In this episode . . . EVERYONE DIES! What’s more; it’s all set to music! Well, no, not quite, but with only two episodes remaining in this final season of Justified there sure were a lot of deaths in “Fugitive Number One”—four to be exact . . . well . . . let’s call it three and a half. Events are happening quickly now that the end is near and we are facing the final curtain. A few months ago, I wrote the following about the HBO series The Newsroom for Psycho Drive-In’s “Top Ten Favorite 2014 TV Dramas”: The first two seasons had 10 episodes each, so I was surprised that the final season was limited to six, but everything was plotted and paced perfectly throughout the six episodes. To add four more episodes would have brought in filler that would have lessened the emotional and intellectual affect that the season had. Actually, the second season had only nine episodes (not 10), but other than that one error I still agree with what I wrote. The third season of The Newsroom only needed six episodes because Aaron Sorkin had only a six-episode story to tell. Adding three or four more episodes would have padded the season with inconsequential material that would have lessened the impact of the series finale. The creators of Justified “might should’ve” given Aaron Sorkin a call regarding how to go out with a powerful final season of their series. As much as I love Justified and like having these characters around each week, too much of this season has consisted of inconsequential material that has padded the season and lessened the impact of the primary story. Part of the problem is that there seems to be some confusion on just what’s this season’s primary story is. At least I’ve been confused, but perhaps there hasn’t been any confusion in the minds of the show’s creative staff. I assumed this season was going to focus on Boyd Crowder as a truly worth adversary for Marshal Raylan Givens—with the two of them heading for a High Noon showdown. Thus, I saw no reason for the entire story line with Avery Markham trying to buy the best farmland in Harlan County so he could grow the best marijuana crop once Kentucky legalizes pot. In fact, a better story line—and one that would have tied in nicely to the first and second seasons of the series—would be for Boyd to try to acquire all that prime farmland with illegal methods so that he could grow the best stuff in preparation for the legalization of marijuana. The rest of the season’s story could have stayed as it is—only Avery Markham and his men would have been deleted from the plot. As it is, there was a lot of material in the first eight episodes that wasn’t needed. For instance, the entire storyline with Markham’s original three henchmen—Ty Walker, Seabass, and Choo Choo—ended up going absolutely nowhere. The only significant aspect of that subplot was when Raylan killed Walker by shooting him in the back after essentially telling Markham he would make certain Walker would not be alive to testify. However, a season that focused on Boyd trying to acquire all the farmland could have found some other way to show Raylan acting unethically or illegally in his pursuit of “justice.” Instead, Boyd’s role for most of the season was his efforts to steal 10 million dollars from Markham by breaking into his vault—a subplot that took us down one comical, but ultimately dead end avenue in which Boyd and Wynn Duffy met with a professional safecracker who accidentally blew himself up just as he was about to demonstrate how he would use military-grade explosives to break into the vault. While it was a humorous sidebar, it was a strong indication that the writers and producers entered the season with a collection of “fun ideas” they hoped to string together into a cohesive story. The biggest problem has been that rather than having a season in which Boyd was the primary antagonist, we’ve had a season with no major antagonist at all—just several minor antagonists and their minor henchmen. Thus, we’ve been given a meandering story in which the creators seemed to be improvising as the season progressed—sort of like an improvisational jazz composition or a piece of baroque music in which the composer allows for the musicians in the chamber ensemble to improvise within the framework of the composition. I love that type of art! I often even take that approach when I write my reviews—just improvise on an idea I have about the work I’m reviewing and see where it leads (which is what I’m doing right now as I type this review of “Fugitive Number One”). You see, many of my all-time favorite artistic works are rooted in improvisational structures in some way—such as Charlie Parker’s bebop improvisations, Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, Jack Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of Fugue (or, really, just anything by Bach). However, despite how much I normally love works that are in some way “imperfect” because they are improvised (or spontaneous), this