“The first thing we are going to do is admit that this guy is awesome.”
– Art Mullen
I know a lot of fans have been a bit confused by the Drew Thompson mystery arc this season. In the comments section here last week, someone asked me why everyone cares so much about finding Drew. Compared to colorful villains like Mags Bennett and Robert Quarles, spending so much time chasing after a faceless villain who committed a crime decades ago. (Faceless until last week, of course, when we discovered Shelby is Drew.)
That’s why I thought Art’s speech was so brilliant this week. When he stopped his marshals to take a moment to reflect on how bad ass Drew Thompson is, I thought it was an excellent way to recap his crimes and the reason Shelby is such a compelling character. It was also a really funny scene from top to bottom, from Art’s cheery recounting of Drew Thompson’s life to Rachel saying she had the same pair of panties they found in Shelby’s house to Raylan begrudgingly admitting that Thompson is pretty bad ass.
I also really enjoyed Art’s joke about how long it takes to get down to Harlan and him wondering how Raylan comes down there so often. I’m a sucker for borderline meta jokes that poke fun at a show’s structure.
The rest of the episode was all about impossible choices. In particular, we saw Drew Thompson and Boyd Crowder both faced with their own personal Kobayashi Marus.
Drew/Shelby first had to decide what to do with Ellen May. Shelby may have been living a lie by hiding his true identity and distancing himself from the crimes that put him in Harlan, but as the sheriff, he seemed to genuinely want to do good. And he sincerely wanted to protect and help Ellen May (though it’s unclear exactly what his long-term plan with her was). As his fake life quickly crumbles, he finds himself scrambling to decide what to do with her.
Ultimately, he decides to take her with him, which leads to his downfall. The two get one brief moment where they muse about heading off into the sunset together and starting new lives in Mexico (and Ellen May gives the tragic “I ain’t never felt so free” line as they are on the run), but clearly it’s not to be. Raylan and the marshals manage to stay one step ahead of them, first staking out the airfield and then blocking the road they want to take as their Plan B.
As a last ditch effort, the two decide to go to Limehouse, who wastes no time screwing them both over by offering them up to Boyd. The worst part is, Drew was ready to turn himself in to Raylan before they came up with the Limehouse play, which would have actually been a smarter move in hindsight, since Drew is only narrowly rescued and Ellen May remains Limehouse’s captive.
After screwing over Drew and Ellen May, Limehouse is the one who gives Boyd the impossible choice. After initially telling Boyd and Ava it would be $300,000 for the duo, he doubles the price. But $300,000 is the entirety of the savings Boyd had tucked away for his new life with Ava. He has to decide whether to take Drew, who will win him favor with Theo Tonin and set him up financially for life or to take Ellen May, who could potentially get Ava thrown in jail for the murder she witnessed.
Boyd pushes for taking Ellen May, but Ava talks him into taking Shelby instead. This turns out to be the wrong call. Ellen May, who was excited to see Ava, spits in her face as she’s dragged off. And Drew Thompson ends up being rescued by the marshals before Tonin’s man can get him, which means that Boyd spent his life savings and got nothing in return.
I thought the episode did a really great job building on last week’s reveal and ratcheting up the tension as everyone scrambled to find Drew first. And it ends in an interesting place as we see everyone terrified of what Theo Tonin’s next move will be. (Wynn Duffy heads to Canada, Boyd braces for retaliation and Raylan explains that they haven’t really won until they get out of Harlan alive.)
With a few episodes left, it seems likely that Theo Tonin will fall one way or another. There may very well be casualties on all sides, but when every major character is currently living in fear of Tonin, he’s got to go by the end of the season to allow Justified to continue into next year.
And another thing …
- While Art got the best line in the episode, Wynn Duffy came in a close second when his henchman told him “Mr. Crowder” was on the line and he responded: “Which one? Nevermind, it doesn’t matter.”
- Did Limehouse always know that Shelby was Drew Thompson or did he piece it together somehow? My money would be on the former. Limehouse tends to keep his cards close to his chest, so it seems entirely plausible that he always knew Shelby was Drew, but the knowledge was never valuable to him until now.
- Speaking of those two, Limehouse says that the boy Shelby shot outside of a liquor store that he tells Raylan about when the two are bonding together in his cruiser was his cousin’s boy. That was a nice callback to what felt like a throwaway story in an earlier episode.
- Was it just me or did it feel odd that Boyd and Ava didn’t know Arlo was dead? I know the whole season has taken place over the span of just a few days, but I would think news traveled faster than that in Harlan.