The Austin Chronicle

A Hole in the Wall, A Snake in the Hand

By Virginia B. Wood, January 9, 2013, 1:16pm, Picture in Picture

The date on the screen is 1983 and a man with a parachute crashes to earth surrounded by bags of what appear to be cocaine and a large diplomatic pouch. Fast forward to the present and a couple of teenagers are breaking into the empty Givens family home, busting up the walls, looking for that same old pouch.

The scene is now set for the mysterious cold case to be this season’s nemesis for U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant), rather than a power-house homegrown criminal such as Mags Bennett (Emmy winner Margo Martindale) or the extremely creepy Detroit mobster Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough). We’ll also soon learn that Boyd Crowder’s (Walton Goggins) criminal domain is under siege from an old school snake-handling tent revival preacher, Rev. Billy St. Cyr (Joseph Mazzello), who promises salvation from addiction in return for cash donations. Justified creator Graham Yost has the established the story threads from which he’ll weave, we expect, yet another well-written, well-cast, and well-acted season of top-flight television.

Raylan’s day starts with an off-the-book skiptracing favor for an attractive bail bondswoman. On its face, the favor sounded pretty simple, but as fans of the show are all too well aware, when it comes to Raylan interacting with the criminal element, things are never simple. In fairly short order, the annoyingly talkative perp-du-jour is in the trunk of Raylan’s town car and he’s taking a detour to his childhood home in response to a call from the security service he’s hired to watch the property since his father Arlo (Raymond Barry) is incarcerated.

It seems Constable Bob (comedian Patton Oswalt in an interesting bit of casting) managed to scare off the amateur robbers before they took anything, but the would-be thieves do observe Raylan put the diplomatic pouch in the trunk of his car after he investigates the damage to the house. They follow Marshal Givens to the hardware store and the sassy teenager in braces does her best to waylay him by raising her t-shirt and saying, “I need your opinion about these. Ya see, I was a late bloomer and didn’t get them until last year.” A world-weary Raylan deadpans, “Patience is a virtue,” and goes outside to find that his car has been stolen – with the bail jumper and that old pouch still in the trunk.

By the time Raylan and Constable Bob find his car at the crushing yard, he’s figured out that the pouch was the object of the failed break-in all along and he suspects his small-time criminal father was probably behind it. It appears we’re going to learn a lot more about the criminal element in Raylan’s past, foreshadowed when Arlo taunts him, growling, “You think you get all your turmoil from me?” and then cuts the throat of a prison trustee who made the mistake of showing too much interest in the old diplomatic pouch.

On the other side of town, Boyd Crowder is dealing with the day-to-day obstacles inherent in running a crime syndicate, such a serious dip in Oxycodone sales and a gun-totting, drug-addled hooker who shoots a john in a bear costume. As so often happens, Yost serves up the best dialogue for Boyd and Ava (Joelle Carter):

Boyd: “Nobody ever said running a criminal enterprise was going to be this hard, hon.”

Ava: “Yea, they left that part out on career day.”

Boyd is concerned enough about the slowdown in Oxy sales that he’s brought in an old Army buddy named Colt (Ron Eldard in a very unattractive Louise Brooks bob) to act as an enforcer. They manage to learn that some of his drug customers and even one of his drug salesmen have come under the influence of a backwoods tent revival preacher. Based on what we know about Boyd’s flirtation with salvation in the past and his ability to quote scripture to justify his own pursuits, it’s not difficult to imagine a fascinating confrontation with another many equally accustomed to such manipulations. It should be interesting to see if Rev. Billy is up to the task. The show ends in the revival tent, with one of Boyd and Ava’s hookers wide-eyed in the crowd. We are officially off to the races for another season of great storytelling.

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