Justified – “Outlaw”: The cat’s in the cradle

Justified: Season 4

Episode 8 – “Outlaw”

Aired: February 26, 2013

Director: John Dahl

Writers: Benjamin Cavell & Keith Schreier

“I think if you pretend to be something long enough, it’s not pretending.”

– Sheriff Shelby Parlow

Rest in peace, Arlo Givens.

At first, the death of one of the show’s central characters felt a bit unceremonious. But the more I thought about it, the more it felt right. Of course Raylan would plunge headfirst into his work instead of dealing with his complex feelings about his father. It makes sense that Arlo would be relegated to the fringes of this week’s storyline as he’s slowly dying in a prison hospital.

And honestly, it’s a pretty perfect ending for the father-son duo. Last week we saw Raylan go to the prison to make one last ditch effort to get Arlo to spill the beans without letting him out of prison. And when Arlo refuses, Raylan tells him he’ll die in prison, which doesn’t take long to come true.

Of course, Raylan takes no pleasure in this proclamation. Sure, he hates Arlo with a fiery passion, but it’s only because Arlo is so disappointed in who Raylan has become. Last season explored the idea that Boyd was the son Arlo truly wanted. This culminated in Arlo killing Trooper Tom in order to protect Boyd, pulling the trigger even though he wasn’t sure if it was Tom or his own son in the Stetson pulling up to the bar.

So could it have really ended any other way? When Raylan shows up to finally say goodbye to the old man, of course his parting words are: “Kiss my ass.” Arlo dies in prison, never once being the father Raylan wanted or needed and Raylan is left holding his metaphorical baggage and the actual Panamanian diplomatic bag Arlo hid in his wall.

What will be interesting going forward is how the show finds reasons for Raylan to continue going to Harlan after this season. With Aunt Helen and Arlo both dead, he no longer has familial ties there. Sure, he still has knowledge of the area that is valuable to the marshal service, but he has no personal stakes in what happens there anymore. The only lingering threat is Boyd Crowder and, so far this season, the show has mostly kept the two of them apart as they run parallel investigations looking for Drew Thompson. Raylan’s investigation this season was launched because of the bag in Arlo’s wall. Once the Drew Thompson case is over, it will be interesting to see what draws him back to his hometown in season five.

Speaking of Drew Thompson, the show either tipped its hand this week about Drew’s identity or it offered up one hell of a red herring in Shelby. First, there was his chat with Ellen May, when he talked about his ex-wife leaving and said that you can become a different person if you pretend long enough. Then, he seemed just a bit too interested in Eve Monro when her name came up at the marshals office, including asking about her whereabouts. Could Eve be the ex-wife in question? She’s never in the same room as him and he isn’t one of the photographs Raylan shows her (because at this point, why would Raylan suspect him)? Considering how little we (and Raylan) know about Shelby, he certainly could be Drew Thompson. And considering how much energy the show has put into fleshing out his character this season, it would make sense that he would be Drew.

Of course, like I said, he could just be a red herring at this point. Though, it’s sort of hard to imagine anyone else on the show being revealed as Drew and it carrying much weight. We have a lot invested in Shelby at this point. All of the other possible candidates were new characters introduced this season that we know/care very little about at this point.

Whoever Drew is, the race to find him is heating up. And with Arlo dead and Raylan struggling with his mixed emotions over his father’s passing, he’s sure to be extra motivated to find Drew now.

And another thing …

  • Raylan is certainly making up for lost time in the shooting people department, isn’t he? After a long dry spell, it’s now been two weeks in a row that he’s fired multiple rounds into a bad guy.
  • Boyd may be an evil bastard, but it’s sort of adorable that all he really wants in life is a Dairy Queen franchise.
  • I’m glad the Snickers guy’s subplot is short lived. Having him exist as motivation for Tim to hunt down Colton is much more interesting than having Tim have to continue to bail him out of botched amends-making.

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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