The producers of Justified like to, if nothing else, experiment with how their season-long storylines play out from season to season. In season 2, we had the long-running singular villain in the form of Mags. Last season, we had two villains -- though, arguably, only one turned out to actually try and kill Raylan -- and this season, we're not sure what we have. At the very least, it's a thirty-year old mystery that incorporates Raylan's father, Arlo.
In 1983, an unknown person parachuted to their death with what looked like bricks of cocaine. They were discovered by a man named Sherman and presumably his wife. Somehow, 30 years later, what we can assume Sherman stole from the dead person wound up inside the walls in Arlo's home that Raylan is now trying to sell.
That mystery is discovered by a pair of teenage "wire strippers" (people who break into homes to steal valuable wires that can be sold for scrap) who broke into Arlo's home before being discovered by the local Constable, Bob Sweeney -- played by comedian Patton Oswalt.
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Sweeney wants nothing other than to be liked by or at the very least, to impress Raylan. He even dreams of joining the police academy. And unfortunately, he's Raylan's only hope when those same wire strippers steal Raylan's car when he's in a local hardware store.
It's not the car so much as what's inside that interests Raylan. He has an escaped bail jumper in the trunk of his car -- he was doing a favor for a bail bondsman he'd slept with years earlier. (Along with what appeared to be an empty canvas bag containing a driver's license for someone named Waldo Truth that Raylan uncovered inside the wall in Arlo's home.)
Acting as bounty hunter isn't exactly looked upon favorably by the U.S. Marshalls. More likely so if his capture turns up crushed inside the car, which is exactly what Raylan is afraid of when Sweeney tells him car thieves are crushing cars for the metal scraps.
They're able to locate the car, but the human cargo is missing. He's taken hostage by the wire strippers, and after another person enters the mix (the corrupt owner of the car junkyard), it's actually Bob that saves the day. Raylan quickly regains control of the situation and surmises that the wire strippers were after that canvas bag found in Arlo's wall that Raylan had recovered earlier in the episode.
Raylan confronts his father in prison, assuming he sent the wire strippers to retrieve the bag. Arlo denies it, but quickly steps on his own words, allowing Raylan to see through his deception. Another inmate later confronts Arlo about the bag, saying he'd heard rumors of such a bag and how much money it was worth. Arlo sees him as such a threat that he quickly kills him with a razor across the neck.
The rest of the episode is spent on setting up what appears to be Boyd and Ava's season-long storyline. Boyd is upset that his oxy business isn't what it once was, Ava is still threatening to beat her whores and an old friend of Boyd's, an Iraqi vet named Colton, comes to visit.
Colton and Boyd go to threaten someone that owes Boyd money. While Colton expresses hesitation at now working for Boyd, when he misinterprets Boyd's instructions to "take care of him" (let the hostage go), he has no problems at all killing the prisoner. Beforehand, Boyd learns that the Last Chance Holiness Church is behind his drop in oxy income.
We then witness an old fashioned revival event at the Last Chance Holiness Church (taking place in an outdoor tent), where Ava's whore "friend" from earlier in the episode is in attendance. The preacher in charge wears no collar and instead prances around with a snake.
The episode is packed to the brim with twists and storylines for the new season, marking a strong start to Justified's fourth season. More importantly, just as we've come to expect from the last three seasons, you can't really expect anything with how the season going forward is going to go. It's a good place to be in if you're a fan.
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(Image courtesy of FX)