Welcome to Season Four of Justified! Let's take a trip back to 1983, where, in a quiet little section of suburbia somewhere, a man's parachute fails to prevent him from crashing into the street hard enough to spill his own guts, along with a rather large number of bricks of some kind of white drug. All I can say is that the stuff must have been packed tight, given that less of it leaks onto the pavement than does the unfortunate parachutist's blood.
An old fling of Raylan's, who's now working in bail bonds in Knoxville, gets in touch with him and asks him for a favor -- a client of hers who skipped town has an ex-wife in his neck of the woods, so if he'll facilitate his capture should he turn up, she'll kick something his way. So it looks like Raylan's doing a little bounty hunting on the side for his unborn kid's sake. He hasn't traded in for a grey hat yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.
Boyd's a bit concerned that his oxy sales ain't what they used to be, and he gets intel from one of his wayward (and none too bright) field agents that a "Preacher Billy," under the aegis of his "Last Chance Holiness" church, is healing people's afflictions – including drug addiction. In probably related news, an old Army buddy of Boyd's, Colton Rhodes, turns up at Boyd's invitation for a reunion. Boyd wants Colton to work for him, presumably as an enforcer; it seems at first that Colton draws the line at killing, but when he blows the field agent's head off when Boyd didn't even mean for him to hurt the guy, it seems more likely that he draws the line at not killing. Meanwhile, when we finally see Preacher Billy's tent…er, "church," there's speaking in tongues and snake handling and whatever else, and who should be there but Ellen May – you remember, that whore Ava punched right in her stupid Jennifer Tilly voice – who's looking for a little redemption after having shot a client in a drug-fueled furry (yup, that kind) accident. Sorry, hon, but even the snake handler's probably going to raise an eyebrow when he hears your story.
In the plotline that's probably related to the opening flashback, Harlan Constable Patton Oswalt, an old friend of Raylan's he hired to keep an eye on Arlo's house, calls Raylan after chasing some wire-stripping kids out of there. Checking the damage, Raylan finds, in a bag hidden in the wall, a 1984-expired driver's license for a "Waldo Truth." Later, he also has a run-in with the female kid, who flashes him her rack while her partner steals Raylan's car, which is an especial problem given that they take it to the junkyard to be crushed with Raylan's bounty still locked in the trunk. This leads to the kind of multi-sided showdown with which the show makes its living; the upshot is that Raylan recaptures his prisoner and learns from the kids that they were after not just the wire but the bag's contents. This sends Raylan to see Arlo for the first time since Arlo's incarceration, and while Arlo claims not to know anything about the license, another prisoner overhears the exchange and approaches Arlo about making some money off the contents of the bag – and Arlo replies by slitting the guy's throat. He probably could have settled the good behavior question less messily, but how else could we have left him contemplating literal blood on his hands?
While it's true each season of this show has been its own discrete story, it seemed to me from the previews that this season was going to be a bit more of a reset; still a lot of the same characters (although Natalie Zea, who played Winona, is gone from the opening credits; if it's of interest, she'll still be under the Fox umbrella on The Following), but not much attempt to tie up any of the stuff we saw last season. It's early to say, but this episode certainly seems to bear that impression out -- for example, in this episode, there's no Limehouse, no Dickie, and, sadly, no one from the Marshals Office other than, very briefly, Rachel. But without further ado:
As a hard electric guitar and the strains of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" play, we open on a street so suburban it makes the musical choice rocket past light irony. A chyron helpfully informs us that it's January 21, 1983, and we see a deliveryman, with a practiced arm, toss a newspaper onto the steps of a porch still lousy with the sort of gaudy oversized Christmas decorations you'd sadly probably expect. The paper's masthead lets us know that we're in Corbin, KY (about an hour and a half from Harlan, according to Google Maps), and then a middle-aged man in a robe and pajamas opens the door in medias nags, as his wife is apparently up his ass for not having taken the Christmas lights down yet, and their practiced bitchery suggests their breakfast routine consists of too much coffee or not enough. The man returns inside and closes the door, but before we get to hear any further advertisements for the wonders of marriage, we see, reflected in the door's glass, a man plummet to the ground, followed by a parachute that apparently is not going to get a bonus this year. The man comes back out to find a grisly tableau -- the parachutist is lying on the ground, limbs twisted every which way and surrounded by not just his own blood and guts but, spilled out from a bag the hapless man was carrying, several large, well, bricks of some white powder. I don't know exactly what it may be, but if the guy was going to meet his end like this, I hope he at least dipped into the stash beforehand. And not to be all CSI: Cul-De-Sac about it, but if you notice, the guy is only wearing one shoe -- it may not be significant, but it does strike me as out of the ordinary. Unlike everything else about this, obvs. "Sherman" calls to his wife to phone the police, and when she asks what it is lying in the street, he replies, "Well, it sure as shit ain't Santa Claus!" Got a lot of the colors right, though. Also, you get new writers at the beginning of every season, so I'm just wondering if anyone on the current staff ever worked for Six Feet Under?