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Justified: "Whistle Past The Graveyard"

Illustration for article titled Justified: "Whistle Past The Graveyard"
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Michael Rapoport is 43. Jacob Lofland is 17. While quarter-century age gaps between siblings aren’t impossible, it was always faintly preposterous that Daryl Jr. and Kendal were actually brothers. And yet, of all the loose ends and side mysteries that drive so much Justified speculation, the question of Kendal Crowe’s parentage didn’t appear to garner much interest. Certainly, it never occurred to me that he might be something other than Wendy’s kid brother, and I don’t recall much, if any, discussion of this in past weeks’ comment sections. The reason for this apparent disinterest, I suspect, is that the show has simply never bothered to call attention to the matter. The insanity of the Crowe family is so firmly established at this point that Kendal’s seemingly anachronistic presence feels more like supporting evidence than an incongruous outlier. “Whistle Past The Graveyard” plays on the audience’s expectations about the Crowes. While watching, I was vaguely puzzled that Kendal could have an Uncle Jack who is the same age as his siblings—surely this should be Cousin Jack—and I wasn’t exactly surprised when Jack appeared to flirt with Wendy who, theoretically, would also be his relation. The far more logical explanation was staring me in the face, but I was so convinced of the twisted, convoluted nature of the Crowe family tree that I was somehow surprised by Kendal’s big reveal to his non-Uncle Jack.

But then, the fact that the season hasn’t been building to this admission is very much the point. The most logical way for Justified to have developed a mystery around the identity of Kendal’s parents would have been to focus on the relationship between Kendal and Wendy, to suggest that she loves and cares for him in ways that are more maternal than sisterly. The only trouble with pursuing that particular narrative path is that all the prior evidence suggests that Wendy really isn’t that bothered about Kendal either way. They have barely interacted before tonight’s episode; Wendy did drive up from Miami when Raylan placed Kendal in foster care, but Wendy’s interactions both with Alison and with Daryl Jr. betrayed no overriding concern for her secret son’s welfare. She didn’t like how either side used Kendal as a pawn, but only inasmuch as it was yet another distraction from her constantly delayed legal studies. Indeed, a big reason why Kendal even reached out to Uncle Jack in “Raw Deal”—beyond his general disgust with the Audrey’s clientele—was the fact that Wendy blew him off when he tried to talk to her.

In that context, it’s hardly surprising that Kendal would show such minimal emotional investment in his parents finally recognizing him as their son. With Uncle Jack, that knowledge is just a sign of power, a brutally effective way to prove that he is a child no longer. Life has beaten down Kendal far too much for him to expect too much from Uncle Jack, but the guy can at least last a solid 30 seconds of casual conversation without revealing any psychotic tendencies, a trait that instantly places him above the Crowe brothers. If Kendal didn’t already know that Jack is no good, he learns it fast tonight, but Jack did care enough to forget about the guy hunting him down and go pick up his unacknowledged son. That’s a deeply stupid kind of love, the kind liable to get a whole bunch of people killed sooner or later, but it’s more than Kendal has ever gotten from his family, his mother very much included. Kendal is old enough and wise enough to know that neither of his parents is worth placing any trust in; indeed, the heightened emotional attachment that would come with accepting Wendy as his mom would likely only lower the odds still further of Kendal escaping his family’s gravitational pull.

That’s the message that Raylan tries to impart. Cut off from his fellow marshals, Raylan spends most of the episode in untethered asshole mode, repeatedly rebuffing Wendy’s attempts to explain her sudden emotional investment in Kendal’s fate. It’s probably a good sign for Raylan that he just can’t help but be a lawman, even when his unspoken transgression has forced him into exile from the office. His only consistent goal these days is getting rid of the Crowes, but he reveals deeper empathy when he has a moment alone with Kendal at the end. The paternal streak that Raylan demonstrated in “The Kids Aren’t All Right” reasserts itself here, and it’s now coupled with a far more explicit plea for Kendal to survive and escape his hellish family, just as Raylan did.

“Whistle Past The Graveyard” benefits from that brief moment of honesty, because it provides a sense of stakes that aren’t always present in Raylan’s side of the narrative. The story of Uncle Jack and his mystery pursuer is your standard, even throwaway Raylan investigation plot, and there’s little doubt that Raylan considers the entire matter beneath him; whatever tension the climax was going to have is quickly defused when Raylan gruffly orders Kendal out of the car. Such intentionally low narrative stakes aren’t necessarily a problem, as they track well with Wendy’s eventual admission—or her eventual claim, at any rate—that she really knows nothing about her brothers’ dealings in Mexico, and she only pretended to have information to get Raylan to help retrieve her son. Raylan’s story tonight is a classic shaggy dog tale, with pointlessness wrapped up within pointlessness. That could be frustrating—it certainly was for me with last week’s “Raw Deal”—but it works better tonight because such aimless chaos feels so perfect for the Crowes. They are a family obsessed with punching above their weight; Daryl, Danny, and Wendy would be little more than terminal annoyances to Raylan and Boyd if they weren’t quite so willing to take whatever extreme measures are necessary to further their own interests.

