The Boys Are Back

Justified is not coy about its heroes. When the show aired on FX in 2010, we met the unbearably gorgeous U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and knew within seconds—by the way he held himself and his general disdain for humanity—that he was the good guy that everybody loves to hate. He walked around with his signature cowboy hat, all brooding and handsome, flashing his starred Marshal’s badge everywhere, and we were like: oh. That’s who we’re rooting for.

And we did. And it was awesome.

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Justified has been both a serialized story and a procedural—sometimes both in the span of a single season. Its had some unbelievably awesome criminals with their own season-length arcs, and small-fry baddies that barely got out from under Raylan’s smoking hot gaze before crumbling at his feet. Throughout, our hero has gone head-to-head with his life-long nemesis, the ultimate villain: Boyd Crowder. At odds since attending preschool together in Harlan County, season one begins with Raylan returning home and confronting Boyd—the first in a series of showdowns that would come to characterize the show. Raylan wears the white hat, Boyd wears the black hat.

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In the final minutes of season five, we learned that the U.S. Marshals Service is going all-in on Boyd Crowder, hoping to nail the one-time-bank-robber-turned-drug-dealer-turned-racketeer-crime-boss with the RICO charge to end all RICO charges. But Raylan is tired—he just wants to head further south to his beloved non-wife and daughter, and leave Harlan behind for good. Raylan promises to see the Crowder case through before taking off—though not before turning Boyd’s wife, Ava (another high school buddy!) into a big-time informant. This will not end well.

While season one saw our main characters returning to and coming together in Harlan, the sixth and final season is all about getting outta dodge. Raylan’s done. Boyd will rob one more bank, then take his troubled wife and wrecked crime ring far, far away. And despite his unlawful intentions, Boyd’s utterly genuine, heartbreaking desire to get things right one last time flips the script for much of the premiere: Boyd as hero, for once.

Raylan, while certainly not the villain, is kind of—boring. He’s administering his usual fringe justice all around town—but his heart’s just not in it. Raylan is biding his time, waiting for the paperwork on his transfer to come through so that he can begin again someplace new. This, compared with a particularly moving scene between Boyd and Dewey Crowe, where both tear up remembering things as they once were, and wishing they could just “go back to the way it was.”

But then, with a gunshot and a terrifying closing shot focusing on Boyd’s face as he hovers above Ava’s sleeping form, we remember. This is a classic western-type cop show in many ways—but these characters are wicked smart, and they won’t play any nicer with us than they do with each other. Boyd is dangerous. Raylan is a dick. And both want out.

We’re better off rooting for the (innocent?) folks who stand in between the two frenemies—they’re going to need it.

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–Elise

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Fool Me Twice, or: I Only Have Myself to Blame

Note: Some spoilers for Homeland ahead!

It’s not often that I catch myself engaging in overtly self-destructive behavior. Sure, I’ve sent drunken texts I that regret, and then ordered pizza, cheesy bread, and a 2-liter Coke Reg for one—all when I had perfectly acceptable leftovers in the fridge, and an unacceptable amount of money in the bank. But I’d like to think I have my shit together in more important ways. I have a 401(k) for chrissake.

But recently, I made two decisions that caused me to question my good judgment. In a moment of temporary insanity, I decided to jump back into two shows I’d previously abandoned – Homeland and American Horror Story.

Homeland

I gave up on this show last season, with only two episodes until the finale. They’d stretched the Brody character so thin over three seasons that I gave no shits what happened to him, or to his lover Temple Grandin. Season four was strongly marketed as the reset we’d all been waiting for—which would have come in season two, had the writers had the balls to kill Brody off as planned. After three years of Carrie’s chin-quivering and derp-tastic Chris and Dana, I was so ready to see Ms. Matheson be good at her job again, sans distractions. There was a zero percent chance that the writers wouldn’t have Carrie running around shouting at everyone like a mental patient. But I was willing to accept that, as long as her instincts were finally back on track. So I was reeled back in.

Homeland 312-1And, if we ignore all that baby stuff, it started off pretty strong. The murder of that bald guy from House of Cards launched a promising mystery. Tracy Letts was killing it, per usual. As was sexy, sexy, tiny-mouth himself, Peter Quinn.

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I should have known it was too good to last.

When Carrie started coaching Fara to seduce-recruit the Teen Virgin/Doctor, a red flag went up in my brain. Please do not go where I think you’re going to go, Homeland. I will seriously do your chores for a month if you will just let this show have a strong, stable female protagonist who kicks ass in the field. And that’s it, The End, no weird sex entanglements. Kewl?

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If she were a dude, the writers never would have had her screw that kid. Or given her the feelz for Brody. And Quinn is in love with her?! WHY?!?!?!? NOTHING MAKES SENSE. For two seconds I was lead astray, but my initial instincts to drop this hot mess were right. Auf Wiedersehen, Homeland, you piece of shit.

Unrelated, but I must get this off my chest, since I’m unlikely to write about Homeland ever again: Why did everyone call him Brody?!? EVEN HIS WIFE. MRS. BRODY. Srsly why.

American Horror Story

I watched the first season of this show on FX without knowing it was an anthology series. I was extremely confused when everyone died in the last couple episodes. How are they going to keep this going next year? American Horror Story: All Connie Brittons Go to Heaven? The premier season had some pretty scary moments, especially the faceless, latex-clad dude creepin’ around in the background. But the back half of the episodes felt tedious, and I didn’t tune into Asylum or Coven out of laziness.

The critical dialogue surrounding the series, coupled with this season’s Freak Show conceit, piqued my interest, so I’m back. I hadn’t seen the show since it fully embraced its campiness, and a circus provides the perfect platform. The freaks are set starkly against the vivid 50s Florida background. I’m into the anachronistic music, and super into Kathy Bates’ stellar performance as the bearded lady.

So why was jumping back into this show such a mistake?

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I don’t have any issue with clowns generally. But this clown. Fucking sucks. I hate him. Every time I try to fall asleep he creeps into my brain, and I’m convinced he’s standing by my bed with those effing scissors. Everyone! This is my Gone Girl-style diary—if I end up dead, a fictional character came through the TV and murdered me to death.

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You’d think I’d know better—I’m a life-long fraidy cat. I do not enjoy being scared. I was sort of tricked into seeing The Ring in theatres, and I was so upset afterward I ended up sleeping in my parents’ bed, still shaking. I was a freshman in high school.

Despite Twisty the Clown, or The Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me Personally, I will keep watching Freak Show. It is truly original, and I am fascinated to see where the writers will take the season. In a world with no rules, it could go anywhere, for better or worse.

And I’d rather watch a literally-decaying nightmare than this wet wad of toilet paper.

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– Alison