Tuesday 14 February 2012

'The Devil You Know' (Justified, Season 3, Episode 4)

Last week I demanded the death of a character. Well, turns out the writers and I thought alike, and the result is a fast-paced episode that sees the main players - who've so far only sized each other up - collide for the first time.

In 'The Devil You Know', a prison guard (Todd Stashwick) and medic (Clayne Crawford) arrange for the escape of Dickie Bennett and, coincidentally, everyone's favourite moronic petty criminal, Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), to get their hands on the Bennett family fortune. Their plan begins to unravel, however, when Ellstin Limehouse - who keeps Mags's money - proves to be less than forthcoming and Raylan Givens starts snooping around.

In the B-plot, Devil (Kevin Rankin), displeased with the slim takings from Boyd Crowder's fledgling criminal outfit, decides to betray his leader to Robert Quarles, the man from Detroit. His attempt to get Johnny Crowder (That Guy David Meunier) on his side and ambush Boyd, however, goes exactly as well as you might expect.

Let's give it up for some of the supporting characters on this show. Dewey and Devil, both alumni of Boyd's neo-Nazi commando days (and with the rune tattoos to prove it), didn't seem like they'd return after the pilot, but both have played recurring roles - Dewey as a bumbling would-be gangster, Devil as an initially fanatically loyal, then increasingly disgruntled henchman to Boyd. They've helped sell the notion that gun thugs may be second-tier players, but they're far from faceless goons, even though things don't always go their way (has any plan by Dewey Crowe ever worked out?). It's sad that Rankin's character doesn't make it out of 'The Devil You Know', but his final scene with Boyd is compelling through both actors' sympathetic but - in Walton Goggins's case - quite merciless performance.

In 'The Devil You Know', Dickie finds out that Limehouse is a less altruistic friend of the family than he expected: taking advantage of Dickie's straits as a fugitive, Limehouse gives him only a small share of Mags's money and keeps the rest for himself. The conflict between the powerful Limehouse and friendless, penniless Dickie, now back in jail, is surely one to watch out for. Meanwhile, the opening exchange by proxy between Quarles and Boyd reveals both men's cunning: Quarles's, in poking the hornets' nest at little risk to himself, and Boyd's, in showing Devil's total inability to pull the wool over his eyes.

If there's a drawback to the episode, it's that Raylan is increasingly becoming a spectator in his own show: he's tracking down Dickie, but arrives only after the action, and does not impact the Devil-Boyd saga. Other characters, too, are taking a prolonged back seat. Winona and Art are taking the episode off, as is the now almost totally absent Tim (Jacob Pitts still gets opening credits billing, though). Rachel, at least, goes out on a fact-finding mission to Limehouse with Raylan, even if she only gets the token black person role.

In any case, 'The Devil You Know' has sketched out what will surely be the season's main conflict: Quarles versus Boyd versus Raylan. It'll be interesting, even if the focus of the show seems to have shifted to the criminals for now.

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