season of Justified has not done a good job in executing “the imperfect art” of improvisational composition. On the surface, the season does seem to be an example of improvisational composition. Aside from some sketchy notions of what it will be about, an improvised story does not follow a predetermined plot. Instead, it allows free-association to determine the plot based on where the story has been rather than with a view of where it should be going: The improviser may be unable to look ahead at what he is going to play, but he can look behind at what he has just played; thus each new musical phrase can be shaped with relation to what has gone before. He creates his form retrospectively. (Ted Gioia, The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture, 61) In this same manner, improvisational or spontaneous stories should have “retrospective plots” that build on what has happened. These types of stories also have some parallels with the composition and performance of baroque music—the only form of Western art music that allows for a great degree of improvisation between theme and variation by the performing musician: . . . in baroque music notation score and performance score did not, as a rule, coincide. The notation presented merely a skeletal outline of the composition; its structural contour had to be filled in, realized and possibly ornamented by an extemporizing performer. (Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era, 371). Thus, a “true” improvisational season of Justified would have been one in which the writers provided a basic outline of the plot and subplots in which the directors and actors would then fill in the “structural contours.” Of course, this type of drama requires actors trained in improvisational acting methods—and that is probably not an accurate description of the cast of Justified. Instead, the writers and producers of this final season seem to be improvising because their original plans weren’t turning out as well as they had hoped. Rather than creating a retrospective plot that builds upon what has occurred to see where it leads, this season of Justified has been abandoning the material that has happened. Thus, we don’t have a true improvisational tale; we have a story that was following a plan that didn’t work, so the creative staff abandoned the parts that weren’t working and brought in new pieces to see if they worked better. Nevertheless, there may be evidence the writers or producers are aware of how they have been “improvising,” as a baroque composition factors into one of the major scenes in “Fugitive Number One”—a scene that gives us two of the three and a half deaths in the episode. On the other hand, it could just be a coincidence that the creators chose to have baroque music playing during the scene in which Wynn’s bodyguard, Mikey, and Katherine Hale kill each other during a brutal fight. Earlier in the episode, we discover that Mikey has a love of “classical music” (i.e. Western art music)—a revelation that was completely unexpected. During his five seasons in the series (his first appearance was in the second season), Mikey has hardly seemed like a connoisseur of any art form. Nevertheless, as he waits for Katherine to show up at the motorhome where he has handcuffed Wynn to a table, Mikey listens to Franz Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major. However, Mikey’s love for Schubert does not indicate he is fond of the early Romantic period of chamber music from the 19th Century. Instead, he seems to love chamber music regardless of the style, as when Katherine arrives he is listening to Johann Pachelbel’s 17th-Century baroque composition Canon and Gigue in D major. If the creators intended for improvisational music to provide the musical score for the fight, it might have been more believable if they had made Mikey a lover of bebop jazz or Miles Davis’s fusion compositions. In any event, the brutal fight scene between Mikey and Katherine has Pachelbel’s Canon as the accompanying musical score, which would make more sense if it were a three-way fight (three violins) rather than a two-way fight. Oh, I forgot to mention the fight broke out because Mikey didn’t want Katherine to kill Wynn— just disgrace him within the organized crime world—so she shot Mikey to try to get to Wynn. However, Mikey seems to have been channeling Grigori Rasputin, as he just wouldn’t die after taking several point-blank shots to the chest. In the end, Mikey finally succumbed to his bullet wounds, but not until he first killed Katherine with one powerful blow to her throat that resulted in her immediate death. A better baroque composition to use as a score for a brutal fight would have been Bach’s The Art of Fugue that he was working on during the final years of his life. For as noted German musicologist Christoph Wolff states in his book Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, “The governing idea of the work was