Episode Title: "Slaughterhouse"
Story by: Graham Yost
Teleplay by: Fred Golan
Director: Dean Parisot
Previously on "Justified":
In the aftermath of the car explosion outside of the Crowder bar, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) is gone and State Trooper Tom Bergen (Peter Murnik) was found shot. Sometime later, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) gets the bad news: Tom didn't make it and his killer is still loose. Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) insists that he wouldn't blow up a car that he was so close to and he suggests that Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) may have committed both crimes. Raylan's estranged father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry) enters the bar and he seems relieved that Raylan wasn't "the lawman with the hat" who got shot.
After Raylan leaves, Boyd and Johnny Crowder (David Meunier) take Arlo into the backroom and confront him about pulling a gun on Boyd's lover, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). Arlo admits that he's been seeing and arguing with his dead wife, so Boyd makes him take his medicine in front of him to recapture his mental facilities. Meanwhile, Raylan pays a visit to Duffy and engages in a game of Harlan Roulette to make Duffy tell him where Quarles is. Frightened out of his mind, Duffy admits to the car bomb, but says that he doesn't know where Quarles is hiding.
Later, Boyd brings his man Jimmy (Jesse Luken) with him to confront Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who is backed up by Errol (Demetrius Grosse) and a few other heavily armed men. Limehouse returns Boyd's deposit to end their business association and he teasingly notes that Devil is no longer Boyd's right hand because of his death at Boyd's hands. But Limehouse isn't able to dismiss Raylan as easily, as the lawman pulls two guns on him in anger over the death of his friend. When Limehouse's men respond by training their guns on Raylan, he demands that Limehouse keep his promise and give him Boyd and Quarles.
Limehouse admits that he can't deliver Quarles, but he suggests that Boyd may be doable. The next day, acting Sheriff Shelby (Jim Beaver) calls Boyd and warns him that the feds and the state troopers are looking for Devil's body and that they plan to charge Boyd for his murder. Shelby also notes that he can't help Boyd this time. At a nearby camp site, Mrs. Jensen (Cathy Cahlin Ryan) watches her boys, Pete (Tyler Neitzel) and his younger brother, Mitch (Uriah Shelton) play before Quarles takes the entire family hostage. Quarles then gets on the phone with his former mentor, Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin).
Quarles begs Theo to let him return home; which Theo does… if Quarles can come up with $500 thousand. Back at Boyd's home, the Crowder gang guesses that Limehouse tipped off the cops, but they assume that Arlo spilled the secret of Devil's death during one of his lapses into senility. Boyd seems resigned to his fate even as Ava begs him to run. Sure enough, Raylan, Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) and the cops arrive to arrest Boyd for Devil's murder. Elsewhere, Quarles releases Mrs. Jensen, but keeps her kids as his hostages.
As Ava tries to figure out how Limehouse learned of Devil's death, Johnny suggests that the working girl, Ellen May may have tipped off Dickie Bennett. Enraged, Ava knocks Ellen May around, but the poor girl can't admit to something that she hasn't done. Art and Raylan soon receive word that someone matching Quarles description took the Jensen family hostage. Weirdly, Art benches Raylan and sends him back to the Marshal's office to get Quarles' files. But that just leaves Raylan alone when he fields a call from Mitch who relays demands from Quarles at gunpoint.
Meeting Quarles at a predetermined place, Raylan is forced to surrender his gun… and the gun hidden in his shirt which he doesn't seem to mind losing. Now with three hostages, Quarles makes his captives take him to Noble's Holler. Meanwhile, Limehouse confronts Errol over his role in this mess and banishes him from the Holler. Limehouse also fields a call from Johnny, who is furious that he tipped off the authorities about Devil. But Limehouse points out that Johnny always wanted Boyd out of the way and now he is.
As Errol drives away from the Holler, he sees Raylan arrive in the Jensen family van. Quarles escorts Raylan and Mitch at gunpoint into the slaughterhouse to demand that Limehouse give him $500 thousand to skip town. Initially, Limehouse refuses, but Raylan convinces him that it may be the only way to get rid of Quarles. So, Limehouse guts one of his hog carcasses and reveals a stash of money within. Disgusted, Limehouse chides Raylan for letting Tom's murderer get away… but Quarles is shocked that they think he killed the state trooper.
Then Errol emerges from behind Limehouse and shoots Quarles, who shoots Errol in return. As Raylan and Quarles struggle over the two guns, Limehouse takes his cleaver and slices Quarles' forearm off! As Quarles bleeds out, he laughs and tells Raylan that it was Arlo who killed Tom. Some time later, Raylan and other officers wake Arlo up and escort him to the Marshal's office where Boyd is already in custody. While there, Boyd tells Raylan that Arlo wasn't a member of his crew… Arlo was like family to him.
