Contemporary television dramas tend to tell one overarching story throughout each season. Thus, each weekly episode is essentially a chapter of a tele-novel, and writing a review of each chapter of a novel seems rather silly since the critic is focusing a great deal of attention on one piece of a larger and, hopefully, more complex work. Thus, one of my favorite ways to review episodic television is to analyze how well an episode’s title does its job in reflecting the essence of that week’s installment.
For instance, when I saw that the penultimate episode of Justified was titled “Collateral” (6.12), I immediately expected this chapter of the final season to involve objects of value being offered as security for something else. That definition of collateral is rather obvious, but since I didn’t expect any of the characters to be borrowing money from the other characters, I knew it would be interesting to see what they offered as security and what they expected to get in return.
Additionally, I anticipated “collateral damage” (deaths) in the story due to actions taken by the three principal characters—Avery Markham, Boyd Crowder, and/or Raylan Givens. After all, this is Justified—a series in which collateral damage is one of the primary topoi.
As I expected, there was a significant amount of collateral damage in the episode—such as Boyd killing a man whom he forced to drive him to Grubes’s cabin (where he knew Ava would have taken the 10 million dollars that they stole from Markham). The man Boyd killed is only given the name “driver” in the show’s credits, but the role was played by Shea Whigham—an actor who has had two recent high-profile roles:
- Eli Thompson on 56 episodes of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire
- SSR Deputy Director Roger Dooley on seven episodes of ABC’s Marvel Comics series Agent Carter
Whigham’s character seems to consider Boyd a heroic outlaw figure—similar to the way disenfranchised white men in Missouri considered Jesse James a type of outlaw hero nearly 150 years ago. In fact, “driver” tells Boyd he’s the closest thing they have to Billy the Kid in “these parts” (Harlan County).
Once he drives Boyd into the mountains to the trail leading up to Grubes’s cabin, the two of them chat about how Boyd is going to have to tie up loose ends by killing Whigham’s character. “Driver” then asks Boyd if he remembers an “Old boy by the name of Hut McKean.”
Boyd doesn’t know who Hut McKean is, but he assumes he’s someone whose death can somehow be traced back to Boyd along one of several paths, and he becomes agitated that Whigham’s character is attempting to lay a guilt trip on him—subsequently setting off Boyd on a rant about the disenfranchised working-class stiffs of America with the shitty trucks they use to drive to their shitty jobs and shitty homes.
However, it’s not clear why “driver” actually brought up Hut McKean, and it seems Boyd’s assumption may have been incorrect:
Driver: You ain’t even heard a word I said.
Boyd: I don’t give a shit about what you said. I’m an outlaw. (Boyd then shoots “driver” in the head.)
I would be surprised if we are going to learn the secret of Hut McKean in the final episode of the series, and I imagine several fans of the series have contemplated doing what I have contemplated—re-watching each episode of the series to see if there is a reference to Hut McKean that will explain the cryptic question Whigham’s character asked Boyd about. It would be a great joke to discover no such reference exists in any episodes save this one. Nevertheless, I’m still tempted to re-watch all six seasons while keeping my senses focused on “Hut McKean.”
Anyway, a few minutes after he shoots his “driver,” Boyd shoots Constable Bob Sweeney—who got involved in the plot when he heard the “bolo” (“be on the lookout for”) the FBI issued for Raylan, who is suspected of being an accessory of Ava’s shooting of Boyd and the subsequent theft of Avery Markham’s 10 million dollars. Played by stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt, Constable Bob has always been a comic-relief character, and he is his usual bumbling self in this episode—right up to the point when Boyd shoots him twice in the chest.
However, while Bob is another instance of collateral damage in the episode, he is also a form of security collateral. Boyd didn’t kill Bob; he critically wounded him so he could use him as collateral if (and when) he needs to trade him to Raylan. Thus, later, when Raylan has Boyd pinned down in the woods somewhere between the road and Grubes’s cabin, Boyd’s collateral comes into play.
Bob (off in the distance): Help!
Boyd (shouting to Raylan): Why, you don’t think that’s Bob, do ya?
Raylan (shouting back): Why would that be Bob?
