S3E2: For an inherently self-contained episode of television, there is something that feels a lot larger about this week’s Justified than it aught to. Maybe because, although a great deal of the action and plotline surrounds three characters we’ve never seen before and will never see again, it’s really about the people we already knew—Raylan (of course), and, more interestingly, Rachel and Art.
When U.S. Marshal Nicholas, the officer responsible for overseeing civilians in the Witness Protection Program, is killed, the immediate hypothesis is that someone is after one of the protectees. As such, the marshals are distributed at the homes of the Nichols’ three protectees. An unseen Tim is sent off to the unseen home of an unseen protectee—so we can assume that part of the story isn’t too integral. But Rachel and Art each take up with one of the other two protectees. Rachel’s is Mary Archer, a mother of two, an innocent woman, and a steadfast subscriber to the WPP rules. Art’s is…not as much a prize: Terry Poe, also known as Walt—the man who killed Marshal Nichols.
“I need someone tall and strapping, like…like a fireman…” – Winona
“Like a lion tamer.” – Raylan
While Rachel and Art are holed up with Mary and Terry respectively, Raylan is on foot, playing detective with U.S. Marshal Goodall (Carla Gugino), an old associate of his from his early Florida days. Now, it does seem that we’ll be seeing more of Ms. Goodall—the closing frame, after an episode wherein she reconnects on a personal level with her old friend, shows a bit of grief on her face when she realizes Raylan is involved romantically with Winona—so I will resign my disappointment with the use of the “old friend in town” theme this week. In fact, considering that the theme of the entire series is the “old friend in town” trope, I’ll have to give Justified the benefit of the doubt that they’re building to something good with the introduction of Goodall. It just so happens that this week, she didn’t seem to contribute much to teaching us anything about the Raylan of past or present.
Raylan’s side story this week involves his eternal devotion to Winona. Now that the two are having a baby together, Raylan is ready and willing to step up his commitment to her, and wants to buy a house together. Winona, as always, wavers in her stance on the idea—although she doesn’t come out and say it, we can tell that she’s still not totally comfortable with the idea of reinvesting herself in Raylan. Especially since, despite their conversation at the end of Season 2, he is still very much an active member of the U.S. Marshal Service.
“We still used to tell people, ‘You have the right to remain silent…as long as you can stand the pain.’” – Art
More interestingly than anything going on with Raylan this week is the fresh perspective we get of Art. Up until now, Art has been largely a figure who just exists as a reacting party to Raylan and his penchant for “flying off the handle.” The one exception I can think of prior to this week was the Season 2 episode “Blaze of Glory,” in which Art had his own “showdown” with an elderly fugitive attempting to fly off to freedom (mostly from his wife). To date, that was my favorite scene in the entire series, so it’s no surprise that Art’s fleshing out in this week’s episode is another one to which I’m quite partial.
With a little help from Raylan, Art manages to figure out that Terry is the one who killed Nichols—and he surmises the reason, too: Terry, a former criminal, wanted back in the game, and was advised by his connection—a connection that Raylan and Goodall manage to get a hold of—to turn over information about Marshall Nichols’ other witnesses to their respective pursuers for the monetary reward necessary to get himself back in the game. This is where Rachel’s protectee, Mary Archer, comes in: she is the victim of Terry’s boredom. After Art loses it on Terry in a scene that gives us a glimpse of the kind of cop he was before administering to desk duty, and, more importantly, the kind of heated, angry man he is on the inside, Art phones Rachel to warn her of the impending threat of the hit men Terry called.
A scene to follow has us waiting with Rachel, Mary and her kids, all panicked and silent in the attic, before Raylan and Goodall bust in in the nick of time, taking out one of the thugs as Rachel disposes of the other.
“You weren’t assaulting a federal officer. You were just having a dustup with an old buddy.” – Raylan
Last week, we left Boyd Crowder in prison, on hot pursuit of Dickie Bennett. But as we find out this week, he’s not just after plain, carnal revenge. He wants Dickie’s finances—finances that happen to be controlled, as we learn, by an associate of Dickie’s late mother: a foreboding figure named Limehouse. Dickie is thrown into solitary confinement after contraband is discovered on his person, so Boyd gets himself put into solitary (and “makes a friend” out of one of the more morally grey guards) in order to have a private word with Dickie. Dickie informs Boyd that all of the collateral from his mother’s old marijuana business rest in the hands of Limehouse, who would absolutely refuse to bestow them unto anyone but Dickie. But Boyd is a crafty one, and he’s going to see what he can do about this. Boyd is released the next morning thanks to Raylan’s adjustment of his testimony—not out of his forgiving nature. Raylan just figured out what Boyd was really up to (fighting with Raylan to get himself thrown in jail so that he might be able to take revenge on Dickie), so he cuts his pal’s plan short.