And apparently, the affection runs both ways, as Arlo willingly takes the fall for both Tom and Devil's deaths to protect and free Boyd. Hours later, Raylan drunkenly relates the whole story to Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea), his pregnant and estranged lover. As Raylan continues, he states that Arlo didn't know that he was shooting Tom. He thought that he was shooting a lawman in a hat who was threatening Boyd. Slowly, Winona realizes that Arlo believed he was shooting his own son to protect Boyd, as Raylan departs alone.
It's arguable as to whether "Justified" surpassed its stellar second season, but the third season was a story very well told on its own merits. And in the end, it turned out to be a story of a father and his two sons. Arlo's relationship with Raylan has always been strained at best, with far more hate between them than love. But with Boyd, Arlo found the surrogate son that he always wanted. Last week's episode had a very telling moment in which Arlo slipped up and called Boyd "Raylan." Deep down, Arlo may have wanted Raylan to follow in his footsteps no matter how far apart they grew. And Boyd was the closest thing to that dream that Arlo was ever going to get.
It's also clear that Boyd's affections towards Arlo were very real. Why else do you think that Arlo got off so easy after pointing a gun at Ava? Even when it looked like Arlo had implicated Boyd for Devil's murder, there was no titanic eruption of anger from Boyd towards Arlo. And Boyd's words to Raylan about Arlo being like family to him rang true.
Part of the ending reminded me of the "Sons of Anarchy" season four finale, when it seemed like Clay Morrow was about to be removed from the series for good… right before a certain plot twist was contrived to keep him on the show. In "Slaughterhouse," it seemed like Boyd going to jail for Devil's murder seemed inevitable short of convenient plot twistl. However, Arlo's decision seemed earned instead of forced. Because Arlo loved Boyd like a son, it makes sense that he would make that sacrifice for him. Plus, Arlo's rapidly diminishing mental capacity had been signalling for weeks that his time on the stage was coming to an end.
One of the biggest emotional gut punches of this episode was the realization that Arlo would have killed Raylan to protect Boyd… and he thought that he had. As much as Raylan kept saying that Arlo's choice didn't bother him, it clearly did… otherwise, why else would he seek out Winona in the dead of night? There was almost a moment of reconciliation between Raylan and Arlo when the old man apologized for how he had treated his son growing. Raylan's response was more confusion and pity than anything, but he actually thanked Arlo for that. And it may have been their last true father and son talk.
"Slaughterhouse" also had one of the most shocking TV moments in a long time when Quarles was literally disarmed by Limehouse. I had to rewind that moment just to reconfirm what I saw the first time. All season long, the executive producers of "Justified" had been promising that Limehouse was going to use that butcher's knife, but I still wasn't prepared to see that happen. To top it off, it was followed by a hilarious scene of the now one-armed Quarles reaching for his severed arm while Raylan pulled it away from him.
Another example of "Justified's" darker sense of humor was the tense scene between Raylan and Wynn Duffy at the beginning of the episode. Jere Burns' mixture of outrage, disbelief and fear really sold that moment. I don't know that State Trooper Tom and Raylan's relationship was established enough to make Raylan's "Man on Fire" rampage believable, but it was fun to watch. There was also a great callback to Raylan's confrontation with Limehouse when he "attested" that several armed men were nearby.
Quarles' fate was somewhat ambiguous, but it could easily be said that he bled to death in the slaughterhouse. I was more surprised that Limehouse came out of the season relatively unscathed. Limehouse was actually the hero of the final confrontation with Quarles; which was a bold choice in of itself. On any other show, having the lead character get saved by a supporting character in the climatic battle would have undermined them. For Raylan, it just seemed to fit with his talent for finding unique solutions to his problems.
The door is open for Limehouse to return to the series at some point, but now the larger battle is once again brewing between Raylan and Boyd. The last two season finales found both of them more or less on the same side against common adversaries. Now, Raylan's dad is getting locked up for a murder committed by Boyd and that's almost certainly going to drive Raylan and Boyd's relationship going forward.
In an interview over at Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Graham Yost noted that both Boyd and Ava are murderers whom the audience still loves and roots for. Until he said that, I never really considered Ava to be a murderer. Sure, she killed her husband to save herself and she killed the pimp Delroy to save his girl, Ellen May… but I kind of gave her pass for that. Ava's beatdown on Ellen May demonstrates that she's lost herself to Boyd's world and she's virtually unrecognizable to even herself. But Ava doesn't seem to care as long as she has Boyd and there is something very charming about their ongoing romance.
Looking back at season three as a whole, "Justified" delivered just about everything anyone could ever want from a drama. Season two may have been nearly untouchable in terms of quality, but the third season of "Justified" still ranks among the best shows on TV in this or any other year.