Boyd: Well I shot him a couple a-times down at the trailhead. I think he might still be alive. You ought go run down there and see if you can’t help him.
Raylan: Bob can take care of himself.
Boyd (softly, more to himself than to Raylan): Well hell, Raylan, then I have already won.
Raylan can either focus on Boyd and let Constable Bob bleed out, or he can try to get Bob to a hospital while Boyd gets away. With the ethical decisions Raylan has made lately—such as shooting Ty Walker in the back to fulfill his “promise” to Markham that Walker wouldn’t be alive to testify at a trial—it really wasn’t obvious what Raylan would do.
If someone he considered scum had been shot—like Ava’s uncle Zachariah—Raylan probably would have allowed the man to bleed out and die. However, because it was Constable Bob, Raylan made the ethical decision to save Bob and allow Boyd to continue his hunt for Ava.
Thus, while Bob was collateral damage, he was also Boyd’s collateral security that he exchanged for his freedom. Similarly, Loretta offered Markham collateral security for her own freedom—or for her own life, to be more exact.
With Boyd’s men now out of play (Boyd killed Carl and the Marshals have Earl in custody), Loretta had to hire an even more inept henchman to provide protection for her. In this case, the inept dumbshit was her former boyfriend Derrick Waters, whose only other appearance in the series was a little over year ago in “The Kids Aren’t All Right” (episode 5.02).
As they hide out in Loretta’s barn, Derrick admits he doesn’t just want the money Loretta promised to pay him. He implies he also wants to be paid in sex—and he seems to think it’s a good idea for he and Loretta to perhaps do it in the barn even though she is clearly worried that Markham has sent Boon after her.
Then they hear a sound outside. As they peer through a knothole in one of the barn planks, Boon walks in behind them.
Boon: Who the hell are you?
Derrick (acting tough and obstinate): Just her boyfriend.
Boon: Oh yeah? You wanna save . . . your girlfriend? (Boon stammers as he refers to Loretta as someone else’s girlfriend.)
Loretta: He ain’t my boyfriend.
Boon: Loretta! Girl! A boy doesn’t become a man until he can make his own decisions.
(Boon turns his attention back to Derrick and the automatic pistol he is holding.)
You wanna raise up that gun; try and shoot me? Or you afraid I’m too fast?
(Boon’s hand flashes down and draws his revolver from its holster.)
I am, by the way.
(Pulls the trigger, and the firing pin clicks into an empty chamber as Derrick flinches.)
Good news. Jenny here; you got to leave her firing chamber empty. Avoid an accidental discharge. Bad news; her chambers full of prom maids now. How ’bout we try that again? You not havin’ to clear that holster, boy, that fast approaches a fair. . . .
(Derrick begins to bring up his automatic but Boon’s hand is a blur of speed and he fires a shot into Derrick’s right shoulder before Derrick can pull his trigger. Derrick falls backwards to the ground.)
Boon (continued): Oh, shit, he’s still kicking. That’s the risk you run goin’ for a headshot, Loretta, but I figure . . . you never know when one of these pussies is wearin’ Kevlar, right? Always go for the brain; best bet.
(He then walks up to Loretta and strokes back her hair and looks like he might kiss her.)
Don’t worry. I’ll forgive you.
Boon doesn’t say he has forgiven her (presumably for at one time having a boyfriend other than himself). He tells her he will forgive her—as in, at some point in the future.
I’ve said it a few times in past reviews, but I’ll say it again. Boon is the villain this season has needed since the beginning. The insanity of his twisted mind, the insanity of the twisted phrases coming out of his mouth, and the insanity of his actions—all of which he obviously views as rational and thoughtful—are the aspects that make him a great character. Unfortunately, he wasn’t brought in until this season’s fourth act instead of its second act, which is when he should have been introduced.
Anyway, all of that is the set up for Markham’s meeting with Loretta. As Boon brings his boss back to the barn where Loretta sits with the still-living and still-bleeding Derrick (she didn’t bother trying to put pressure on his shoulder wound or anything), Markham walks in and sees Derrick on the floor.
Markham: What the hell is this?
Boon: He tried to pull one on me.
