Justified The Bird Has Flown

After last week’s dizzying plot complexities, ones that had me seeing conspiracies where there weren’t any, Justified dials it way back down to low-key and simple this week. Boyd and Ava have to decide what to do with Ellen May, who has come crawling back to them after preacher Billy dies from last week’s snake bite. And Raylan needs to track down Randall and Lindsey, who have made off with the twenty grand he had stashed in his sock drawer. That’s basically it. Nothing fancy, nothing mind-blowing.

The Randall and Lindsey story is particularly straightforward. It turns out Lindsey was indeed complicit in robbing Raylan. Randall needed the $20K to buy a chicken-fighting starter kit, which he sees as a pathway to future riches. Lindsey went along with it because she apparently gets all conflicted whenever Randall shows up. But by the time he beats the hell out of a convenience store clerk who mildly flirts with her, she’s had a change of heart and tries to call Raylan, which leads to him being able to track the two down. After a brutal fight and a series of increasingly funny blasts from a shotgun loaded with beanbag rounds, Randall is cuffed and headed back to Florida for breaking parole while Lindsay escapes from both of her men.

The Randall/Lindsey saga is not the strongest arc Justified has ever done. I was sure that their prominence in the first few episodes of this season was a hint that they would eventually find themselves wrapped up in the Drew Thompson mystery, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, it ends up amounting to little more than a detour for Raylan, a way to show that he still makes bad decisions when it comes to women and a device for giving him an immediate threat (via Randall) through the early goings of season four. Lindsey wasn’t much of a character when she first appeared on this show, and she didn’t get any stronger as her screen time started to pile up. By the end, she was just a flighty bartender chick who tended to blow in the direction of the nearest alpha male. Kind of boring.

On the Boyd front, with Billy gone and Cassie unsuccessfully trying to find justice (boy, did she go to the wrong sheriff for that), Ellen May becomes the immediate threat to his crew. Boyd is worried that she said more than she should have to Cassie, and Ava is panicked that even if she hasn’t talked yet, she may sometime in the future. Should they welcome her back with open arms? Shoot her and dump her in a ditch? Eventually, the two settle on a third option. They’ll have Colton drive her to Boyd’s cousin’s motel in Alabama, where she can find an honest job and get her life back on track without causing trouble for anyone in Harlan. The plan seems sound, but they have a change of heart after Ellen May is on the road and order Colton to finish her off. Ellen May is smarter than she appears though and takes off on her own while the two are stopped at a gas station.

Of the two stories at play in “The Bird Has Flown,” I preferred this one. Abby Miller’s turn as Ellen May is a good one. You can’t help but feel sorry for this broken, emotional wreck of a girl. And Ava giving the okay to murder her puts a darker shade on her character, one she’s going to have to make sure doesn’t smother her as she starts making life-and-death decisions as a leader in Boyd’s crew. The twist of Ellen May escaping was a little predictable, but I the idea of Boyd’s biggest problem now being not one, but two scared, lonely and possibly revenge-minded girls who seem weak on the surface but may yet reveal surprising depth.

A few more thoughts on “The Bird Has Flown” …

— More screen time for Rachel this week! Erica Tazel’s character has always been a bit of a problem because she’s never gotten much of an arc, and Tazel doesn’t seem capable of doing a lot with a little, as Jacob Pitts has been able to do with Tim. But the more Rachel is given to do, the better Tazel seems to be. The idea that Rachel has gone through a divorce and is in a dark place where some of Raylan’s less-than-noble tendencies may be rubbing off on her is a good one.

— Blink and you missed it, but Sheriff Parlow was researching the fake Drew Thompson’s autopsy records on his computer when Cassie walked in. It seems he will be getting swept up in the Thompson mystery real soon.

— I miss Patton Oswalt and want him to come back.

— Line of the Week: Raylan on the beanbag rounds: “Not my thing ordinarily. An associate of mine thought nonlethal force might come in hand. I figure, what the hell? I’ll give it a shot.”