There are season finales, and then there are Justified season finales, and “Slaughterhouse” brought not just the season to a new high, but the entire series. There was not a single line or character wasted. We sat and watched supporting characters like Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), Arlo (Raymond Berry) and Johnny Crowder (David Meunier) law low but they all became relevant and important to the bigger picture. Even Raylan’s hat played a role. Graham Yost and the writers rewarded patient viewing, and did a tremendous job of showing us more than telling us.
From Raylan (Timothy) playing Harlan Roulette with Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) to Limehouse and Boyd meeting at the bridge, Raylan’s suicide mission into Limehouse’s diner, and Quarles’ final moments kept us on the edge, unable to swallow. While I could single out any one of those scenes, I want to focus this review on two important matters: Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) and Arlo Givens.
The Spirit of Detroit finally faded out of Quarles, but he would not go down without a memorable impromptu scheme to extract “fighting money” out of Limehouse to square up his debt to Theo Tonin (Alan Arkin), using two young boys as leverage to get Raylan to help him. Some may have expected a glorious finish for our fond carpetbagger–and oh did viewers receive that. Those expecting Raylan to deliver the final blow were likely disappointed. Quarles just didn’t have enough guns to fight off all the people he pissed off in Harlan, thus creating a perfect place to die, Limehouse’s slaughterhouse.
With a single swing of his cleaver, Limehouse delivered the bloodiest, goriest and most magnificent Holy SH-T moment on basic cable (with respect to Game of Thrones), ending McDonough’s run as Quarles. Look, it’s commonplace on The Walking Dead, but this type of violence was unexpected on Justified. Even Raylan was stunned, but what drew my applause was Quarles falling to his knees and reaching out for his severed arm and Raylan simply pulling it away out of his reach. The look on Raylan’s face had “Hell no you are not getting your arm back.”
This scene went side-by-side with Quarles’ arrogant request for ibuprofen to soothe the headache he received from Wynn Duffy detonating his car with a bomb. And who didn’t love his shocking response to Limehouse gutting open a pig to spill out more than enough money to square his debt.
Quarles: Oh shit, it’s a piggy bank. [Laughs] I get it now!
As Quarles lied on his back, bleeding out and looking up at Raylan holding his other arm, he kept his wheezing and laughing like Hanna-Barbera’s Snagglepuss before answering Raylan question of who shot Tom Bergen:
Quarles: Your old man. [Laughs]
Even though we wanted to recoil from Robert Quarles, McDonough continually left viewers speechless, fearful and trying to guess what he would do next. He had an extremely difficult task assigned to him, to get viewers to forget about Margo Martindale’s Emmy-winning performance for just a season and wreak havoc in Harlan County. Now he has his own Justified highlight reel to support any campaign for an Emmy Nomination.
With respect to Raymond J. Berry, his portrayal of Arlo Givens painted an image of a cruel and unforgiving man, a father to a criminal and simple and sad crook to his blood son. All of this came after Arlo’s insincere apology that led viewers on a wild goose chase. “No way it could be Arlo. He’s going mad.” The signs of dementia may have caused us to sympathize with the old man but Arlo knew what he was doing when he shot Tom Bergen. No, he wasn’t conscious that it was Tom, and as Raylan said, he was simply shooting at a man with a hat so he had no problem protecting Boyd, and gladly would have sacrificed his own blood to preserve his relationship with his surrogate son. He took the fall for Boyd, to protect him and strengthen the bond of family that Boyd preached to Raylan at the marshal office.
Boyd: He’s not my crew, Raylan, he’s my family.
Raylan tried for so long to get through to his father but he simply would not see the right side of the law. He always hoped, but never expected there to ever be a bridge built between them.
Raylan: What the hell are you doing here?
Arlo: I heard a cop with a hat got shot; guess it wasn’t you.
Raylan: I’m fine.
Arlo: I can see that.
It was just Raylan’s natural defense, and what seemed like a throw away conversation was amplified by the time he arrived at Limehouse’s diner.
Limehouse: Mr. Givins–
Raylan: Deputy Marshal, I ain’t my father and I don’t care to be confused with my father.
