JUSTIFIED 2.12 ‘Reckoning’

Raylan hunts down the man who killed his aunt as Mags tries to close the Black Pike deal and protect her family.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Reckoning"

Writer: Dave Andron
 
Director: Adam Arkin
 
Previously on "Justified":

In the aftermath of an attempted hit on his life, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) suspected that Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her surviving sons may have been behind it to avenge the death of Coover (Brad William Henke). But Raylan found Mags with little stomach to continue the Givens/Bennett feud while waiting for the Black Pike money to come in. Raylan eventually discovered that his ex-wife, Winona (Natalie Zea) was the intended target of the hit, courtesy of her soon to be ex-husband Gary Hawkins (William Ragsdale). Rather than expose Gary, Raylan ran him out of town.

At the same time, Mags disowned Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies), who proceeded to break the deal that Mags had made with Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) to control the underworld in Harlan county. In response, Boyd recruited Raylan's father, Arlo Givens (Raymond Barry) to stage a daring robbery from Dickie and his crew. Despite the mask that Arlo wore, Dickie recognized him and went looking for him at the Givens family home. Instead he found Raylan's aunt, Helen (Linda Gehringer) home alone and shot her when she refused to drop her shotgun.

Story:
 
The next day, Raylan arrives long after the police have already processed the crime scene. Helen is dead, but blood in the kitchen indicates that she shot one of her attackers before she died. The local state trooper, Tom Bergen tells Raylan that his office called and said that he was only there as a "private citizen." As Helen's body is taken away, Arlo and Raylan glare at each other. Across town, Ava (Joelle Carter)  interrupts Boyd's cooking/planning session by telling him that Helen was killed and cries on his shoulder. Back at the Givens house, Arlo has the nerve to suggest that Raylan caused Helen's death when he killed Coover.

Boyd and Ava arrive shortly thereafter, but Raylan shuns them and ditches Tom. Inside the house, Arlo reminds Boyd that Dickie recognized him during the robbery, but he believes that their Dickie problem will be solved once Raylan finds him. Meanwhile, Raylan approaches Mags, who denies knowledge of who killed Helen and tells Raylan that she disowned Dickie. She also seems to be genuinely sorry about Helen's death. Next, Raylan tries Coover's place, and finds Arlo waiting with a gun of his own. Arlo briefly breaks down and shares his feelings for Helen… but Raylan isn't in the mood and locks up his father in jail.

At the foster home, we briefly check in with Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever), who isn't adjusting well at all. Back to Raylan, we see him hire a hooker just to ask her some questions about Dickie. She tells him that if he can find Dickie's friend (and co-conspirator) Jed, then Dickie won't be far behind. Speaking of Dickie, Mags and Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor) catch up to him and Mags slaps him silly for killing her friend. He admits that he did it, but yells at his mother for giving almost everything away to Boyd and abandoning him. He also offers a solution to their problem: set up Jed as the killer and have Doyle murder him while placing him under arrest.

Reluctantly, Doyle tries to go through with it, only to be thwarted by Jed's wife and Raylan himself. Raylan sends Doyle packing and gets Jed to admit that Dickie killed his aunt. He also tells Raylan that they went to the house to get revenge on Arlo for his part in the robbery. Furious, Raylan rides up to Ava's house to confront Boyd, only to be met by both Boyd and Ava pointing weapons at him. Boyd apologizes for his part in the events, but he tells Raylan that he can get Mags to give up Dickie if they threaten the Black Pike deal. He even offers to kill Dickie for Raylan, but Raylan resolves to do it himself.

Raylan then visits his father in jail and starts slapping him around for getting Helen killed. He browbeats him into going along with the plan to force Mags into giving up Dickie. Raylan and Doyle then drive out to Dickie's hideout where Raylan makes Doyle put Dickie in cuffs and arrest him. He then knocks out Doyle and drags Dickie into the woods with the intent to kill him. As he prepares himself to pull the trigger, Raylan reminds himself about what his aunt wanted him to do… and he pistol whips Dickie instead. Later, while Raylan, Boyd, Arlo and Ava join a crowd of mourners at Helen's funeral, Winona is unnerved by Raylan's tombstone waiting for him on the family plot.

Meanwhile, Mags closes the Black Pike deal and sends an emissary to Jed in prison, who somehow convinces him to recant his story and take the blame for Helen's death. Dickie is released and he soon finds himself back in his mother's embrace. Mags admits that she was foolish to think that she could leave her life of crime behind and she sets out to take of the rest of their problems, namely Raylan and Boyd.

Breakdown:

Someone pointed out that there's no gunfire at all in this episode of "Justified" and yet it's still one of the most riveting episodes of the season.

"Justified" has been one of the most intricately plotted shows in recent memory and it has even pivoted on three character deaths. The murder of Loretta's father kicked off the storyline, Coover's death pushed it forward and now Helen's demise has kicked things into high gear. The most impressive thing about these deaths is that none of the characters have really gotten over them. Loretta is still in mourning for her dad while Mags hasn't been the same since Coover died.

For Raylan, it's clear that his Aunt Helen was more like a mother to him than anything else. Timothy Olyphant was amazing, especially in the scene where Raylan took Dickie into the woods. It's really difficult to take a monologue like that and make it work, but Olyphant makes Raylan's pain and anguish heartbreakingly real. The only way that Raylan could have been more hurt than this is if Winona had been killed instead. As much as I like the lighter Raylan we usually get, Raylan was even more compelling while on the warpath of Dickie.

In theory, Dickie shouldn't work this well as a villain. He's neither smart nor particularly competent. But his desperation gives every scene he's in a particular sense of urgency. I also really enjoyed seeing the more aggressive side of Doyle when he threatened to kill Raylan if he tried to frisk him. Chances are the season finale is going to be the last bow for both of these guys, but it's hard to see how they'll be topped by anyone in the next season.

Which brings us to Mags, whom Margo Martindale has turned into one of the most sympathetic and yet sinister characters on television. She's the best performer on this show, which is really saying something considering how impressive the entire cast has been. I genuinely buy that Mags had a change of heart in response to Coover's death, so to see her ready dive back into the business of family vengeance is somewhat chilling.

It was also kind of touching to see that Arlo really loved Helen, as much as he could anyway. It doesn't seem like we've gotten a lot of Raylan and Arlo scenes just by themselves this year, but this episode more than made up for that. I still think that Arlo and Raylan are overdue to start shooting at each other, but when it comes to Helen they weren't that far apart.

I wasn't that familiar with "Justified" at the beginning of this season, but I'm hooked on it now. If the season finale is half as good as these last few episodes, then it's going to be an instant classic.

Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.