[Review] - Justified, Season 4 Episode 7, "Money Trap"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
I feel so bad for last week's episode. It was bad enough having to follow Kin, but getting sandwiched between that and Money Trap is just cruel. Because while I still maintain that Kin is the best episode of the season, this one here was a thing of beauty. It it weren't for the fact that Boyd's storyline relied so heavily on the ongoing season arc, I'd say it's the finest example of an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's words that the show has done since the pilot.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which also threaten people at sex parties.

Good bye Bailbonds Woman, we saw your ass but hardly knew ye. And I'll admit to being slightly disappointed. Not because I was expecting to see her bare buttocks again, but because I was hoping she'd join the every growing roaster of tertiary characters that give the world of Justified such believable depth. But like oh so many characters on this show, her dealing with Raylan ultimately concluded themselves with a bullet. And to the neck, which is a hell of a way to go.

A bit of background before we continue. Ralyan Givens is a character that featured in two novels (Pronto and Riding the Rap) and a short story (Fire in the Hole) of Leonard's, the latter of which was adapted as the pilot for the series, and most of the content of the novels was broken up and appeared throughout the first season. When the show was starting out, Timothy Olyphant suggested to Elmore that he should write another book concerning Raylan, if for no other reason then to give the show more ideas. The result of this suggestion was Raylan, a collection of three interwoven short stories. It's an odd book, odder still if read after watching the show. Less a continuation of the original novels, and more an alternate timeline of the series. The first story concerns kidney thieves, which viewers will remember from the short arc last season, involving Dewey Crowe. The second involved a mine company executive, Raylan having to protect her while she's in Harlan, and a criminal enterprise family buying up the land the mines want. This no doubt sounds familiar, as it was the primary story arc in season two. The third and final story concerned a young woman named Jackie Nevada getting herself into some trouble.

I've been waiting for Jackie for a while, and here she is. Apparently, the writers have been trying to find a place for her for a while too. It wasn't the whole story, there being a bit of background stuff about horse racing that maybe they're leaving for a later date. And one element, strippers disguising themselves and robbing banks, was already used last year, as part of Ellen May's chain of bad decision making. But Jackie was who I was interested in. In the book, she and Raylan have an instant kind of rapport that only Leonard seems to be able to pull off, the sort of honest conversations that lets relative strangers getting to know each other quite well. And damned if they didn't pull it off here too. It helped that they pulled the majority of dialogue straight from the page, which really is the only way to adapt Leonard, without coming off looking like a pale imitation. You felt that there was a connection between the two, a connection that goes much further in the book. But, the show is aware of itself enough to have Raylan add in that he's not the best judge of character when it comes to women. Here's hoping that Jackie returns, though probably not until next year.

Jody, the bond skipper from episode one, returns and really shows off his stupidity, and brings along Kenneth to get in trouble with him too. These sorts of pairs, the inept criminal, usually one white and one black, are as much a Leonard hallmark as his use of Marshals. There were times, with the two of them plotting and bickering, that I forgot I was watching TV. This is film level entertainment. This is Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown, but on a budget. And as the day gets worse (as it always does in Leonard's world), and Jody get more and more beat up, the plans get stupider and more enjoyable to watch. Jody's seething yet juvenile hatred of Raylan, a man he only knew for a few hours, is hilarious, and that it becomes his focus rather then just getting the hell out of dodge is a perfect example of people in this world making the same mistakes time and time again. Like thinking a man who shoots people for a living won't shoot a man intending on shooting him.

I've said before, the thing I most appreciate about Justified, is the inclusion of little details, stuff that happens on a regular basis for us in real life, but never makes it into film or TV because it isn't deemed relevant. Raylan's enjoyment of ice cream, and how a bit of bad news can sour the appetite. Or Tim's feud with a co-worker because he forgot his birthday (probably the episode's best original line). They add texture, they give the episode and the series a physicality, that you can place them within the real world, and more easily imagine that these are real people. Except, I've got to go back and rewatch the season again, because I'm having a hard time believing that everything that has happened thus far has happened in just six days. Even with the constrained time line of the series thus far (less then a year, according to Yost), it seems a bit short.

The arc got moved along via Boyd, who takes Ava to the sex party she snagged an invite for last week. And there is that depth of world creeping up again, with the former Harlan sheriff playing host. I've seen it commented elsewhere that a sex party with no sex is a perfect example of Leonard's world logic, and it's true. It was the most dignified, least erotic sex party I've seen put to film (though, after a particular episode of Party Down, my view of such things is a little skewed). And was another opportunity to introduce a powerful woman taking Ava under her wing, showing her how things are really done. The show isn't being subtle about Ava's inevitable rise to power.

We got a new story line for Boyd, as the rich and powerful of Harlan contract him to kill a man, and in the process reveals that he exists by their leave. This understandably does not sit well with Boyd. Boyd likes being in control, but he really doesn't like being told what to do, and those are very different things. I can only assume that in the coming episodes, this will not end well for those Harlan higher ups. Though points for Justified for continuing their hiring of the best character actors, this time adding LOST and Angel actor Sam Anderson. The closest Raylan got to the arc this week was a scene with Arlo, which may well be the best scene between those two actors since the show began.

I'd like to pause here, and admit something. Harlan has always confused me. The series thus far has presented it largely in the context of the hills and hollers. The long country roads and farm houses. It has never occurred to me to think of Harlan in the context of a city. Now, according to Wikipedia, the real town of Harlan is about 2000 people, making it far smaller then any of the city based stuff the show has generally done. The bank robbing form last year, and that sort, I always figured took place in a nearby larger town like Lynch, or even closer to Lexington, where Raylan is based out of. But the Harlan presented last week, and this, with there being an upper crust of society, just doesn't jive with my imagined construction of Harlan. I'm wondering if the writers are writing Harlan bigger then it is, that they've made this fictional Harlan more a proper city (like the aforementioned Lynch).

You've got to figure though, that the bar owner is regretting letting Raylan stay. Man brings more trouble with him then he chases out. And by now, the insurance has got to be ridiculous, considering the number in "incidents" that have occurred on premises.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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