The opening hour of Justified’s last rodeo ended on a note that felt very much like a mission statement for what to expect out of the final season. It wasn’t just enough to have Dewey, Harlan’s county jester, meet his maker in grisly fashion, but to have it be at the hands of Boyd, a character who, despite all his past transgressions, is still someone we can’t help but root for. While your mileage may vary as to what fate you think Boyd deserves, taking Dewey out of the equation could have marked a major tonal shift for the series. Every village needs an idiot, after all, so with Dewey gone, there came a question of how many of its final hours Justified wanted to devote to yucking things up.
“Cash Game” is a less impactful hour of Justified than the one that preceded it, but it serves as a reminder that half the reason the show has been so pleasurable over the years is because of how funny it can be. Just about everyone in the cast gets a great laugh line at some point during “Cash Game,” and the hour itself is among the most purely comic the show has ever done. It’s a smart way of approaching the seasonal setup that these early outings always entail; everything is leading up to Raylan and Boyd’s final showdown, and their stare down/etymology lesson near the end of the episode offered a nice appetizer for what’s no doubt to come.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Justified without a least a half-dozen other schemers and dreamers caught up in the mix. “Cash Game” seems to recognize that there’s really no need for a serious Big Bad this year, when all our investment is squarely in the Givens vs. Crowder title fight. Instead, “Cash Game” spends just as much time building up the threats posed by the season’s new players as it does undercutting them with Justified’s characteristically dry sense of humor.
Much of the episode is devoted to introducing the trio from TigerHawk Securities, who at this point might as well be run out of the offices of Howard and Fine. There’s Moe-like Ty Walker, the brains of the outfit, Seabass, the Larry-esque straight man, and Choo-Choo, who rounds out the act as a dumb lug of Curley-sized proportions and intelligence. Working through Harlan’s resident real estate mogul, Calhoun Schreier (Buddy Garrity himself, Brad Leland, as if the episode needed another hilarious ringer), the stooges from Fallujah have been picking up land all over Harlan. When Ty tries the same pitch he gave Raylan last week on an elderly landowner, she calls him a peacock and the devil. Hard to say she’s wrong on either count.
Ty is already making a run for status as one of Justified’s best supporting players, as Dillahunt peppers the character’s Boyd-ian verbosity with hints of desperate physicality that’s both charming and intimidating, whether ringing his Mercedes keys round his finger, or holding grocery bags akimbo like he were Chuck Norris with a pair of Uzis. It makes you glad he’s also clever enough to figure out that Boyd’s responsible for ripping off Calhoun’s safety deposit box, as you can probably go ahead and mint any scene that’s going to feature these two going toe-to-toe.
Just as it seems we’ve got ourselves a new Boyd, we’ve also got a new Dewey, too. Choo-Choo, to be fair, is a victim of coicumstance, his dim wattage owed to a piece of shrapnel in his head. Choo-Choo’s introduction is a lot of fun, as he’s forced to tail Raylan and Tim in a vehicle that might as well be a clown car for someone his size. From a pure plot level, Choo-Choo’s low I.Q. facilitates a lot of information transfer between the marshals and TigerHawk, but few shows handle exposition with as deft a touch as Justified. Choo-Choo’s Abbott and Costello routine with Raylan (“I’m not following you.”) is a hoot, as is Tim doing the most half-assed undercover work of his career. He barely even has to say a word before he’s got Seabass and Choo-Choo ready to jab fingers in each other’s eyes.
Our new Raylan has been with us since the start of the show, as Tim’s become so much of a Givens, about the only thing differentiating the two is Tim’s increasingly unique list of turn-ons (added this week: real estate talk). A mini-mindbender of a shot early on frames Tim and Raylan chatting in their cubicles, their heads separated by a pane of glass that might as well just be a mirror. With Rachel still handling things well as Art 2.0, and Vasquez still being Vasquez, Raylan’s looking more and more like an office redundancy.