“Can I assume from your face that you’re choosing Door Number Two?” – Limehouse
So who is this Limehouse? Well, he’s about as dark and morose as Desmond Harrington’s character from last week, but instead of handling a switchblade, his weapon of choice is lye, which he apparently uses to burn off the flesh of his victims—and his insubordinate or otherwise inadequate associates.
A quick word from Art at the end of the episode lays the foundation for next week’s plot: the marshals will investigate the goings on at Mr. Arnett’s office last week—which included, but were not limited to, a few unsightly murders.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Could Limehouse be as intriguing a villain as Mags Bennett? Do you think we’ll be seeing Marshall Goodall again? And what does this episode tell us about Art, and where his character will go in the future? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).
Carla Gugino has so much great work under her belt. Gugino played major roles in films like Watchmen and on series including Entourage. Plus, she holds the distinction of having been in both Sin City and Spin City. Gugino will extend her talents to the third season of the FX series Justified, playing an assistant director to the U.S. Marshals Service, based out of D.C. Gugino's character, Karen Goodall, will have something of a history with Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens, dating back to their Miami days. Justified's third season will premiere in early 2012 on FX. -TVLine
This Thanksgiving, The League will be picking up two free agents for a holiday-themed episode: Sarah Silverman and Jeff Goldblum. Silverman will play Andre's (Paul Sheer) sister, while Jeff Goldblum, in the most perfect casting in recent history, will play the father of Nick Kroll's character, Ruxin. Both of these actors are well-experienced in some of the outrageous comedy typical to The League, so we should expect a lively family reunion this November. The League airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on FX. -EW
Community is two for two with outstanding Christmas episodes. Where the first taught the group a couple of more or less light-hearted lessons about tolerance and friendship, the second was a much darker, and more fascinating, insight into the mind of (most) everyone's favorite character, Abed. So, this year has a lot to live up to. It's already got some promise, what with the casting of Saturday Night Live's secret weapon, Taran Killam. Killam will play a choir teacher at Greendale Community College, who is most likely destined for the destructive powers of the study group. -TVLine
Finally a brilliantly told fractured fairy tale for children and adults alike that does not feature a grouchy green orge anywhere. Once upon a time a young man sneaks into the mysterious magic kingdom of Stormhold that’s walled off from his quiet English village. He soon meets a lovely young lady who just so happens to be a princess enslaved by a not-so-wicked witch. Nine months later a basket is dropped on his doorstep. Yes this baby boy is the unexpected result of his one-night liasion with the royal lass. The boy grows up blissfully unaware of his regal roots so when he reaches manhood Tristan (Charlie Cox) doesn’t understand why he so drawn to the land on the other side of the Wall. He finally hops over the Wall when a star falls out of the sky and lands deep in the heart of Stormhold. His goal: to bring back the star as proof of his love for Victoria (Sienna Miller). Too bad this scheming temptress doesn’t think too much of the penniless and mild-mannered workingclass stiff. This being a fairy tale the star isn’t just a star. The star’s actually a beautiful celestial being named Yvaine (Claire Danes). And she fell to earth as part of a devious plan by Stormhold’s dying king (Peter O'Toole) to determine his successor. But the king’s scheming sons (Jason Flemying and Mark Strong) are not the only ones seeking Yvaine. The oh-so-wicked witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) needs Yvaine to help her restore her youth. So that means Tristan must become the hero he’s destined to become—and take on witches princes airbourne pirates (Robert De Niro’s Capt. Shakespeare) and shady black marketeers (The Office’s Ricky Gervais)—so he can return home to Victoria. But Cupid has other plans for Tristran and it’s not hard to guess what those are. If all stars took on the human form of Claire Danes many more of us would probably pursue a career in astronomy. But it doesn’t take a working knowledge of the Hubble telescope to see how relaxed and luminous Danes is when she’s not carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. And sparks definitely fly between Danes and Charlie Cox even when they’re at hurling hilarious insults at each other. Newcomer Cox makes a smooth transition from ill-at-ease lovesick puppy to swashbuckling hero. He also doesn’t seem to be intimidated at the prospect of staring down Robert De Niro. There’s always concern whenever De Niro takes on a comedic role for a big paycheck. He usually gets by with pure talent and nothing more. And when De Niro’s pirate crosses paths with Cox and Danes you immediately fear that he’s going to offer yet another variation on his tough gruff Alpha males from Analyze This and Meet the Parents. But he blindsides us by instead going all Jack Sparrow on us—that