There’s some kind of Justified chess metaphor I should be making right now. Something about Boyd and Quarles and Limehouse all moving their pieces in subtle (and some not-so-subtle) ways throughout the course of Thick as Mud, each man looking many moves ahead while us in the audience are stuck waiting until the end of the season to see everything collide. I could even include a few chess piece puns in my metaphor, for extra chess greatness.
But I’m not going to horrify anyone with an elongated chess metaphor. I’m just gonna jump right in.
Press “Continue Reading” to jump right in!
Well, folks, we are officially into the meat and potatoes of Justified’s third season. Boyd’s making moves on Quarles. Quarles is making moves on Boyd. Limehouse is keeping tabs on everybody and playing his own secret game. Rachel and Tim are still pretty much non-existant. Every plot thread’s starting to criss-cross with every other plot thread and it’s all I can do not to squeal with glee every time the show comes back from a commercial break.
So let’s start with the main storyline on display tonight- the ballad of Dewey Crowe. First of all, I love that the one standalone story tonight was a two-parter from last week, which itself started the week before that- as always, we’re getting a perfect mix of plot lines that can wrap up in one episode mixed with the major arcs.
So starting right where we picked up last week, Dewey wakes up in a bathtub, now minus two kidneys, and needs to raise a whole bunch of cash to buy his organs back from the creepy doctor who’s the last remaining member of last week’s prison break (did anyone else get a good chuckle at Raylan’s “Lawrence Nightingale” joke? I sure did). A quickly deteriorating Dewey starts a desperate, poorly thought out crime spree and soon ends up locked in the storage closet of a general store as part of a standoff with Raylan and the Marshalls.
I was legitimately worried we were gonna lose Dewey this time around, what with the tone fluctuating all throughout the story- first Dewey would screw up and things would seem comical, but when he delivers a merciless pistol-whipping in the strip club, things took a decidedly darker turn. But that whole mess in the general store had just the right oddball feel to it that I knew Dewey would survive this one, and soon enough it turns out the whole thing was a hoax and Dewey’s surgical scars were all for show- he was still fully kidneyed the whole time.
Or, as Dewey puts it, “You mean I had four kidneys?”
So alls well that ends well there, especially after creepy mister surgeon and his partner-in-crime are gunned down in a brutal shootout with Raylan. Problem solved.
So now we turn to the other big development here- our tangled mess of villains. After giving Devil a proper burial, Boyd heads right to the heart of what turned his former comrade against him. It seems like this season’s most powerful moments have always been “Boyd has a heart-to-heart with someone,” and Thick as Mud ups the ante with not one, but two superb scenes of Boyd sharing an intense moment with another character.
First we’ve got his bullet-wound-swapping tenderness with Ava (topped off with a lovely shot of them kissing at the bar, wedged into the lefthand side of the frame), and then we’ve got a wonderful bit of tension when Boyd and Quarles meet for the first time.
I love that every single scene with Quarles has that added bit of suspense because he always gets frisked and always comes out clean but every person in the audience knows he’s capable of pulling out those Travis Bickle wrist guns at any moment.
But what’s even better is just how evenly-matched Boyd and Quarles seem to be. Boyd lets loose his thinly-veiled threats in a definition of “carpetbagger” (which is also a nickname used for Quarles by a lot of the cast and crew), but Quarles just shrugs it off. Raylan may pose a significant threat, but ultimately Boyd and Quarles are the two men trying to take control of Harlem with crime and henchmen and strategy. Right now it’s these two butting heads that’s got me the most excited.
As of now, I’d say Quarles is the more dominant villain of the season, but Limehouse still gets some good development here. Not only was he the one who actually pilfered most of Mags’ money last week, but he’s got a woman undercover to monitor all the comings and goings of Boyd and Quarles- do you think she’s one of the battered white women he protects in Noble’s Holler? Between this and the backstory with Raylan we got last week, I can’t wait for Limehouse to start playing a more active role in the struggle for control of Harlan County.
Now at this point last season we were already waist deep in the Bennet clan’s schemes, but that season was a single, straightforward idea- you knew that Boyd and Raylan and the Bennets were all going to collide in some fashion or another at the season’s end. This year, things are a whole lot different. We’ve got two villains and a much more villainous Boyd all squabbling amongst each other, and I haven’t the slightest idea what’ll be happening two episodes from now, much less at the season finale. It’s pretty great.
So I think I’ll end this review with the final, staggering development in an ending already-jam packed with staggering new developments. We get the standoff with Quarles and Boyd. We get the reveal of Limehouse’s spies. And then Raylan walks into an empty home and picks up a forlorn-looking note from the fridge. It’s clear Winona’s gone. It’s also pretty clear that their talk earlier on in the episode (where Winona wasn’t angry or frustrated, but was just happy to spend some time with Raylan) was somewhat of a last hurrah for the two of them.
It’s obvious Winona can’t stay with a trigger-happy Raylan and raise a child at the same time, but I just can’t see her leaving for good. Do you think she’ll return? When? Why?
So, dear readers, it’s been yet another near-perfect trip to Harlan County, and I hope to see you all there again next week. Thanks for reading!