shot. As I caught on to what might be coming, a sense of dread started hanging over Art and Allison’s banter. The shooting was staged in such a chaotic way, the camera jumping back and forth between Art’s position and that of the unseen shooter, that it effectively delayed the revelation that it was Art who took the bullet.

It also catalyzed something we’ve been waiting 11 weeks to see — the disjointed threads of this season’s story finally coming together. And even then, it’s still messy at the outset: Theo Tonin seeking revenge against Art is as plausible as the Crowes going after Allison as a way of retaliating against Raylan for Danny’s death.

As it usually does, though, the show comes down on Raylan’s side in fingering Daryl for the shooting. Theo’s quick fingering of Picker as the shooter plays as a political move. Coupled with Kendal’s confession — which doesn’t come close to matching what we saw in that opening sequence — it’s more than enough to tip the suspicion firmly toward Daryl, which in turn sets up a potential three-way confrontation between him, Raylan and Boyd for the final two episodes of the season.

Boyd himself, meanwhile, re-establishes some power in his dynamic with Wynn, Katherine Hale (the widow of a deceased crime boss, it turns out) and Picker thanks to his ability to “blow s*** up”* — in this case, Picker. We saw him fingering his cigarette explosive early in the episode, and the Marshals’ entry just as he took out his pack the first time had me momentarily thinking he had cut some unseen deal with Raylan to get rid of his partners. Not the case, though: Picker is out of the equation, and Boyd may have a way out of his heroin mess while keeping enough product to supply Ava in prison. (Given all that goes on elsewhere this week, her story is shortchanged more than usual, but it seems clear not too many of her fellow inmates are that broken up about Judith’s death.)

(*Perhaps Boyd is a big fan of “Breaking Bad” Season 4 and its cigarette shenanigans?)

Still, there’s a nagging feeling of wondering where this is all leading. With Art out of commission for who knows how long, it will be interesting to see how Rachel takes to the job of running the office and being Raylan’s boss. And now that Raylan has some deep personal stakes in going after Daryl, the show has its endgame for this season in place.

It’s tough to build a season of TV around the idea of chaos, though, which seems to be what this season of “Justified” has been about. The Crowes have been like some invasive species in Harlan, wrecking a lot of the established order of things without much beyond the destruction itself to show for it. The final two episodes of the season will likely devote themselves to tryin to chase away the invader, but the damage can’t really be undone.

What did you think of “Justified” this week?

Posted by:Rick Porter