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JUSTIFIED 2.01 ‘The Moonshine War’

U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is back and on the trail of a dangerous sexual predator.

JUSTIFIED 2.01 'The Moonshine War'

Episode Title: "The Moonshine War"

Story by: Graham Yost and Elmore Leonard

Teleplay: Graham Yost

Director: Adam Arkin

Previously on "Justified":

U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) had an unlikely ally in his final battle with local crime lord, Bo Crowder; Bo’s son, Boyd (Walton Goggins). However, just when it appeared that Boyd would kill his father, Bo was shot down by Ernesto (Omar Avila), Pilar (Alexandra Barreto) and other henchmen of the drug lord, Gio Reyes (Jordi Caballero); who had sent them to get revenge on Raylan. Although Raylan urged Boyd to escape with his sister-in-law, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), Boyd remained and helped Raylan survive the gunfight.

Of Reyes’ hit squad, only Pilar managed to escape alive. Boyd then pulled a gun on Raylan to keep him from stopping him from going after his father’s killer. Boyd even called Raylan the only friend he had left before Raylan let him drive off towards his revenge.

Story:

Shortly after the attack, Ava is led away to safety by the police, but both Raylan and Boyd are gone. Elsewhere, Pilar hijacks a truck and forces the driver to take her to a private airfield where a plane is waiting. Before she can shoot the driver, Boyd pulls her out of the cabin and prepares to kill her. But Raylan appears moments behind him and tells him that he needs her alive for now. One of the men on the airplane breaks the stalemate by shooting at them, hitting Boyd and Pilar before Raylan takes him out. He then punches Raylan out to get his weapon away from him and he drags Pilar on to the plane to Miami.

In Miami, Raylan breaks into Reyes house with Pilar over his shoulder and demands that he stop coming after him. Reyes assumes that it’s a negotiation, but Raylan tells him that he will kill him on the spot if he doesn’t give him his word not to pursue him any longer. However, he’s stopped by his old boss, Dan Grant (Matt Craven) who threatens to kill Reyes personally if Raylan is harmed. He then offers Raylan his old job back, but he seemingly turns him down and returns to Harlan, Kentucky.

Once back home, Raylan is drowned in paperwork and depositions until Deputy Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) asks him to help her find a dangerous sexual predator, James Earl Dean (Billy Miller). Elsewhere, a fourteen year old girl named Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever) finds Dean stalking her in her father’s barn while tending to his weed crop. He tries various ways to entice her, but she shoots down all of them and deconstructs him so completely, it actually shuts him up until he pulls a gun on her. She manages to escape him and he badly injures his face when he runs into one of her traps.

Loretta tells her father, Walt that Dean works for Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), whom Walt crossed by growing weed without her permission. Walt tells Loretta that he called the cops’ anonymous tip line to warn them about Dean, but realizing the implications of going against Mags, he lies to Raylan and Rachel when they arrive to ask about Dean. After they leave, Mags’ sons Dickie (Jeremy Davis) and Coover Bennett (Brad William Henke) come over and shoot Walt in the leg and put his foot in a bear trap for going against their mother. At Mags’ local store, she strikes a more forgiving tone with Loretta and tells her that she won’t have a problem with Dean anymore.

Raylan and Rachel soon catch up with Mags and her other son, Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor), who believe that they’re there to sniff around Mags’ marijuana business. But again, Raylan insists that they only want Dean. A quick trip to Dickie and Coover’s place reveals that Dean was working for them, but he’s on the run now that they know he’s a sexual deviant. At Walt’s home, Loretta treats her father’s injuries until Dean holds her at gunpoint and forces her into the trunk of his car. Raylan and Rachel eventually get wind of what Dean has done and follow him at a distance to protect Loretta from harm.

They finally catch up to Dean at a gas station, where Raylan douses him with gasoline and then explains in detail what will happen if he tries to fire his gun. After Dean surrenders, Raylan frees Loretta. Later, Mags and Dickie visit Walt to make peace over what was done to him, but instead Walt finds that they poisoned him for going to the cops about Dean. As Walt takes his final breathes, Mags promises to raise Loretta as her own. Elsewhere, Raylan finally finds the time to talk to his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea), but they wind up in bed together despite his intentions.

Finally, Raylan gets word that Boyd has resurfaced. And deep within a cave, Boyd blasts open a passage way for an unknown purpose.

Breakdown:

This was actually my first time watching "Justified," and it’s a lot to take in all at once.

But on my first viewing, the scene that stood out the most was the first time we see Loretta fend off Dean, mostly with her biting wit. That was a really intense and well written sequence, with a great delivery by the very young actress, Kaitlyn Dever. And Billy Miller was incredibly creepy as Dean. Not only because his character was so inappropriately interested in underage girls. No… the real chilling thing about Dean was the way that he justified his actions. By the end, I was rooting for Raylan to light him on fire. But that’s the mark of a great villain. They’re the ones that you really, really hate.

This episode also sets up Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett as the primary villain for the season. And she’s never quite what you expect. Around Loretta, she seems kind and caring, but within the same episode she personally watches Loretta’s father die from her own homemade poison. Because nothing is more important to her than protecting her marijuana crop. It seems to be an open secret of the county, even if Raylan doesn’t yet seem to have any interest in going after her.

I was also surprised that Jeremy Davis (Daniel Faraday from "Lost") showed up as Dickie, one of Mags’ more violent sons. Although judging from his confrontation with Raylan, he’s got more sense than to try to intimidate the local law. 

As for Raylan himself, he’s definitely an intriguing figure, if not completely heroic. Timothy Olyphant does seem to have a classic leading man look to him, which suits his character’s rather old school view of justice. Raylan seems perfectly willing to overlook a lot of relatively minor crimes as long as he gets who he’s looking for. He basically dispenses the law as he sees fit. The scene at the gas station was a perfect example of this. I kind of believe he would have been fine with letting Dean ignite himself and only held back from killing him to avoid the accompanying paperwork.

Oh… he’s still sleeping with his ex-wife, Winona; who happens to be married to another man. So again, Raylan’s not perfect. But he is very interesting.

I think that "Justified" might be an acquired taste for me. The first bite was good, so I’ll come back for more. As for everyone else out there, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.