Pour yourself some apple pie, this is gonna be a long one! Season 2 of Justified, which ended in a bang with the dense, action-packed "Bloody Harlan," was a pretty great sophomore season. It had more of an overall arc of interwoven storylines and relationships than last year's, which felt more procedural in nature. And while it's partly why we love the show, Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) tempered his trigger happiness, proving people can change.
First off, Winona's pregnant! She and Raylan have had fewer romantic scenes than Boyd and Ava lately. It's been on and off, and she perpetually seems like she's got one foot out the door. But she tells him in his motel room's bathroom, pushing them together intimately and showing how much he loves her. But his job still defines him, which is clear when he ponders what he'd do if an annoyed Art doesn't recommend him for promotion back to Glynco as a firearms instructor. "I could sell ice cream ... I like ice cream," he muses, an Elmore-ism that has finally surfaced lately. He also can drive the hell out of a Lincoln (while talking on his phone) so how bout a chauffeur?
Loretta's street-smart, vengeful side has emerged. She fakes a cold so she can skip a foster-family outing, and the cagey guy, Messer, who's spying on her from a parked car, she actually hired to drive her to Harlan so she could find out who killed her pa. After a dispute, he dumps her at a gas station 60 miles away, but she eventually gets to the Bennett compound. (I think she has potential as a US marshal, don't you?)
Boyd has asked for a "parlay" with Mags over his robbing Dickie of the pot money. With Arlo at his side, they meet at a church, which always seems to frame Walton Goggins so well -- be it as a supremacist, zealot, missionary or sinner. He returns the money to Mags, implying he wants peace. (Big question: Since his wife Helen was just offed by Mags' son Dickie, why does Arlo just tag along mutely, and not show some desire for vengeance, with his volatile temper? Too much pot?)
At the same time, Devil is guarding Ava's house against Dickie's henchmen, but they besiege it and Ava wounds up getting shot by Dickie, who floors his truck to get away, letting one of his guys get gunned down chasing him. Meanwhile, Johnny foils the thugs sent to kill him by blowing up his crappy house after they storm in.
Raylan, driving Winona to work, gets a call that Loretta's missing. A few questions to her foster dad tell him that she took off with his gun and cash. "That's what I would've done when I was 14," Raylan reasons. He goes to question Messer about Loretta and gets ambushed by Dickie, who strings him up by one leg alongside a slaughtered buck. (This looks extraordinarily painful and awkward, so kudos to Olyphant for agreeing to do this scene, even if some of it is a double.) Dickie gets some retribution by whacking Raylan with a baseball bat, before Boyd shows up to force Dickie to lower Raylan. Doyle arrives with his deputy (with whom Boyd secretly met and gave him a packet of loot), the sh*t starts to fly, but Art has deployed a team of marshals (despite declining Winona's request to do so), and Tim the sniper shoots Doyle in the forehead. And Raylan gets winged!
Loretta's inside confronting Mags at gunpoint about who killed her dad, as Raylan drags himself into the room. Loretta shoots Mags in the knee, and it looks like she'll pull the trigger again when Mags admits she did it, but silver-tongued Raylan talks her down. A sentence prevented, if not a soul saved, and props to young Kaitlyn Dever for her stellar acting. Mags invites Raylan for a drink, and we're all screaming, "NOOO! NOT THE APPLE CIDER!" as she takes out glasses from separate cabinets, inspecting each carefully. They drink, and as she's slumping from the poison in her glass, she confesses that was how she killed Loretta's dad. As she dies, Raylan holds her hand while watching her -- the full circle avenging of the season's first murder.
Dickie turns out to be the true cockroach of the Bennetts, surviving (albeit arrested) his smarter, stronger family when I thought he'd be the first to die. Boyd is now atop the criminal figure heap (with Arlo as his henchman), with the new police chief as an ally, and Raylan alternately chasing him or backing him up.
Lingering questions: Will Ava live? I mean, how could they off all of the show's strong women in one season? Although her death would prove great vengeance bait for Boyd. Winona will be pissed as hell that Raylan was shot saving Loretta, if not glad he's alive and that Art ultimately did have his back, but will she stay with him if he doesn't decamp to Glynco? Will she have the Raylanette? And just why does Raylan love Winona, other than for her beauty? There's been almost no inner life defined for her, even less than for young Loretta ... except that she makes bad decisions, and is now carrying Raylan's child. Also, why didn't we see her upset that Gary was basically exiled by Raylan? Even if she was divorcing him, she did care enough for him to marry him.
So many questions to be answered in Justified
's third season, about 9 months away ... just enough time to produce a little Raylan.
(Image courtesy of FX)