Episode Title: "Bloody Harlan"
Writer: Fred Golan
Director: Michael Dinner
Previously on "Justified":
After the death of her son Coover (Brad William Henke), Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) tried to make a fresh start with the money from the Black Pike deal. To that end, she gave her son, Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) control of the family marijuana business and disowned him. And when Dickie provoked Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Boyd retaliated by robbing Dickie during a drug deal. Recognizing Arlo Givens (Raymond Barry) as one of the robbers, Dickie in turn shot and killed Helen Givens (Linda Gehringer), the aunt and surrogate mother of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant).
Already on the outs with his boss, Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), Raylan basically went rogue in his quest to find and kill Dickie. He eventually browbeat Arlo into threatening Mags' Black Pike deal to get her to give up Dickie's location. Raylan even forced Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor) to arrest his brother, before Raylan attacked Doyle and nearly executed Dickie in the middle of the woods. Ultimately, Raylan sparred Dickie's life and turned him over to the cops. But Mags arranged for his release and welcomed Dickie back into the fold. And Mags also made plans to deal with her twin problems: Raylan and Boyd.
At the U.S. Marshals office, Raylan is granted his request for more personal time to deal with his aunt's passing. He also asks Art about getting a recommendation to transfer back to Glynco as a trainer. However, Art only states that he will "think about it." Back at Raylan's hotel room, he breaks the news to Winona (Natalie Zea) that Art may not let him transfer easily. She in turn tells Raylan that she's pregnant, which causes Raylan to smile for the first time in ages. He even recommits to moving away with her no matter how long it takes. At the Bennett homestead, Doyle arrives with news that Boyd wants a parlay with Mags.
The next day, Doyle and Mags meet Boyd and Arlo at a church to negotiate. And while Boyd seems penitent for his part in the conflict, Mags tells him that she knows he would eventually double cross her anyway. At the same time, two of Mags' men try to kill Johnny Crowder, but he blows up his own home to neutralize them. Meanwhile, more Bennett gunmen show up at Ava's home. But Boyd laid another trap with hidden reinforcements. In the firefight, Dickie shoots Ava (Joelle Carter) in the kitchen and escapes with his life. He then calls Mags in the middle of the parlay and tells her that the plan backfired.
Elsewhere, Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) fakes a cold to get rid of her foster family and meets up with a skeevy looking guy waiting for her outside. When Raylan learns that she's missing, he immediately drives over to her foster home. There he learns from Loretta's foster father that she stole his gun and $300. Raylan tells Winona that he has to go back to Harlan to find Loretta, but she says that she may not wait for him to come back. On the road, Loretta's companion notices that she's carrying a gun and he abandons her when he learns that she intends to avenge her father's murder.
When Boyd learns that Ava was shot, he immediately warns the doctor to save her life or else before taking off after Dickie. At the U.S. Marshals office, Winona pleads with Art to get him to help Raylan. Across town, Raylan finds the man who gave Loretta a ride, but he ends up getting ambushed by Dickie. When Raylan wakes up, he's strung up like a pinata with Dickie taking a few shots with a baseball bat to avenge his own crippling by Raylan years ago. However, Boyd shows up and saves Raylan. He even hands Raylan his hat, as the Marshal prepares to leave Dickie to his fate. But Dickie tells Raylan that he'll need him to get Loretta back alive, leading an incredulous Boyd to ask if Raylan is serious about not leaving Dickie to him.
Loretta arrives at Mags' home and she is welcomed with open arms. Once alone with Mags, she pulls a gun on her and demands to know who really killed her father. Mags lies at first and says it was Coover, but eventually she confesses. Outside, Raylan arrives with Dickie as his human shield. Inside, Mags tries to get Loretta to lower the gun, but the young girl shoots her in the leg. Outside, Mags' men open fire, hitting Raylan and nearly getting Dickie as well. Doyle finds Raylan wounded and stands over him with his own gun poised to fire. But then a shot rings out, striking Doyle in the head as the U.S. Marshals arrive, led by Art.
Inside the house, Raylan finds Loretta and Mags. And he finally gets Loretta to lower her weapon and let Mags live. As Loretta is led away, Raylan tells Mags that Doyle was killed in the gunfight. Mags offers him a drink of her famous "apple pie" moonshine, which Raylan accepts. As they take their drinks, she offers her hand as a formal end to their family feud. But as they shake, Raylan realizes that something is wrong. Mags admits that there was poison in the cup, the same way she killed Loretta's dad. But this time, the poison was only meant for her so she could reunite with her boys and be free of her burden.
And with that, Raylan watches the great Mags Bennett take her final breaths before passing.
Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of great TV series currently on the air. And although FX seems to have a disproportionate number of them, very few shows have been as amazingly consistent as "Justified" was this season.
From the scripting, the acting and the overall production, "Justified" has earned its reputation and acclaim. Unfortunately, that doesn't guarantee an Emmy sweep or even the multiple nominations it deserves.
"Bloody Harlan" wrapped up the season long storylines in an extremely satisfying fashion. It's going to be hard to picture the third season without the full Bennett clan, especially Mags. Her last scene alone was beautifully intense as she offered Raylan that drink. I didn't think that Raylan would die, but I definitely thought that she had poisoned them both as a measure of revenge. This may be Raylan's show, but Mags was the breakout character this year and Margo Martindale should get the credit she deserves for that. Given FX's history of taking season long guest stars (like Glenn Close and even Olyphant himself) and eventually giving them their own shows; I wouldn't be surprised if Martindale eventually headlines her own series on the network.
I also predict that Kaitlyn Dever is going to become a major star within the next few years. As Loretta, Dever gave the best performance by a young actress that I've seen in years. Yes, a lot of that was the fantastic scripting by the writers, but not everyone can pull it off as convincingly as Dever has. I also want Dever to stick around on "Justified," but I think we may have seen the last of Loretta.
I've been guilty of this a few times, but Timothy Olyphant deserves a lot of credit for this show as well. I think we all kind of take his role as Raylan for granted. But the quiet moments like Raylan's tension with Art and his joy at learning that he'll be a father make Raylan's action hero moments even more compelling. It was also a good way to end the mini feud between Art and Raylan through a simple exchange after he saved Raylan's life.
Of course, Walton Goggins stole the show yet again as Boyd Crowder. How perfect was it for Boyd to be the one to rescue Raylan from Dickie? I actually prefer to see Boyd and Raylan as reluctant allies, but if Boyd is now in charge of the Harlan underworld (which I assume he is), than that reconciliation may be short lived. I'd also love to see how Raylan convinced Boyd to let him take Dickie and if he owes him a favor for that. Likewise, I really want to see more of Boyd's relationship with Ava. I doubt that she's dead and I think Ava and Boyd are too good together to just drop that plotline entirely.
I don't know how season three of "Justified" is going to come close to topping this year, but I can't wait to see more of the folks in Harlan county.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.