The Telefile

Justified: The Shot of the Week

by Rachel Stein April 11, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Justified</i>: The Shot of the Week

One of the most rewarding things about Justified is that this show knows how to do a kick-ass season finale. Season 1's "Bulletville" was all kinds of bloody, Season 2's "Bloody Harlan" was emotional and satisfying and Season 3's "Slaughterhouse" was all of the above. I think it's my favorite so far... but to be fair, I'm kind of emotional right now.

This season snuck up on me. I've obviously been covering it every week, writing at length about freaky blond Quarles and useless pregnant Winona, but it wasn't until the final moments in "Slaughterhouse" that it occurred to me just how hard this season had hammered the parent-child (mostly father-son) relationship bond into the characters and storyline. Where "Bulletville" had Boyd's father killed during a shoot-out with his son, "Slaughterhouse" made Raylan and Arlo's relationship much darker by having Arlo shoot Trooper Tom (who was just talking about seeing his son's tee ball game) instead of his own son... and taking its time to reveal that Arlo thought he did kill hat-wearing Raylan and had already made his peace with it because Boyd is his family now.

My heartstrings are embarrassingly easy to pull, but that exchange, the look in Raylan's face, the final moments he shared with Art and, hell, even his recounting of the story with Winona -- the woman carrying his child -- were extremely powerful. Juxtapose that story arc and those characters with "Bobby" Quarles just wanting to go home to Theo (dragging in two brothers and their mom along the way), Ava beating the crap out of Ella Mae and Limehouse cutting ties with Errol and suddenly the grand culmination this season is that it lacked something that was so present in Season 2 thanks to the late, great Mags Bennett; the power of a united family. Season 3 tried to make sense of what was lost when the Bennett matriarch was removed from the equation and it did so pretty beautifully. The way I see it (if I may borrow from Shakespeare), where Season 2 explored those who are born with great parents (Dickie) versus those who have great parents thrust upon them (Loretta to Mags), Season 3 explored the people who achieve great parent-figures (our characters this season: Raylan to Art, Boyd to Arlo, Quarles to Theo, Ella Mae to Ava, Errol to Limehouse) and what it means to gain and lose that bond. In a word, it was... disarming.

Seriously though, "Slaughterhouse" was an extremely fun episode to watch. The final recipient of the distinguished and much sought-after Shot of the Week is Raylan during his callback to Harlan Roulette, where he nearly shot Wynn several times during some creative questioning. Wynn is hilarious and one of the many characters I'm going to miss dearly while this show is on hiatus. Moments like this -- and of course the demise of Quarles (drink if you screamed: "Oh shit!"), the few seconds prior to his death where he giggled at the real-life piggy bank and the use of the word "cahoots" -- as well as the aforementioned seriousness of the episode were weakened a tad when you had scenes like the one between Boyd's and Limehouse's crews, where the sum of its parts didn't completely add up and it felt like we were watching a scene between super villains than well-rounded country folk.

I've been saying it for months, but I do hope that in Season 4 the writers find a way to make characters a little less cartoony and actually give Raylan some serious opposition. Having Arlo emotionally disown him in the finale is a start, for sure. But much like Boyd to Ava, I guess the writers know that fans like me will always come back to this show, and there's little that they could do to make me stop watching.

Check out the best moments of Season 3.

Missed a "Shot of the Week"? Here they all are, in one convenient place.

"The Gunfighter"
"Cut Ties"
"Harlan Roulette"
"The Devil You Know"
"Thick as Mud" A.K.A. "The One with the Kidneys"
"When the Guns Come Out"
"The Man Behind the Curtain [Who Turns out to Be Kind of a Pussy]"
"Watching the Detectives"
"Loose Ends"
"Guy Walks into a Bar"

Thanks for reading, and seriously, y'all: Breaking Bad is so good!

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