Justified recap – 3×02: ‘Cut Ties’

Courtesy of FX

I spent the majority of the day looking forward to a new episode of Justified tonight, and then as I sat down to watch, I realized that I’d forgotten Carla freaking Gugino was guest starring. Guess who’s night just got significantly better? All of us!

Let’s bitch it out…The interwebs have been abuzz since Gugino was cast as a “blast from Raylan’s past” back in October – not only because Gugino and Olyphant were apt to have ridiculous chemistry, but because the actress previously starred in another Elmore Leonard television adaptation, Karen Sisco (the demise of which many critics still lament). Having not watched Sisco and barely remembering J. Lo’s interpretation of the character in Out of Sight, I’m treating this interpretation as a standalone one-off – much like the episode itself.

Assistant Director Goodall (Gugino) is called in after Bill Nichols (Michael Harding) – a Marshal assigned to witness protection (or WITSEC) duty – is killed. The twist is revealed fairly early on is that Nichols has been killed by one of his witnesses, Terry Poe (Frank John Hughes). Interestingly it’s Art (Nick Searcy) that ends up discovering Terry’s role in the murder. After Raylan tells Art that Powe sold out other folks in witness protection for profit, Art confirms that Poe’s car traveled to the murder site using its GPS. It’s obvious, but kinda brilliant.

After a few rounds of threats (and boxing his face), Art identifies that Poe sold out Mary Archer, a single mother who’s being watched by my favourite least utilized character, Rachel (Erica Tazel). Whoever was sent to take out Mary, however, is clearly out of their depth because Art and Rachel take ‘em out in a gunfight in a matter of seconds. That closes the book pretty decisively on our case of the week.

Courtesy of FX

In truth, this episode was a little…underwhelming. I didn’t feel like they used Gugino as well (or as much) as they could have, though as Alan Sepinwall elaborates, the door remains open for her to return. I wasn’t quite as taken with the episode as he was (probably due to my personal preference for mythology over standalone episodes), but this was an interesting episode in that we got a taste of three very different storylines, two of which (Boyd and Limehouse – elaborated on below) will continue to cause reverberations on the season 3 narrative for some time to come.

Other Considerations:

  • After last week’s episode when Raylan had an injury-related “off his game” week, he quickly puts two and two together to figure out that Boyd (Walton Goggins) used him to get into prison. This forces Boyd to make his move earlier than expected and confront Dickie Bennet (Jeremy Davies). Raise your hand if you thought that Boyd was going after Dickie as revenge for shooting Ava? Ha ha – aren’t we silly?! No, Boyd is after Mags’ stash, but since he needs Dickie to access it, Limpy Bennet gets to live another day.
  • New ‘Big Bad’ Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) is introduced in a long sililoquy late in the episode that echoes Game of Thrones‘ introduction of Tywin Lannister (who also delivered a rousing speech while handling an animal carcass). Between Limehouse and Neal McDonough’s Quarles last week, we’ve got a very interesting pair of villains from opposite ends of the social status spectrum (try saying that five times fast).
  • Lion tamer jokes & comparisons to “the creature from Alien” = warm fuzzies for Winona (Natalie Zea) / Raylan relationship. They’re selling her house, and considering buying a bigger one. It’s the closest that this show gets to domestic bliss. And although I read that showrunner Graham Yost has no intentions of harming their child, it doesn’t mean that things won’t get dicey so we should probably enjoy these scenes while we can.

What did you think, Marshals? Anyone interested in bringing back Gugino for more or were you satisfied with her brief return to Elmore Leonard territory? What did you make of Limehouse’s introduction, and his capacity for villainy compared to Quarles? For some thoughts on Quarles, Limehouse and (RIP) Mags, here’s Sepinwall’s interview with showrunner Yost.

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy