Thursday 5 April 2012

'Measures' (Justified, Season 3, Episode 11)

'Guy Walks Into a Bar' saw Robert Quarles degenerate into the psychopathy always bubbling beneath the surface as his operation in Kentucky failed. 'Measures' is all about the other factions - the marshals, Detroit, and Boyd Crowder - trying to put him down for good like the mad dog he's become, and tripping over each other in the process. Meanwhile, Dickie Bennett careens back into the main plot and does his bit to escalate an already fractious situation.

'Measures' opens with Lindsey's bar receiving a visit from Sarno (Michael Ironside) and Partlow (Chris Tardio), two hitmen sent from Detroit by Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin) to take out Quarles. Raylan is able to persuade the gentlemen to leave. Soon, Art and Raylan are searching for Quarles themselves to arrest him for threatening a marshal in 'Guy Walks Into a Bar', while the man himself kills two drug dealers for money on the advice of outgoing sheriff Napier. Meanwhile Dickie Bennett, having been released from prison, attempts to enlist Tennessee marijuana kingpin 'Hot Rod' (Mickey Jones) in his attempt to relieve Ellstin Limehouse of his late mother's money.

I'm rather delighted with the episode's many throwbacks to Season Two, which on balance I still prefer to this year's offerings. It's also good to see Rachel and Tim in action attempting to foil Dickie's schemes - and Rachel at least gets to kick some serious butt in the process, which pleased this Rachel fan greatly. The new, unexpected constellations and alliances - Boyd and Wynn Duffy? Errol and Dickie? - add to the general sense of instability and pragmatism that has been this season's distinctive characteristic.

All in all, 'Measures' shows us how much Justified has changed since its first season. Season Three has not had a single case-of-the-week episode without advancing the main plot, for example; and while that adds to the sense of a single, multifaceted story, it'd be a pity had the first season lacked great one-offs like 'Riverbrook'. The most noticeable change, however, is that what was once a show about an old-school lawman and the people around him has become an ensemble show, with Raylan a prominent player, but only one among many (consider, for example, how many scenes don't feature him these days). I'll frankly admit I don't like this development: I don't think the Raylan character is played out, nor do I doubt Olyphant's power to anchor the show. But it's still a darn good series every week, and I shan't complain too much.

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