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‘Justified’ Season Premiere Review: “A Murder of Crowes”

Justified Review Season 5 Premiere A Murder of Crowes
FX

Justified’ season 5 draws out its first of the year in “A Murder of Crowes,” as Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) encounters the Crowe family in the Florida swamps, while Boyd (Walton Goggins) attempts to bargain with the collapsing Detroit mob, and reaches a breaking point trying to free Ava from prison.

Last year’s ‘Justified’ finale “Ghosts” saw Raylan saving his family from a deadly confrontation with Detroit mobster Nicky Augustine (‘Glee’s Mike O’Malley), while Boyd made a last-ditch effort to save Ava from Delroy’s murder being uncovered, so what will the first episode of ‘Justified’ season 5 bring? Has a new big bad arrived to make life in Harlan worse than ever?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Justified’ season 5 premiere “A Murder of Crowes!”

Raylan wryly gives testimony about his past infractions with Dewey Crowe (Damon Herrimon), for which he and his lawyer repeatedly turn down offers of a $20,000 settlement. That is at least, until the judge reluctantly offers to bump it up to 300 (which Dewey mistakes for dollars), nearly fainting when he learns the true sum. Elsewhere, Boyd visits with Ava in prison, instructing their lawyer to don headphones, while Boyd swears to threaten the family of their worst case scenario judge for Ava’s case.

That night, men from Detroit attempt to con Boyd out of their intended heroin deal, until Boyd turns the tables and kills the men, discovering they didn’t even bring the shipment. Given the state of the Detroit mob, Boyd phones Wynn Duffy to plan a trip straight to the source. Meanwhile, in a Florida harbor, the stuttering Dylan Crowe and his Cuban associate Elvis meet with a corrupt coast guard officer for their illegal sugar trade, but Dylan kills the officer for making fun of his stutter.

Art places Raylan on the case, knowing the fugitive Elvis to have associations with the Crowes, while affording Raylan a chance to see Winona and the baby down in Florida. At first however, Raylan visits Dewey at the newly-purchased Audrey’s, reluctantly apologizing for his past behavior, before shooting out the man’s pool for lacking any useful information on his Florida kin.

Upon his arrival, Raylan partners with fellow Marshal Greg Sutter (‘Anchorman’ star David Koechner) to find Elvis and the Florida Crowes, whose family head Daryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport) meanwhile chides Dylan for bringing a federal case down on them. Raylan and Sutter first visit Jean Baptiste (Edi Gathegi), a Haitian gator tourism leader known to associate with the Crowes, to whom Raylan threatens to return if Baptiste doesn’t instruct Daryl to meet with them at a local diner. Meanwhile, Boyd and Wynn Duffy arrive at the dingy, desolate headquarters of Sammy Tonin and the remaining Detroit mob, who have taken to nightmarish chainsaw murders. Just as Boyd goes to give the money to Sammy, Sammy’s associate Mr. Picker shoots his boss dead, demanding the money for himself. When Boyd and Duffy regain control, Picker admits that their Canadian mob connections had paid him to finally eliminate Sammy for his many debts.

Raylan and Sutter swap stories of their children before a redheaded woman enters the diner, revealing herself as Daryl’s sister Wendy, and offering to retrieve her brother in exchange for their aid convincing a judge to end Daryl’s parole. The Marshals agree, before Daryl finally enters the establishment, and agrees to turn over Elvis. Meanwhile, an exasperated Boyd and Duffy meet with the Canadian mob (Will Sasso and Dave Foley), who refuse to continue the heroin trade given the state of the Detroit mob, but concede to allowing one more shipment for Boyd and his group. Picker suggests they might have better luck establishing Mexico as their new pipeline, for which he has multiple contacts.

After Daryl and Wendy argue about the situation, Daryl tells Elvis their sugar trade has ended, reluctantly agreeing to pay the man severance, and tasking Wendy with driving him to a hotel to lay low and await his money. Once the pair leave, Daryl notifies Raylan of the meet and assures his younger brother Dylan that no one knows of his role in the crime, before watching their other brother Danny stab the simple man to death for his failures. Out on the road, Elvis pulls a gun on Wendy, having correctly guessed they’d take her car and plant a gun there earlier..

