|Courtesy of FX|
I say all of this because, last week, I was gut-wrenchingly sick, and thus episode 4 sat unwatched and eating away at my brain, taunting me from afar, but I resisted, not wanting to watch it and forget the details. So, happily, this week I got a double episode, and what a duo. It is the mark of good writing that any two episodes of a series can fit together well, despite not necessarily sharing themes or arcs. While Truth and Consequences might be better paired with episode 3, and conclude the unofficial first arc of the season, with Raylan and his money and woman woes, it also runs quite naturally and comfortably into the start of Kin.
Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that run cock fights on the side.
When last I left Raylan, his life had literally been turned upside down, and his special lady friend had disappeared with his sizable amount of ill-gotten gains. Truth picks up immediately, with Raylan drifting between self-loathing and wanting satisfaction. What's nice about Raylan, and why he's so unlike most other characters on television (certainly in this genre of TV) is that he rarely looses his cool. Others might have flipped out, gotten angry, went on a mad rampage of revenge. Raylan just sighs and says "I thought she liked me." He's the Charlie Brown of law enforcement. Of course, that didn't stop him from hunting them down in his own dogged way, and repeatedly shot a man in the gut with a bean bag gun. He was just calm about it.
Creator Graham Yost has said that one of the definitive aspects of Elmore Leonard's universe is that people, for all their best intentions, never change, and keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Raylan is proof of that, constantly doing what he shouldn't, and getting involved with the wrong women at the wrong time. Rachel too, who despite knowing better, often finds herself caught up in Raylan's bullshit. And Lindsey, who I believe genuinely liked Raylan, and was happy with him, but as soon as the ex shows up falls right back into her old role. She did show some signs of growth though, maybe the best of Raylan rubbing off on her, as she manages by the end to break her personal cycle of self destruction (for now.)
That comes as cold comfort to those of us who were rooting for her and Raylan, but as Raylan said, and who is prone to zen-like moments of realisation, maybe she was just something the universe didn't mean for him to have. However, the story of Raylan hunting down the would be chicken fighters was just the potatoes of this particular episode, as the meat rested in the lap of poor Ellen May. And it is a credit to the writers for focusing more on Raylan's antics rather then overloading us on the drama of what continues to be a tranformative season for Ava. I've found her corruption (I guess is the best word) one of the best transformations the show has done. Boyd underwent three in the first season along, but Ava's has been a slow burn, as she becomes a junior Mags Bennett. And as far as she's concerned, she has just ordered someone killed. Last season she flat out murdered a pimp, but that was in a way justified. Her ordering the death of Ellen May is nothing more then selfish self preservation, the same reason Boyd killed Devil. Earlier this year, Ava told Ellen May that there is no salvation for people like her, but even at that point she still retained something of her innocence. Not any longer.
Which brings us to Kin, which for my money is the best episode of the season, and one of the best of the series. All the pieces were in play here, the arc was in full force, and the long history of the show as well. This episodes was pulling on the past, on previous seasons, on future episodes, and involved everyone. Patton Oswalt returned, while Shelby and Ellen May positioned themselves as powerful objects of influence, and Stephen Tobolowsky made a welcome, if brief and final appearance as the FBI agent who retroactively ironically went after Raylan for corruption. We also met a new Theo Tonin mook, working with the ever involved Wynn Duffy, and got another great story about Tonin's past, while also cranking Drew Thompson's bad ass ranking up a notch ("he shot him in the eye!"). I'm actually preferring Tonin not appearing in the show, as the near mythical Big Bad his lackeys have created in his place is much more effective.
But, as the title might suggest, family played a role too. We got brief glimpses of Arlo and Winona, each disturbing Raylan's life in wildly different ways. Raylan's mother got a moment in the spotlight, as we learn that Raylan descends from Hill People. Johnny continues his moves against Boyd, with Duffy betting on both black and red on this particular wheel. And family isn't just who we share blood with, but who we choose to surround ourselves with. Raylan and Boyd are of course two sides of the same coin, a point brought up by Raylan, their daddies making moves that led to them standing where they were thirty years later. Tim and Cole offer another pair who share the same origin, but travelled down different paths. To extend the logic, I suppose Ava and Rachel are each others opposites, each having gotten rid of a bad husband, one using a lawyer, and the other a shotgun. In fact, from now on, I'm going to refer to Boyd's crew as the Dark Marshals.
This show is always at it's best when Raylan and Boyd are on equal footing, and staring each other down. And hard as it is to believe, but their meeting in the Hill People's cage is the first time this season they've interacted. And from that moment on, the show inhabited a new level of good. The show is always better then it's best when Raylan and Boyd find themselves on the same side of a gun fight, forcing them to rely on each other. So the sight of them standing on a hill side, one done up in his finery, the three piece and pocket watch immaculate, the other looking dishevelled and eat down, and both looking out of their own time, was as good a sight as you can get. And despite their protests to the contrary, I feel like they like each other more then either is comfortable with.
I've long held that if you want a quick and easy injection of talent and gravitas, simply add Gerald McRaney (this series appears to be going out of it's way to connect itself with Deadwood as much as possible). And he seemed to fit perfectly into the Harlan community. And like Raylan, I'm mighty interested to see what comes of his foot.
This is a pale review, and Kin along deserves something longer and better and more insightful. But it is what it is.