And then came this at Boyd’s place.
Arlo: Raylan, I wanted to apologize.
Raylan: Sorry for what?
Arlo: For how I treated you as a boy.
Arlo: Not an easy thing for me to say.
You could tell that even Raylan was fooled by the apology, the drugs talking, perhaps? Unlike Boyd requesting to see Arlo take the pills in front of him, Raylan just asks him if he’s been taking his medication. But an apology? Something was clearly off. He was done fighting with Arlo, and treated him with respect before he confessed to Devil’s murder. Looking back, Arlo didn’t apologize for wanting to murder him, but for destroying their relationship when he was young. In Arlo’s mind, medicated or otherwise, Boyd was his son now and Raylan was nothing to him. When you come to that realization, that would make you want to drink something harder than water, and much harder than the lite beer Raylan fished for at Winona’s sister’s place. Raylan probably dreamed of that apology for years, but no way did he ever picture it would be delivered so cold.
And that leaves us with a broken Raylan. No woman to come home to (that doesn’t work behind a bar anyway), no family besides the one he has at work and an ultimatum from the woman he loves. Walk away from the thing you do best, or stay away. Olyphant put a challenge to himself and the writers to keep the kill count low this season but keep delivering his brand of justice. And just as impressive in accomplishing that goal, Olyphant surpassed his Season 2 performance by a landslide. Olyphant’s had to convey a season full of mistakes by Raylan, shooter’s remorse, tempers flaring, comedic timing and all of that Elmore Leonard “cool” speak. There were too many great Raylan moments to count, but his quiet, simple exit out of the final scene after revealing that his father wanted to murder him will be the most haunting scene until January.
Winona: Why’d Art think you’d be mad?
Raylan: I think it was the way Arlo shot Bergen. He didn’t know it was it was a state trooper. He just saw a man with a hat pointing a gun at Boyd.
Winona: Man with a hat?
Instead of wondering how in the world they’re going to top this, I wanted to pause and just let that scene sit and simmer with me for a long time. It’s time for some apple pie moonshine.
A Few Scant Blades of Bluegrass
• The one thing that didn’t make sense to me is how Raylan got into Noble’s Holler and into Limehouse’s diner without having to cross the bridge where Limehouse had been waiting for Boyd or meeting up with undesirables? There was obviously a lot of story to get through, and exposition was a casualty but that one stood out from the rest of quick cuts with no commercial break to explain it.
• Even though he served as motivation for this finale, I did not want to see Trooper Tom Bergen go. As much as we love Dewey, Loretta, Duffy, and other ancillary figures, the world around Raylan needs to be filled by those types on the right side of the law too. Raylan was sincere in getting vengeance, so much so that he had to bring his father in and help lock him up.
• Errol played a similar role to Limehouse and was shocked that he was asked to leave but he tied Limehouse to everything that happened. He was the only loose end for Ellstin to wash his hands clean. If Errol was anyone lesser, he would have been dealt a harsher outcome, but the story about butchering alongside his father was a nice touch to close that relationship and put some rich history between Errol and Limehouse. Errol, like Bergen was a good soldier to the end, but unlike Bergen, we’ve yet to receive confirmation that he’s dead.
• Adam Arkin can go back behind the camera for some time. The actor/director got some small face time as Theo, but like Miami, I imagine Detroit will take the fall of Robert Quarles as a sign to stay out of Kentucky. What a great reference though to Paul Newman starring in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).
• Rachel (Erica Tazel) gave a look of empathy for Raylan in the elevator as they brought Arlo in. She had been through a similar ordeal when her sister died at the actions of her brother-in-law. You could tell she wanted to say something, but often times, especially with Raylan, he’s best to be left alone.
• Who else caught the gun that Raylan told Quarles to keep was the one used to kill Gary?
More Great Lines:
Art to Boyd: You’re not as dumb as you look but I like the way you used “cahoots.”
Raylan to Winona: You know what they say about me at the office? I disarmed him (Quarles).
What did you think of “Slaughterhouse”? What did you think of the third season of Justified?