There’s little that I can add to the thousands upon thousands of words written about “Justified” each week than to simply say that’s this fourth season has found the program as once again the most pleasurable hours on television. The word “pleasurable” might sound odd, considering the amount of tension, violence, and duplicity on display. But “Justified” is a show that appeals less to the brain and more to the senses. There’s an intelligence at work, to be sure, at all times. But Graham Yost and company never let that get in the way of a show that appeals to sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
Only the first two senses are transmitted through the television during a given episode, but I’ll be damned if “Justified” doesn’t affect the illusion of the other three. Time spent in Harlan County and the surrounding areas is all-encompassing, with a world so lived-in by this point that an audience member simply loses oneself in the show’s ambience. It’s not necessarily a world in which one might want to literally spend time, but it’s one I enjoy bathing in on a weekly basis from the comfort of my couch.
Part of the immense charms of tonight’s fifth episode, “Kin”, comes not from the expanse in the cultural anthropology posing as noir Western that is the show. Having the “hill people” added to the overall population of the show was fun, to be sure. But even more fun was the use of what seems like an absolutely ginormous cast of supporting characters, each of whom are easily identifiable in terms of motivation, affiliation, and relation to one another. This isn’t about carefully laying out a series of introductions to new people so they will all tumble over nicely in domino fashion in the penultimate episode. Rather, the season-long mystery into the disappearance Drew Thompson of has allowed “Justified” to careen through its rogue’s gallery like a pinball that keeps bumping into new obstacles at every turn. None of these actors compete for airtime or narrative oxygen: all seem content to play their small bit and make the whole stronger than the individual parts.
By keeping Raylan and Boyd apart until tonight, the show also showed patience that paid off in spades. Putting these two together as often as possible would have been easy to understand (hell, the second season of “Homeland” was predicated on keeping two characters that honestly had no business together in the same shot more often than not), but in keeping these moments more infrequent, it also makes them that much more potent once deployed. There’s no reason to think these two won’t meet again (with Boyd probably getting the upper hand that time around), but neither have any pressing desire to do so. Neither does “Justified”, which keeps marching to the beat of its own drummer and producing a laid-back yet insistent time signature that sets my toes tapping long after each installment has ended.