Markham: You just gonna let him lay there and bleed?
Boon (sounding sincerely unsure): Was I supposed to take ’im to the hospital?
In response, Markham pulls out his automatic and shoots Derrick once in the head as Loretta flinches.
Markham then sits down with Loretta to see if she might have been working with either Boyd or Ava, and if she might know where Ava might be with his money. After it’s clear Loretta doesn’t know anything about it, he tells her he already has Ava in custody.
Loretta: Suppose you won’t be needin’ me anymore then.
Markham: If that’s the case, I’ll just kill ya right now. I’m gonna give you 30 seconds to change my mind. Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you, Loretta McCready.
As collateral for her life, Loretta lays out how Markham would benefit by bringing her in as a partner to his marijuana farming operation—how she has ties to the county that will make it easier for him to do business if people who trust her feel like they can then trust him, how she is an expert at marijuana farming, and how he will need her local connections if the state legislature ends up not legalizing pot.
Loretta’s collateral is essentially the plan Boon told her in the previous episode to propose to Markham as a way to save her life. Of course, in Boon’s mind it was a bit twisted; he saw Markham as a king with Boon as his loyal knight, and that Markham’s and Loretta’s respective kingdoms could be united through an arranged marriage between Loretta and himself—like the arranged marriages in European feudal society.
Unfortunately for Loretta, Boon’s fantasy may not have been too far off. As he tells Loretta she’s comparable to Katherine Hale and Mags Bennett, Markham says, “I can use a Harlan girl in my fold. ’Sides that, I know Boon here is sweet on you.”
So, yes, my expectations regarding the episode’s title proved correct, but the creators used one additional meaning of collateral beyond the obvious two I expected: “A relative who is descended from the same stock, but on a different branch.”
In this case, the collateral is Cope, Raylan’s second cousin once removed—along with all of his extended, in-bred kinfolk. The appearance of Cope and the rest of Raylan’s in-bred kin was a complete surprise. However, with the series coming to an end, it seems we are revisiting just about every character one final time.
Raylan just happens to come across Cope while heading for Grubes’s cabin in his search for Boyd. It’s clear Raylan doesn’t even remember his collateral kinfolk’s name, but he remembers Cope as someone who tried to kill him the last time they met—back in “Kin” (episode 4.05). The reason Cope tried to kill Raylan is a bit of a complicated issue
Raylan’s mother and stepmother were sisters,* and they were also first cousins to Mary—one of the hill people who is also some sort of kin to Cope. Let’s see . . . I think Mary was Cope’s . . . mother or . . . maybe she was a cousin from another branch of the family tree or . . . I really don’t recall.
What’s important is that they are all in-bred, incestuous hill people who hated Raylan’s father because he married their cousins and then used the family connection as a way to run contraband through the mountains. It doesn’t matter to them that Raylan also hated his father; as far as they are concerned, the sins of the father are passed on to the son.
However, Raylan forces the rest of the in-bred kin to head down the mountain while he takes Cope towards Grubes’s cabin. Along the way, it becomes clear Cope will eventually try to track Raylan down and kill him. Thus, Raylan uses Arlo’s house and farmland as collateral. He signs over the property to Cope and heads off to track down Boyd.
I doubt we shall see Cope and the in-bred kin in the series finale; it seems their appearance here was merely a way of tying up a loose end from two seasons ago—a loose end I doubt most fans of the show could have recalled. Still, it was nice to see the issue of Raylan’s collateral kin brought to closure in an episode appropriately titled “Collateral.”
So now all we have left is the series finale, which is mysteriously titled “The Promise”—and the synopsis of the final episode my cable TV provider has listed in the program guides states, “In the series finale, one last battle between Raylan, Boyd and Ava will determine who—if anyone—gets out of Harlan alive.”
Aye, there’s the rub: “who—if anyone—gets out of Harlan alive.”
Perhaps foreshadowing of the series finale has been showing up all along throughout the six seasons each time a singer has been seen or heard on the show performing the great and foreboding tune composed by Darrell Scott and covered by countless country music acts over the years:
* Yes, Raylan’s father, Arlo, married one of the hill women; then, after she died, he married her sister even though she hated him.