Justified: Goodbye Comes Too Early For an ‘Outlaw’

By  · Published on February 27th, 2013

Tonight came with a huge shock. Before the opening credits. I haven’t fully come to grips with it yet, and I’m not sure if I can say whether or not it was handled correctly. Nevertheless, shocking it certainly was – and it created a huge void in the show.

In perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping, well-shot and action-packed Justified openers yet, Arlo feigns being drugged and when he is about to get murdered, beats the shit out of Hunter with those blue glass Barbicide jars. The old man really lets him have it. Then, in an awful twist of fate, Hunter stabs Arlo in the heart with a pair of scissors, putting him on his death bed. I then screamed “NO!!!” from my couch as if Arlo was a real person.

I am all for getting the viewer’s attention, and perhaps this is selfish of me, but Arlo (and his portrayer, Raymond J. Barry) is such an amazing presence on the show. He is the negative force that pushed Raylan to become a lawman in the first place, and yet he nevertheless tethers Raylan to his Harlan County roots… whether he likes it or not. He is a constant source of hurt for Raylan, as Arlo betrays him again and again – he even tried to kill him – and seems to favor Boyd over his own son. The conflict between Arlo and Raylan is the center of the beautifully-depicted father/son issues in the show. Arlo is a surrogate father to the now-fatherless Boyd, Art is the surrogate father to Raylan, and real father and son Arlo and Raylan? It’s potentially one of the most complicated and nuanced relationships between two characters on any television drama out there – past or present. And now it’s over – and it ended so suddenly.

Raylan did tell Arlo earlier on in the season that he is “going to die in prison,” so that should have maybe served as somewhat of a warning. But… the void is already felt! And a final scene between Arlo and Boyd would have been nice to help Boyd get some closure here. Or at least have Boyd’s reaction to Arlo’s death.

If a good thing does come from this, it is the absolutely brilliant performance from Timothy Olyphant. Echoing the quiet sadness of when his Aunt Helen died in Season Two (RIP, Aunt Helen – we still miss you!), Olyphant reacts to Art’s news of his father’s grim prognosis with a whimper, but not a roar. He alleges that it doesn’t bother him. He refuses to even take Art’s mandatory leave, still wanting to work on the case. But we all know that Raylan, deep down inside, loves his father. Olyphant makes this clear with slightest gestures – for instance, he bows his head in shock in Art’s office and he looks utterly downtrodden while waiting for the elevator to see his father, a subtle tear in his eye.

Building on said Raylan/Arlo conflict is their final scene together, when Raylan visits Arlo on his deathbed in the prison hospital. Raylan even goes there on the guise that he is interrogating his father for information on the Drew Thompson case. But he lets slip something very important – that he wants his father to help him so that he can tell his children that his father wasn’t entirely a bad person. Arlo, of course, responds with the typically ballsy final words of “kiss my ass.” Which, in his own way, is like an “I love you,” since the two sometimes delight in playing cop and robber, cat and mouse. Because Arlo was his father, Raylan grew up with an obsession with not being like his father. And even in his father’s final moments, he tries to make his father into someone more redeemable. Though Raylan is like his father in many ways, as even directly juxtaposed in this episode. They both have a lot of deep-seeded rage and don’t hesitate to kill someone who poses a threat. Like Arlo does in the beginning of the episode, for instance, Raylan doesn’t bat an eyelash as he guns down Theo Tonin’s faux cop assassin right in front of the now-engaged Boyd and Ava (love, also, Raylan’s scathing comments at his former lover Ava on the situation) to save himself from getting killed.

RIP, Arlo Givens, you wily son of a bitch. I don’t think your number should have been up. Though, yes, that opening fight scene was pretty stellar, as were the subsequent performances from Olyphant and Barry.

With Arlo’s passing, it’s easy to forget that other stuff happened in this episode. And unlike last week’s, this week’s episode, “Outlaw,” did not contain any filler – all other plot points were relevant and well-done, and are poised to set up for quite the season finale.

Let’s start with Boyd. Boyd, if we all recall from last week, realized he was in the pocket of the Harlan elite last week at that swinger’s party and was called upon to kill someone for their gain. Ever the smart criminal mastermind, Boyd claimed that the man he was supposed to assassinate and some other member of the Harlan elite might could potentially be Drew Thompson, and had Theo Tonin surrogate Mike O’Malley and Wynn Duffy send the faux cop to kill them. They realized Boyd’s plan fast enough, however. Boyd just wants money to open a Dairy Queen so he and Ava can make an honest living. I know – seriously, Boyd? A DQ? Will Ava be behind the window, making Blizzards? The Detroit guys are out for blood, and Boyd and Ava’s unabashed happiness and escape plan from their life of crime is, as discussed in weeks past, perhaps a too obvious form of foreboding. I do not think that Ava will make it through the end of the season. Especially with Arlo gone, Justified cannot afford to lose Boyd. Well… Arlo or not, Boyd is integral to the show, so that leaves Ava as the sacrificial lamb. Though maybe I’m wrong…

There are also interesting things happening between Johnny and Colton. Johnny knows Colton did not kill Ellen May (who, if she plays her cards right, can be the next Mrs. Shelby) and is texting him as Ellen May to freak him out… and to entrap him into bribing his fake Ellen May. To get the dough, Colton kills and robs his drug dealer and meets Marshal Tim’s vet friend from the other week. In a nice little scene that is a great pay off – it’s wonderful that Colton and Marshal Tim keep directly and indirectly crossing paths – they have a chat. And then Colton kills him. Will Marshal Tim investigate in the near future? Hopefully – we need the welcome distraction after this harrowing week.

The Upside: Arlo’s dead. And that is pretty devastating, given that all he brought to the show. But his death did bring with it an amazing show opener and brilliant performances from both Timothy Olyphant and Raymond J. Barry. Boyd’s attempted coup was great to watch, as was the Colton/Johnny saga.

The Downside: Arlo’s dead.

On the Side: Boyd, as Libby Mae Brown from Waiting for Guffman can attest, the DQ is hardly a place where dreams are made of.

Top Moments of Badassery: Arlo kicking the asses of his aggressors with Barbicide, Raylan wastes the faux cop from Detroit, and Arlo’s last words to Raylan are “kiss my ass.”