JUSTIFIED 2.11 ‘Full Commitment’

Raylan learns who put a hit on him before losing someone close to him.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Full Commitment"

Writer: Benjamin Cavell
 
Director: Peter Werner
 
Previously on "Justified":

Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) pulled off the scam of her life on the Black Pike mining company with the help of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). However, her triumph was marred by the death of her son, Coover (Brad William Henke) at the hands of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and the rising fury from the people of Harlan for selling them out. In her grief, Mags gave her son Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) her marijuana business and cut him off from the rest of the family. Despite Dickie's pleas to his brother, Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor), this move was clearly coming for awhile.

Meanwhile, Raylan finally had a confrontation with his boss, Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) about the stolen money that he helped his ex-wife, Winona (Natalie Zea) return the  evidence vault. Without directly saying it, Art confirmed that he knew about what Raylan had done and he indicated that their professional relationship was near an end. Therefore, Raylan asked Winona to move away with him, right before two professional killers tried to murder them. Raylan successfully took them down, leaving him to wonder who sent them. At the same time, Dickie crossed Boyd, setting up a crime war in Harlan.

Story:
 
In the U.S. Marshals office, Raylan and Winona give their statements about the assassination attempt. Winona's estranged husband, Gary Hawkins (William Ragsdale)  then bursts into the office and demands to speak with his wife. He tries to convince Winona that hanging around Raylan is too dangerous, which almost sets off a fight between him and Raylan. Art defuses the situation by sending Winona home with Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) as her protection. Art also indicates that he doesn't believe that Raylan told him the truth about the incident and he assigns Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) to protect him against his will. Back at Raylan's hotel room, Tim seems amused by Raylan's promise to give him the slip when he isn't so tired.

The next morning, Raylan sneaks in a phone call to his old boss in Miami to check if the drug lord there was behind the hit. But Raylan is advised that his problems are closer to home. At Gary's house, Winona stays in the bedroom while Rachel remains on guard downstairs. Gary apologizes to Winona for his strange behavior, which she seems to accept. Elsewhere, Raylan ditches Tim in a mini mart and heads straight to Mags. He finds Mags under the protection of three big men with guns over the threats from other Harlan residents. In a somber conversation, she tells Raylan that she isn't behind the attempt on his life.

Tim shows up momentarily after that just before Doyle rides up with his deputies and threatens to kill Raylan and make it look like he resisted arrest. Meanwhile, Dickie attempts to grow his own burgeoning crime network. But Boyd has come to the master himself, Arlo Givens (Raymond Barry) for advice. Arlo joins Boyd's new gang while Ava (Joelle Carter) bonds with Raylan's aunt, Helen Givens (Linda Gehringer). Shortly thereafter, Boyd and his masked crew rob Dickie during an important marijuana sale. Boyd makes off with the profit, but Dickie seems to recognize Arlo from his limp. Afterwards, Dickie's minions try to abandon him, so he kills the two who attempted to walk out on him.

Raylan and Tim join Winona and Rachel at Gary's house as they attempt to work out who wants them dead. That night, Raylan spots a killer waiting in a car outside and quickly subdues him. He then realizes that the killer works for Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and ties him back to Gary. Raylan chokes Gary awake and gets him to admit that he was behind the hit on Winona for the insurance money and out of jealousy. He says that he tried to call off the hit, but Duffy came down on him too. Furious, Raylan drags Gary and the attempted killer to Duffy himself.

At gunpoint, Raylan marches Gary and the killer into Duffy's office and gets the full story on the hit. Raylan lets Gary go and tells him not to show his face ever again, to which he immediately complies. Raylan also warns Duffy that the next time this happens, he won't bother talking before shooting. When he gets back to Gary's house, Tim is pissed that Raylan ditched him again, but nothing comes of it. However, Helen is soon awakened in her house by sounds in the kitchen. She grabs a shotgun and finds Dickie and his last cohort waiting. When she refuses to help them find Arlo or drop her shotgun, they shoot her.

Breakdown:

It's a testament to how well "Justified" has developed Raylan Givens and his supporting characters that a simple setup episode like this can be completely riveting. Of course, the cliffhanger is going bring it to another level once Raylan learns what happened to his aunt and why. It's not completely confirmed that Helen was killed, but it seems pretty likely.

My initial question is who is Raylan going to blame for this? Clearly, Dickie for pulling the trigger. However, Arlo and Boyd are also clearly at fault for starting a war with Dickie. While the new Crowder gang had enough sense to sequester themselves and Ava, they didn't bother to warn Helen that Dickie might come looking for vengeance. Helen didn't do herself any favors by not at least pretending to capitulate to Dickie's demands. But she died with a shotgun in her hand, which is kind of fitting in Harlan county.

Last week's episode also introduced the idea that Helen and Mags were close friends and they were likely the architects behind the truce that ended the Givens/Bennett feud. After that, I kind of expect Mags to side with Raylan on this one. Ever since Coover's death, Mags' screentime has been diminished. But Margo Martindale is still delivering a knockout performance even in just a single scene here. Mags is surprisingly self-aware about where she stands within the community and how her son really died. Instead of cartoonish vow of vengeance against Raylan, she seems like she's genuinely grieving and trying to get past what happened. Though I doubt that's going to last if Raylan kills another one of her sons.

I actually predicted that Gary was behind the hit last week, so I was slightly surprised that it played out almost exactly as I expected. I would have liked to have seen Raylan beat the crap out of Gary or least arrest him for it. The reveal worked, but the resolution just didn't have the punch to match the buildup.

After being marginalized for several episodes, Tim stepped up this week as Raylan's escort with two of the best pop culture references in a while. Seriously, who got "The Bodyguard" joke before he spelled it out? "The Big Chill" reference was also a standout. Tim and Raylan also had a really funny back and forth banter that was oddly homoerotic. How else would you describe it when Tim said that Raylan's promises to ditch him made him "hard"?

Raylan doesn't usually have a wingman, but his teamups with Tim have been effective every time the writers have tried it. Something to consider going forward.

Ava's newfound devotion to Boyd is a little hard to believe after all it took just to get them to kiss. And it's also difficult to buy that she would accept his full blown return to crime with so little argument. I do like watching them together and there was a great moment of tension when Boyd's cousin reminisced about Ava's ex-husband and dead father-in-law, which clearly made her uncomfortable.

The pieces are in play for fantastic finish to this season of "Justified." It's hard to predict how it's going to turn out or even what next season's going to be like. But I can't wait to see for myself.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.