Raylan and Sutter naturally find the hotel rendezvous abandoned, while elsewhere Wendy manages to swerve the car into traffic, escaping in the chaos of an accident, for which Elvis similarly flees the scene with his gun. After learning the situation from Wendy, Raylan and Sutter shortly thereafter find Elvis at the docks attempting to lead his raft toward Cuba, before the Marshals shoot it. Elvis pulls on them as predicted, but expectedly not as fast as either of the Marshals, who finally put the man down.

The next day, Raylan meets with Daryl to confirm their deal with the judge, learning that Wendy fled to Miami. Daryl relates that he’d promised his father on his deathbed to keep the family together, before Raylan reminds him his father died from drunkenly flipping an airboat. Raylan and Sutter drive off, Sutter suggesting he take time to see Winona and his daughter while he can, while Daryl watches them leave, lamenting that Florida seems to have become tapped out for the Crowes. To wit, Jean-Baptiste brings up Daryl’s cousin Dewey in Kentucky, whom he’d overheard from Raylan earlier to have come into money.

The following day, Raylan video chats with Winona and the baby from Harlan, having never told them he’d been in Florida, while elsewhere Boyd learns from his contacts that Ava will indeed face their worst-case judge. Having lied about the man having family to threaten, Boyd reluctantly pays a midnight visit to Lee Paxton, greeting his new young Latvian wife Mara (‘True Blood’’s Karolina Wydra) as he begs the funeral director to spare Ava from prison. Still bitter from their last encounter, Paxton only offers to allow Boyd to take his fiancee’s place in prison, smirking that he knew Boyd wouldn’t love Ava that much to agree. Boyd flies into a rage, beating Paxton bloody, and coldly offering Mara a similar bribe to keep quiet about the attack. Mara agrees, realizing after Boyd’s departure that Paxton may yet survive the assault.

OUR REVIEW:

Well, alright then! Frequently overlooked by FX standards, even five seasons into ‘Justified’ there can be no denying that the gunslinger drama rarely, if ever debuts with the same volume as its network brethren, instead favoring a more critic-friendly character approach to the proceedings. In that regard, “A Murder of Crowes” generally proves as effective as we’ve come to expect introducing a few new wrinkles into Raylan’s personal life, while setting up a string of new characters sure to make their way to Harlan in the coming weeks.

In dividing the narrative between Raylan’s muted pursuits with the Florida Crowes and Boyd’s more desolate Detroit adventures with Wynn Duffy, the premiere itself leaves very little real estate for the supporting characters that often give ‘Justified’ its unique flavor, though of course we have the long-awaited return of Damon Herrimon’s Dewey Crowe. It speaks to ‘Justified”s overall valuing of its supportive players, that Crowe could float so memorably in the background, but still have room for a bit of sympathy as he finally gets his payback (and an apology) from Raylan! Even so, without ever seeing Dewey interact with his kin, “A Murder of Crowes” only goes so far to establish a dynamic for its leading villains, the Southern accents of which will surely garner derision despite Michael Rapaport’s always-dependable character work.

If anything, most of tonight’s premiere belongs to Boyd (when does the show not, really), who clearly takes the character in darker directions than we’ve come to expect, first in a frustrating trip through the remains of the Detroit mob, and finally into a moral vacuum as he lashes out at Lee Paxton for his likely justified (heh) assertions about Boyd and Ava’s relationship. We’ll no doubt see that notion explored with more depth as Ava languishes behind bars, and Paxton’s wife reveals an even more sinister side, but for tonight at least, the anger inherent to ‘Justified”s premise got much more of a workout with its villain than in its leading man. Indeed, Raylan seems to be getting off easy these days, but knowing ‘Justified,’ it won’t last long.

Well, what say you?  Did you feel that ‘Justified’ hit the mark with its fifth season premiere? Are you looking forward to seeing what fresh hell the Crowes raise in Kentucky? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next Tuesday for another all-new ‘Justified’ recap of season 5, episode 2, “The Kids Aren’t All Right” on FX!

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