Speaking of Boyd Crowder and Daryl Crowe, Jr., we get a hint of just what the latter has in store for his supposed new boss, but only a hint. Their subplot covers the expected story beats as the partners in crime gradually make their way back stateside. The business with the Federales is a nifty reaffirmation that Boyd can outthink and outwit anybody, regardless of how much power and control they might think they have. That’s a lesson Cousin Johnny learned last week, it’s a lesson that the corrupt authorities learn tonight, and Daryl Jr. seems primed to learn it too, thanks to Jimmy’s flair for Spanish-language eavesdropping.


But the really crucial scene comes earlier in the episode, as Boyd and Daryl ride together in the cab. Daryl is trying out a version of the same he speech he gave to Dewey earlier this season, the one in which he extols the value of family and says he hopes Boyd will come to see Daryl and all the Crowes as his kin. This is a salesman’s pitch, and Daryl would only need to resort to such hollow words if he knew he could not back them up with his actions. Boyd, for his part, simply responds that he just killed his last surviving relative, so perhaps he is not the ideal target audience for a monologue on the value of family. In light of what we learn at episode’s end about the double cross that Daryl apparently has in store for Boyd and Jimmy, this earlier difference in rhetorical approaches becomes all the more revealing. Boyd is hardly above deception and subterfuge—he eventually proved himself a master of it in dispensing with Lee Paxton and company earlier this season, and he expertly lulled Cousin Johnny into a false sense of security—but, at least when dealing with his criminal allies, Boyd is often disarmingly honest.

Boyd is a proud outlaw, but he’s also smart enough to act like a reasonable professional whenever it’s possible to do so. A dead man would have wasted time pleading with Alberto for mercy, but Boyd simply guarantees that he can resolve the situation and make the bodies disappear. Daryl wastes time moaning about how Mr. Yoon’s frankly generous act of mercy is “some bullshit.” The fact that he’s complaining about defeat implies that he has already accepted it; he is willing to whine about his family’s latest self-inflicted wounds, but he lacks Boyd’s professional savvy to set about fixing it. Boyd is fundamentally a business man, and he is willing to put an awful lot of potential bad blood aside to adhere to his utilitarian principles—he was prepared to go back into business with the treacherous Cousin Johnny way back when, after all—but Daryl Jr. is a family man who is willing to kill his own brother. Boyd is a criminal, and as such figures to get what’s coming to him sooner or later, but Daryl Jr. is the kind of walking contradiction who figures to self-combust in the very near future. Trying to pull a fast one on Boyd Crowder is an excellent way to initiate that destruction.


Stray observations:

  • Ava’s story is relegated to the stray observations this week; I may have to set up a rotation between the three plotlines, so that I don’t keep consigning her story to afterthought status, even if it does feel like the least developed of the three. Tonight’s Ava story represents only incremental progress, as she and Penny only barely manage to establish the contact they need to start smuggling in the heroin. The nurse’s demand for outside help figures to present yet another complication for Boyd, but I’d say the main takeaway here is just how completely Ava is making this up as she goes, a fact that places her in a very dangerous position.
  • Alison breaks it off with Raylan. I’m curious to know how much follow-up we’ll get on this. I figure it’s going to be significant at least into the next episode, but, given Edi Gathegi’s unexpected early exit, I don’t think we can totally rule out the possibility that Amy Smart had other commitments and needed to be written out of the show pronto. Either way, Alison’s calm, oddly amused demeanor as she broke it off with Raylan echoed Winona’s behavior as she prepared to dump Raylan. I guess he’s just got a type.
  • Okay, this is starting to get serious: Is Wynn Duffy still on the show? Jere Burns remains a part of the opening credits, and I can understand why it makes narrative sense for him to sit the last couple of weeks out, but still, we’ve seen less of Wynn Duffy this season than we have of Rachel and Tim. Rachel and Tim, people—the gold standards for underused characters.
  • For the record, Millennium Force is every bit as incredible as Uncle Jack claims it to be. That’s a top five rollercoaster right there. Sorry, sorry, “rolly coaster,” as Jack uses the preferred Artie-from-Larry-Sanders pronunciation.