There are a lot of reasons to watch "Justified." It's well-acted, the dialogue is witty and smart and the action scenes are some of the coolest and most entertaining on TV. But it always surprises me when this show hits a truly affecting emotional chord, as it did in the final moments of "Slaughterhouse."
The first three quarters of the episode were "Justified" in lean thriller mode, as Raylan hunted both Boyd and Quarles; Quarles kidnapped a terrified family and Limehouse revealed that he keeps more in his slaughterhouse than meat and tools (It wasn't really shocking to learn that one of the pig carcasses was stuffed with cash, but the shot of Limehouse slicing the beast open to reveal that bounty was enormously satisfying.)
But the last few scenes, in which it's revealed that Arlo killed the trooper, thinking he was Raylan, were almost as heart-breaking as last season's arc about the death of Raylan's aunt. Raylan's disturbed relationship with his father has always been part of what's driven him to be such a ruthless lawman. He knows Arlo doesn't love him (or, at least, not in any normal kind of way) and that he's tried to kill him in the past. But the look on Raylan's face when Arlo admits to killing Devil to keep Boyd out of jail is devastating. Not only does his father despise him, but he's decided to devote whatever affection is left in his twisted heart to Boyd. That's when Raylan and Art figure out why Arlo shot the trooper -- he saw a man who he thought was Raylan pointing a guy at Boyd, and chose to kill his son to protect Boyd.
To Art -- and to us -- that seems like a awful thing to realize. But, while it hurts Raylan, it doesn't surprise him. He knows how worthless his father is and that their relationship can never be repaired. He's learned to stop expecting Arlo to be a regular father. Yet, despite his diminished expectations of Arlo, Raylan's still hurt and angry enough to go running to Winona seeking some degree of comfort. He gets little, though he does get to see the woman he loves and feel his unborn child inside her. Those final moments are so moving and profound and cement "Justified" as a truly fine show with real resonance.
Anyway, here are some more thoughts on "Slaughterhouse":
- With all that sadness, let's move onto some of the fun parts of this episode, shall we? Jere Burns has been terrific in his every scene as Wynn Duffy, and was particularly hilarious in the scene when Raylan interrogates him about the explosion. One of the funniest arcs of the scene has been Wynn, who once considered himself such a badass, realizing that Quarles is a zillion times crazier and more dangerous than he could ever be. It's equally funny to see him make the same realization about the roulette-playing Raylan.
- My screener episode has incomplete visual effects, so I'm hoping that the final cut (no pun intended) of the scene in which Quarles gets his arm hacked off didn't look as phony as what I saw. Poor effects aside, it offered a nice cap to Quarles's season-long schtick with the gun rig. There have been so many comments about how easily that gun might jam, that it was a fun twist to have it be useless to Quarles for a completely different reason.
- Another nice twist -- the back-up gun the Raylan brings to his meeting with Quarles (which he fully expects the ice-eyed carpetbagger to confiscate) is the gun used to kill Gary. I was a little worried for Raylan when we learned that he was stashing the gun in the radiator in his room. But it turned out that Raylan figured out a clever way to return the gun to Quarles without raising suspicion.
- So Johnny is turning on Boyd because he blames Boyd for the gunshot wound that landed him in the wheelchair? Seems like he's taking a really long, slow road to revenge. It also seems that Johnny would know better than to launch an attack on Boyd, who always manages to figure out when someone's out to get him.