is if the old sea dog had no interest in the ladies—to deliriously campy effect. What with Hairspray and now Stardust Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback seems to be predicated on getting in touch with her inner bitch. She’s splendidly nasty and scary as Lamia. And the uglier and older she gets the meaner and funnier she gets. Equally cruel—though more cheerfully so—is Sienna Miller. Providing small but amusing cameos are Gervais once again revealing an unparallel mastery of toadying and Peter O'Toole who kicks the bucket quicker than John Cleese’s King Harold does in Shrek the Third. There’s legitimate reason to question whether Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn has what it takes to direct a big-budget effects-driven summer blockbuster. Remember after making his name producing or directing relatively inexpensive British crime capers Vaughn walked away from X-Men: The Last Stand. Judging by Stardust though Vaughn would have done a masterful job leading those misunderstood mutants into battle. Then again he couldn’t have done worse than Brett Ratner. Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess Stardust possesses both a big heart and an uncommon adventurous streak. Unlike the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which was too long and too cumbersome for its own good Stardust moves nimbly and confidently through a strange and wonderful land populated with noble heroes to cheer for fiendish villains to boo at and gorgeous damsels in distress to sigh over. Vaughn keeps us on the edge of our seats whenever Tristan must think or fight his way out of danger. But he invests as much time in making believe that Tristan and Yvaine are made for each other. He also strikes a fine balance between honoring the sword-and-sorcery genre while playfully sending up its many cliches. The humor’s a lot more risqué than the bedtime story that was The Princess Bride but most of the sexual innuendoes will zoom over the heads of those still too young to pick up on many of Shrek’s pop-cultural references. Clearly Stardust cannot escape all other comparisons to The Princess Bride but Stardust boasts more than enough magic and daring-do to win over those who remained enthralled to this day by Cary Elwes’ brave efforts to rescue a kidnapped Robin Wright Penn. So this is one fairy tale that richly deserves its happily ever after--and for that matter so does Vaughn.
As Love Actually begins we are told that perhaps the world isn't such a dire and hateful place that "love actually is all around." Around London anyway. The film explores no less than seven different romantic scenarios within the bustling British capital--all of which interconnect and eventually resolve on Christmas Eve. There's the newly elected dashing Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who is smitten with his secretary the earthy Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); Karen (Emma Thompson) whose husband Harry (Alan Rickman) has strayed with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch); Sarah (Laura Linney) the American wallflower who has a crush on her colleague Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); Jamie (Colin Firth) who falls for his pretty Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz)…there are lots more but you get the gist. As love goes things may not get tied up neatly in brightly colored packages for everyone but there's still enough good cheer to spread around.
Showcasing some of Britain's finest actors Love Actually doesn't have a bad banana in the bunch. Floppy-haired Hugh Grant turns in an endearing performance and proves there isn't a romantic comedy he can't handle. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with any actress he happens to be romancing; in this case it's the adorable McCutcheon best known for the hit British TV drama EastEnders. Rickman and Thompson are quite good as the couple whose long-term marriage is beginning to crack; Thompson especially does a nice job trying to hide her pain while being a happy mom. Linney too shines as Sarah who glows with excitement when she finally gets what she so ardently wished for. Veteran stage and film actor Bill Nighy (Underworld) however steals the show as a carefree aging rock star desperate for a comeback. His Billy Mack smacks of Mick Jagger Keith Richards and Rod Stewart all rolled into one.
"I'm worried that we don't have the word 'massacre' in the title " writer/director Richard Curtis fretted to Entertainment Weekly referring to how horror-loving American audiences might not take to his new romantic comedy that is already a huge hit in Britain. True perhaps a romantic comedy starring a multitude of A-list British actors might not bring in the required masses. But who cares about the money (did I just say that)? Curtis who has written some of the best romantic comedies of the last decade including Four Weddings and a Funeral Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary steps behind the camera for the first time here and is able to give each story a unique point of view from the lovesick to the wacky. There actually may be too many stories in Love Actually but it's a small gaffe. Love Actually is a refreshing good old fashioned warm and gushy movie that takes your mind off the bad things for the holiday season and Curtis should feel confident about his directing debut.