This week's fairly reserved Justified was a little unsure of its focus at times. Is this the episode where Raylan bonds with Assistant Director Goodall? Where he accepts that he's a changed man now that he has a child on the way? Or was this the episode where Boyd would finally take care of poor Dickey for good? There were a few plot revelations, namely introducing Mykelti Williams as Limehouse and setting up his impending showdown with Boyd. However, "Cut Ties" did seem sure of one thing – in Harlan, torture gets the job done.
It's nothing new for Justified to touch on. Raylan's loose-cannon modern cowboy act lends itself to such questions of integrity, and to dwell on it would normally be too far gone from the episode's point. But over and over characters good and bad took the "Old Testament" route, as Art called it. And tonight, Justified did a magnificent job of presenting its range and complexity.
First and foremost, this was an Art episode. Chief was finally given a little time away from his desk to let loose his tendencies toward Raylan's style of police work. He swiftly busts the pesky Mr. Poe, a Witness Protection member, for the murder of an officer Bill Nichols. That's where the real fun begins. Art wraps a towel around his fist, lamenting that nobody really has phone books anymore. Even while blowing off some steam, Art remains true to his crotchety old-man attitude. He beats Poe and the chair he's tied down to back onto the floor and picks him right up again. Eventually, Poe confesses to giving up a fellow Witness Protection member. Rachel, who's keeping an eye on the woman he gave up, finds out just as a car pulls up to the house. With Art and Raylan charging behind them, the two intruders were no match. Rachel got her second kill and Art brought his badass act to a close.
Meanwhile behind bars, Boyd was in his element. In his first scene, he stands alone in the cafeteria and makes his way toward Dickie without a word, shiv in hand. Given the eerie silence and his cold, calculated steps, I almost thought Boyd was giving Dickie the "Boxcutter" treatment à la Breaking Bad's Gus Fring. Instead he’s called off to talk to Raylan at the last second. Raylan knows why Boyd wanted to land in jail, and ironically, he manages to force him out into the free world the next day. Boyd knew he had to act quickly. Shrewdly (and with none other than Dewey's help), he cut a deal with a guard. In a surprisingly funny vignette, he lands himself in solitary. There, he finally scored some alone time with Dickie.
Dickie rightly thinks Boyd is just out for his revenge kill, and by the shiv on his neck as Boyd held him up, Jeremy Davies could have easily been given an early exit. But ever the thinking man, Boyd really just wants to know where old Mags' money was. He draws a little blood and a big confession.
The "but," as Ava calls it, is that the money is guarded by one of season two's big impending players. In the final scene, we meet guest star Mykelti Williamson's Limehouse, who threatens a lackey with lye torture. He gets his point across with pleasure.
What do we have in the end? A few more characters thrown into the mix, though Williamson was only given one scene. Raylan wasn't a big factor tonight, and maybe that's why it didn't seem to have too much bite to it. It will be interesting to see how his concerns over fatherhood develop over the season, and what happens to the vague residual tension with Goodall that was hinted at. But the episode's clearest theme was torture: Poe to Nichols, Art to Poe, Boyd to Dickie, and Limehouse to his goons. It was as much useful and enjoyable at times as it was despicable and pointless, all in one hour of television. Interestingly, Raylan the loose cannon seems to be the only one who wasn't in on the action this episode. Is he, as Goodall supposed, a "changed man?" How will he respond to the action as it develops? Either way, you have to like what's cooking: Boyd is set for a showdown with Limehouse. We haven't seen the last of Robert Quarles. What's a modern-day Wyatt Earp to do? His hands are tied.