an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject.” A fight is essentially a series of physical “contrapuntal possibilities” as the two combatants exchange counterpoints. Thus, Bach’s unfinished composition would have worked well as an improvisational baroque piece that explored contrapuntal possibilities while the combatants exchanged contrapuntal punches and gun shots. Ah well, I suppose Pachelbel’s Canon was used because it is widely recognized by people who know nothing about the work but who have heard it in countless movies and television shows. It was even used in the recent film version of Fifty Shades of Grey, so you know a lot of women will recognize it right now—perhaps some who even have a crush on Timothy Olyphant and who watch Justified. Overall, “Fugitive Number One” was an excellent episode that reveals how great this season could have been if the writers and producers had focused on telling the season’s story in six or seven episodes rather than in thirteen—again, if Boyd had been the only major protagonist rather than dilute the story with Avery Markham’s plotline. However, I still would have wanted them to bring in Boon, as he has once again proven to be the best thing to come out of this season. In his first appearance, he admired Raylan’s hat. In his second appearance, he wanted to see if the hat the hipster in the diner wore would look good on him. It didn’t, so he gave it back to the hipster. Thus, he shows up in this episode with an authentic cowboy hat to rival Raylan’s—and since Raylan has a white hat, Boon naturally has to wear a black hat. Thus, we have this great exchange when Raylan shows up at The Pizza Portal to tell Markham that Katherine is dead: Raylan: Nice hat. You take that off that dude at the diner? Boon: That one didn’t appeal to me; smelled like patchouli and scared hipster. No, I had this one made custom. It cost me pretty penny. So you like it though? Raylan: I do. It may be the only thing I like about you right about now. Now, get out of my way; I ain’t come here to talk about hats. At this point there is a long pause as Boon refuses to move out of Raylan’s way and is waiting to draw his gun for an old-fashioned, Old West shoot out. Boon: This is my favorite part. I just love this part. Can hear it kinda pin pin drop. Markham: Boon, let ’im back. Boon: Check my balls right now; be purple they’s so blue. Raylan: You stay where I can see ya. In that exchange, you no doubt noticed the odd phrases Boon uses—such as “Can hear it kinda pin pin drop” and “be purple they’s so blue.” These are not transcription errors on my part. Boon has been using odd turns of phrase since his first episode when he said to Raylan, “They don’t know what it is to really live it down. You know what I mean?” In his second episode, Boon’s use of language became even more idiosyncratic when he was telling Raylan about people pretending to be something they aren’t, “you come across a lot-a guys who go heels like they’re playin’ dress up.” Ironically, with Boon’s sudden desire to wear a cowboy hat—and a black hat as a counterpoint to Raylan’s white hat—Boon seems to be one of those “guys who go heels like they’re playin’ dress up.” It could be, too, that he wants to “play dress up” for Loretta, who he is continuing to try to “court” in his own peculiar way that involves leaving headless snakes in her living room and constantly telling her how pretty she is while simultaneously implying he might have to kill her if she continues to work against Markham’s real estate and pot-growing plan. Yes, Boon definitely needed to be in this season. He should have been brought in much earlier as a henchman Boyd employed (with Markham not in the story at all). Speaking of henchmen, Boyd killed Carl in this episode after shooting him as part of his escape from the hospital where he was recuperating after being shot by Ava in the previous episode. So, Carl is the third of the three and a half deaths in this episode, and Boyd is once again in the game as we head into the final two episodes. Oh, before I go, I need to tell you about the “half death” in this episode. This character, Grubes, was referenced in at least one earlier episode this season (and possibly in episodes from previous seasons), but we did not see him until now. Grubes shows up when Ava and her uncle arrive at his cabin to employ him as their guide out through the backwoods in which they plan to haul Markham’s 10 million dollars on their way out of Kentucky. Unfortunately, Grubes died some time ago. All that’s left of him is his mummified corpse. However, they “might could use” Grubes as jerky if they run out of victuals during their hike through the backwoods. After all, the whole point in looking for Grubes is that he is the only one who can navigate those trails without getting lost—so, while they might get lost, at least they’ll have something to eat until Raylan or Boyd finds them. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.