Wednesday 15 February 2012

'Thick as Mud' (Justified, Season 3, Episode 5)

This week Justified gave us the long-awaited first confrontation between Robert Quarles and Boyd Crowder, and it was awesome. That alone would have made 'Thick as Mud' a good episode, but the A-plot - which focused on Dewey Crowe (the always-welcome Damon Herriman) being preyed on by ruthless organ harvesters - was pretty excellent too.

After the criminals who broke Dickie and Dewey out of prison in 'The Devil You Know' saw their plans fall apart, they decide to make some cash by organ-harvesting. Dewey wakes up with surgical scars on his abdomen and is told by Lance (Clayne Crawford) that his kidneys have been removed, but he can buy them back if he comes up with $20,000 in the next couple of hours. This leads to Dewey frantically robbing electrical retailers, convenience shops, and strip clubs until Raylan catches up with him.

Who couldn't adore Dewey Crowe? As Raylan says in 'The Devil You Know', Dewey 'wants you to know he's bad, but doesn't have it down yet'. His bumbling incompetence - getting old after three seasons, let's face it - is given a twist in 'Thick as Mud' as he's made genuinely violent and dangerous by his conviction that time is running out. Even so, his insistence that he's 'a desperate man' smacks of play-acting on a certain level, and the plotline's benign resolution (turns out Dewey still has his kidneys after all) takes us away from the potentially dark ending.

Meanwhile, Boyd traces Devil's betrayal back to Quarles and decides to send a message by brutalising the latter's henchman and taking a slice of his oxycontin business. His interest stirred, Quarles drops by Johnny's bar and makes Boyd a business offer, but is rebuffed when Boyd, initially courteous, calls him a 'carpetbagger'. It's a tense, funny and scary scene in which both actors are at their best. Neal McDonough in particular does some terrific work as he conveys Quarles's menace and outward courtesy when Boyd's insult sinks in.

Gio from Miami may not be the last outsider to find that he's underestimated Harlan. As Boyd tells Quarles, 'carpetbaggers in three-piece suits have been coming to Harlan for a long time. They have a habit of dying off like deer flies at the end of summer.' I don't know who will keep the upper hand in the confrontation between Detroit and Harlan, and for the first time, I think Quarles doesn't know either.

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