Where we’d last left off, Robert Quarles looked a lot more frightening than he ever had. He told Raylan he would kill him—unceremoniously, in cold blood, in public, no matter. He took another sexual prisoner in dramatic fashion. Most alarming of all, his fixed election bid failed miserably, thanks to Boyd Crowder himself. He was left angry, on the run, with nothing to lose. Now more than ever, Quarles was poised to go out and do the unpredictable we’ve always known him to be capable of. So, when Boyd rather casually knocks him out with a taser at the end of “Measures,” it feels a little too easy. “I think we can handle him,” Boyd tells his new partner for the time being, Wynn Duffy. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” says Duffy. He’s got the right attitude.
“Measures” might be the most exciting episode of the season yet. As it winds down, each interaction feels even more earned. By tying in its more episodic plots to the greater picture, and letting them have lasting repercussions, Justified is starting to resemble a hillbilly Rube Goldberg machine of oxycontin dealers, hookers and lawmen. It’s a ridiculous, fascinating sight to see.
Case in point: at the episode’s onset, a couple of Tonin’s men tried to shake down Raylan in the bar. Art and Raylan brought them down later to lead them to Quarles’ apartment. They bust in, freeing Quarles’ prisoner in a hostage shootout. But only afterward do they realize what they’ve done. Tonin’s men didn’t know where Quarles was any better than they did. Art half-tells, half-asks Raylan, “We shot the guy that’s lookin’ to kill the guy that you’re just dyin’ to see dead?”
The episode was written by Benjamin Cavell, a longtime Justified writer who most recently wrote this season’s episode two, “Cut Ties.” Both his credits this season deal closely with the matter of the Bennett family money, the plot “Cut Ties” introduced. The Dickie of this episode at first appears to stand in sharp contrast to the old Dickie, who was pinned against a cell wall helplessly and extorted for information by Boyd. As a free man, Dickie enlists his old friend Rodney and a few thugs to help fight their way past Limehouse. He gets information from Ellen Mae as to the whereabouts of it and seems to be on his way. But Dickie should have stuck with his gut instinct; Ellen Mae’s information is old and useless. Rodney sells him out to the U.S. Marshall service.
Marshalls Tim and Rachel manage to cut off $46,000 of it and catch Dickie and Limehouse’s assistant in the act. Still, they can’t be taken in, and Dickie strikes a surprising alliance. Limehouse’s man agrees to team up with Dickie to get a share for himself, given the right help—Boyd Crowder. This I had a hard time believing at first. But as Rodney said to Dickie earlier, “Three million dollars might justify a man steppin’ outside himself.” Time will tell if Dickie finally has some pull in this deal, or if he is helpless as ever. Forced into an alliance with a man that fully intends to kill him, the latter seems much more likely.
Much analysis of season three to this point has praised Justified’s ability to simply “move the pieces around” or “setting the table” on an episode-to-episode basis, yet keep things fresh, interesting, and exciting. Each scene or episode might not conclusively decide a character’s fate; rather, their standing is decided more indirectly. This way, it can showcase a character in the moment and further the plot at the same time. Consider the highlight of this episode, Quarles’ encounter with the drug dealers. Killing and robbing them hardly serves to make up for the debt he owes Limehouse, so Quarles’ position doesn’t jump as a direct result. Instead, he’s worse off, having left a trail for Boyd to find him down the road. It’s exciting and it’s visceral, and while the scene doesn’t bear immediate repercussions, we know it will eventually. Mostly, it demonstrated how volatile he has really become, painting a picture of a man with nothing to lose. Quarles is hardly the “reasonable man” he tries to convince himself of being. A lot can happen in two episodes left this season; in Boyd’s captivity, Quarles may finally come to terms with that. And that would be bad news for Boyd Crowder.
Raylan’s Cowboy Hat Corner: Art and Raylan make pretty good Hat Buddies on the beat together. No mentions, sadly.
Raylan’s Zinger of the Night: “I’ll clean that up.”