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Justified Recap Season 3, Episode 9 "Loose Ends"

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Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 9  “Loose Ends”

FX

Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 9  “Loose Ends”

Justified never shies away from telling you exactly what it’s doing, and when it titles an episode “Loose Ends,” you can bet it will be all about tying up, well, loose ends. Given the particular brand of people who populate Harlan County, it’s not surprising that the tying up of these loose ends involves landmines, shotguns, and more bodies pushed into the swamp. Nor is it surprising that it manages to tell us something about Justified’s value system: Either you’re your own man, or you’re as good as dead.

Justified Recap Season 3, Episode 4, "The Devil You Know"

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Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “The Devil You Know”

FX

Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “The Devil You Know”

A lot of talk regarding season three of Justified has centered around whether the show could successfully replace Mags Bennett. The writers have cleverly embraced the gap Mags left behind; instead of trying to replace her directly, they’ve used her absence to create the sense of a town on the precipice of a crime war. Many different players are eager to fill the role of Harlan’s chief villain. This week’s episode, however, reminds us that Mags was never truly the chief villain of Justified to begin with.

As great and as powerful a character as Mags was, the role of primary bad guy has been filled, from the beginning, by Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). This is easy to forget, because Boyd is incredibly likable. (Surely he must be the most beloved neo-Nazi skinhead on TV.) It’s a testament to Goggins and the writers that they’ve managed to craft a character with Boyd’s background of crime, hatred, and violence, yet who still manages to be as morally ambiguous and strangely sympathetic as he is.

Justified Recap Season 3, Episode 3, "Harlan Roulette"

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Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 3, “Harlan Roulette”

FX

Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 3, “Harlan Roulette”

Change isn’t something that comes easily to Harlan County. Through Justified’s first two seasons, we certainly discovered new facets of Harlan’s seedy underbelly, but we haven’t seen much about Raylan Givens’s (Timothy Olyphant) hometown actually change. It’s an insular place filled with a lot of ignorant people and a lot of guns. Its ways of doing things are firmly established.

This likely serves to constantly frustrate Raylan, a man who would rather forget his formative years in Harlan altogether. He leaves town for most of his adult life, but when he returns, the place is still populated by the same folks kicking around the same stories. Life in Harlan doesn’t remind Raylan of his past; it is his past. And the version of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) we see in this week’s episode might argue that this is exactly the way it should be.

Justified Recap Season 3, Episode 1, "The Gunfighter"

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Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “The Gunfighter”

FX

Justified Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “The Gunfighter”

In many respects, the third-season premiere of Justified, “The Gunfighter,” is a difficult episode to love. The show’s second season was incredibly strong, and went out with a powerhouse finale and a masterpiece of a final scene in which Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) commits suicide with a poisoned glass of her “Apple Pie” moonshine. It was easy to get lost in the world of Mags and the Bennett clan, enough so that one might wish that Justified never leave the confines of Harlan County.

By contrast, “The Gunfighter” takes place almost entirely in Lexington, broken up only by Ava (Joelle Carter) and Devil’s (Kevin Rankin) failed attempt to sell the now-spoiled pot Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) raided from the Bennett compound. Even Boyd and Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) are separated from Harlan County on account of their respective incarcerations. In place of Mags, we’re introduced to Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), a well-dressed and cold-blooded mobster from Detroit who seems to be making a power play in Kentucky. Personally, I like Justified best when its stories are steeped in the tradition and mythology of Harlan County, and the idea of a central villain from Motor City isn’t as immediately compelling as Mags and her family’s tyranny.