This review has the potential to be a hazy mess because I watched this particular disc of Justified over a fairly prolonged period of time rather than in one or two condensed sittings. Star Wars is taking over my life and I’m really considering cancelling my subscription to it because it has taken away from more productive blogging time. It’s so much fun though and as both a video game geek and a Star Wars geek, there is something about The Old Republic that is too much to deny. I haven’t reviewed a disc of Doctor Who in nearly a month and I’m already worried that I may have lost interest in the Whoniverse for an entirely new science fiction setting. I’m about to start a new job as a writer and it’s a serious problem if I spend the month before the job begins hardly writing. I may have screwed my priorities up slightly. On that note though, this particular disc of Justified got off to a rocky start but managed to include two really good episodes and one that is arguably the best of what I’ve seen so far.

The disc begins with a stand-alone tale of the U.S. Marshall’s seizing a criminal’s property (a fairly impressive estate) only to stumble across a murder mystery involving the conniving aspirations of the criminal’s wife and her lover (not to mention a running subplot about Hitler’s paintings from when he was younger). The second episode is more important to the myth arc of the series. After being threatened by one of Boyd Crowder’s relatives, a masked assassin seemingly tries to murder Ava in her sleep while Raylen is spending the night. Raylen stops the assassination attempt and discovers that he was the target, not Ava, as retaliation for his shooting the Miami drug-runner. When Raylen is forced to take down a dirty cop who was involved in the attempt on his and Ava’s life, it leads to the release of Bo Crowder (Lost‘s M.C. Gainey), Boyd’s father who makes it clear that Ava is not welcome any where near Harlan. The third episode is once again more stand-alone and follows a hostage situation at the Marshall’s office involving a violent fugitive being transferred to another prison (Deadwood‘s W. Earl Brown). Though the episode gives the closing shocker of Boyd Crowder’s release from prison after Raylen’s sexual relationship with Ava surfaces and ruins the state’s case against Boyd. The last episode focuses on Raylen’s ex-wife Winona and her husband who has gotten in over his head with a border-line psychotic loan shark.

“The Collection” was easily the worst episode of the series to date. Unlike the other stand-alone episodes, it felt very poorly written, and it seemed to jam as many awkward crime cliches into one episode that it could without any of the knowing winks that make the series so much fun normally. The dialogue also felt stilted and artificial rather than the old school pulp that it normally accomplishes. “Blind Spot” was full of action and betrayal but it still felt sort of half-done. I’ve come to not especially care for the character of Ava (and I’ll get to why Winona is far more interesting in a second), and she seemed to occupy much of the action. “Blowback” was like last disc’s “Long in the Tooth” as an example of how to do a “crime of the week” story well. It was legitimately tense. All around it was well-acted, and seeing W. Earl Brown reminded me of how much I miss Deadwood. It contributed to the overall story of the series with the continuing investigation into Raylen’s trigger happy ways, and we generally got to see a side of Raylen we don’t often see when he is mowing down goons. “Hatless” is the best episode of the series to date that I’ve seen. For the first time, we see Raylen lose a fight. There’s a sizzling sexual tension between him and his ex-wife but the show doesn’t give you the easy out of him banging another hot blonde. Her current husband initially seems like a snivelling coward (which he is) but the show gives him layers, and the villain was simply awesome. It’s the same guy that played Jesse’s rehab mentor on Breaking Bad, and he just nailed the role as a pushy thug.

I would probably have more ot say (especially about “Hatless” and my newfound love of Natalie Zea’s Winona) but as I said, I watched this over a fairly considerable stretch of time and it’s been nearly a week since I even watched the last episode for this disc anwyays. However, my next two reviews (the first disc of Mad Men and the the book The Hunger Games) are all things I finished yesterday, so they should contain enough substance to make up for this rather thin review. In addition to Star Wars, I’ve been on a madcap apartment hunt for a place in NYC (I think I’ve finally found one in Brooklyn) so I’ve been spread thin lately. Hopefully the three posts I put up today (and potentially more if I say finish the fourth season of Doctor Who or finish Justified) can make up for how sporadic my posts have grown lately. Anyways, this disc of Justified was slightly uneven but the inclusion of the best episode of the series yet and another really good one means I’m still thoroughly enjoying this neo-Western adventure.

Final Score: B