Mags Bennett was such a force of nature, and one of the greatest Big Bad’s ever in the history of television, you could not help that during the Justified off season, just how are they going to replace her. Well you go out and cast one of the best bad guy actors of the past decade Neal McDonough (and them supplement him with Bubba Gump). And as great as McDonough was been in his previous baddie role, he and his creepy baby head really went all out in this role as a sadistic mob boss adopted son with a taste for rent boys and literally a firearm up his sleeve.
But the third season of Justified was much different than the sophomore outing which swelled and crested every couple episodes where the most recent was much more a slow build to that final showdown (aside from the tease when Raylan asked Quarrels “Why Wait?” only to wait another three episodes for the actual showdown). The slow burn was more like the first season, but unlike the debut season which was sprinkled with a bunch of standalone “procedural” episodes, the third really only had one of those when Karen
Instead the entire season was a four person chess match between Raylan, Boyd Crowder, Limehouse and carpetbagger Quarrels with a bunch of moving pawns like Dicky Bennett, Errol (who I just recently learned was not in fact named Arrow), two sheriffs, Arlo, Winn Duffy and his great reaction shots. And those players spent most of season on a wild goose chase for Mags’ dirty coal money with Limehouse artfully getting all the players outside a motel with guns drawn when the real money was safely under Loretta McCready’s mattress waiting to not be spent on a Van Halen themed Sweet 16 party. (This begs the question why has no one started a Save Loretta from Tim Allen campaign yet? Is it because I am the only one actually watching Last Man Standing?)
But none of the chess players ended up dyeing last week setting up one epic showdown between the four principals this week. Except it was not so epic. The climactic scene played out like the rest of the season, great dialogue (“it’s a piggy bank!), some notable action (goodbye Quarrels’ arm), and a funny moment (Raylan kicking Quarrels’ arm away from him) but I could not help wanting more. I could not help but think we the audience was Wynona (who’s apparently still on the show) when Raylan was telling her the story at the end.
As great as the character was, the writers said they killed off Mags last season because there was nowhere else to go with her, so why is Quarrels still on this mortal coil (I am assuming he did not bleed out)? Since they have him on Wynona’s ex-husband murder, and probably countless other lesser charges, the one armed man is going to be in prison for a while along with other pawns this season Dicky, Winn (another one I am surprised survived the season after Raylan threw a bullet at him earlier this season and said, “The next one is coming faster”), and Arlo (depending on whether insanity is a defense in Kentucky). Sure having him around could expand the Theo Tonin into a major plot next season. Or maybe FX is beefing up the cast of my proposed jailhouse spinoff with Dicky and Dewey Crowe that can now add those three to the cast. Please FX, make that happen.
Justified 3.x gets a on my Terror Alert Scale. You can stream episodes on Hulu. You can also download Justified on iTunes.