4x12 – Peace of Mind
“Nothing brings you peace but the triumph of principles.”
“Ralph Waldo Emerson said that,” says Boyd Crowder, so quiet in the midst of everything twirling, and here it is, here we are, the home stretch. That part of the season— so great and gut-twisting— that we get to every season. Every year, I swear I think it’s the year we’re going to go big with it and no, never, it’s right back full-circle, ever tighter and tighter, honing right in with a laser scope on the heart of the thing we care about most. That’s what this year has been, right from the start: what we care about, what matters most. We never really got around to facing down bad guys this year. Raylan and Boyd and Ava and everyone, it’s kept backfiring and instead, over and over and over, we’ve kept going back to the richer and harder fight of having to face yourself. Our mystery of the cutthroat drug-smuggling murderer: he’s the soft-hearted, badass local hero of a man who forfeits his escape to save a whore. Our original sin of Billy and the church tent and his cunning sister Cassie: but she’s the girl who, out of love, was only keeping her brother’s true belief afloat. “His heart was the pure one,” she says to Tim now. She says so softly, “Mine’s not so pure.” There it is, too. That self-awareness that’s dogged us all season. We haven’t lost it. Not a bit.
Self-deception, that’s a different story. Self-destruction; a little bit. The irony of the thing, where Boyd’s line about peace and principles sends him right out the door gunning for Limehouse and Ellen May. Raylan would love to be there to laugh at the irony of that one. But the same line for Ava, double standard or not, is what sets things to churning deep down in her gut. “I look at you, Ava,” says Limehouse, “and I see somebody I hardly even know anymore.” “The way you do business,” says Ava to Limehouse, “it’s a wonder you got any friends,” not even able to say the words and look him in the eye. They’re both talking to themselves. They’re both talking about themselves. They’re both the pot and the kettle covered in ash. The thing is, Limehouse knows it and is damn straight doing something about it while Ava knows it and is trying one last time to look away. Not for long. Just one last time. Because Limehouse can preach the hard-earned object lesson on self-deception: in this whole mess in the first place on account of what he thought Noble’s needed. In the process damn near lost everything in the world he holds dear. And Ava. In this whole mess in the first place because of who she is. Because of her principles, not in violation of them. It’s what Johnny called her out on the day Ellen May knocked on their door: her big heart causing trouble. The big heart that’s always had to bring in broken things to make them well. (“She ain’t a stray kitten,” Johnny said back then. “You can’t keep her.”) If you had to trace that line back to what landed her in this shit, there’s as good a place as any: caring for Boyd, for Ellen May. Nothing else. It was just so right and then it got turned around so wrong.
If I loved the Baby-I-respect-it scene from back then, I love even more the I-respect-it-on-every-level scene here. The dark mirror, the reminder, the back-to-basics sea change. The heart and principles in Ava, the Ava we’ve always known, that Boyd loves and honors and respects the most. It’s the thing in her that counterbalances him, makes him better, whole, accountable to a higher power. We got away from that this season, a little bit. Boyd this year has been Limehouse last year: uncharacteristically, myopically consumed with securing the future to the point that everything he cares about is what he stands most to lose. It’s so not like Boyd, to lack a grasp of the big picture. The Boyd of three months ago wouldn’t have been oblivious to Johnny’s duplicity, blind to Colt self-destructing right in front of his eyes. Wouldn’t have been so behind the game, scrambling to keep up, hanging on inch by inch to every whiplash of the Detroit mob. He’s always had the foresight to be ten steps ahead of every trick in the book. He’s always had the restraint to sit back and look at every piece in its place. In a way, this season, it’s what he’s chosen to look away from, instead of what he’s chosen to look towards, that’s come back to bite him in the ass.
It’s time— you can feel that muscle of it in the story, the full-tilt of it, the desperation— to get that balance back. It’s time for Boyd this season to be Limehouse this season. It’s time to course-correct. “I don’t believe in fate,” says Boyd, “I can’t.” The river of it, he says, is only what our actions dictate. Even this off-balance, scrambling Boyd has never chosen a word lightly. River is right— this rushing river of action that’s as impossible to take back as a handful of water. But with any small amount of luck and courage, the grace is there to step back and reevaluate the course at any time. “If, if, if,” says even Nicky Augustine. “Why are we trafficking in might-have-beens?” He gives his own kick in the pants to Johnny: “You’re the one who decided to bite the hand. Accept responsibility for your choices.” No need for might-have-beens. Only what-nows, what’s next? Boyd can quote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boyd knows there is another half to that line: Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.
Ava: You think telling this girl what you done, that cleans your slate? Purifies your mortal soul? Well, it don’t. Not by a long shot.
Ellen May: I don’t believe that, Ava. I don’t believe a word comes outta your mouth. I know what I know.
Ava: And what’s that?
Ellen May: That if God can forgive me, I can forgive you too.
Ava: I don’t need your forgiveness, Ellen May. And I don’t talk to God.
Ellen May: There’s peace in repentance, Ava. It’s unlike anything you ever felt.
Ava: I always found peace comes from doing what your heart tells you’s right. And we ain’t got control over the rest. ‘Cause it wasn’t God that let you out of that room up in Noble’s. Or pulled you outta Colt’s car or put this gun in my hand. That was people making choices all down the line, Ellen May.
Ellen May: Well, what choice you making?
Ellen May with her chin up, jaw set, eyes bright. Looking Ava, unflinching, right in the eye. She’s been the heart and soul of this whole thing. Not even a clue how many of these miracles are ones she’s worked herself. Ava could no more pull the trigger on her than Ava could pull the trigger on Ava— that never has been or will be who Ava is. There but for the grace of God, et. al., and the showdown becomes Colt and Tim’s. Tim does pull the trigger. But Tim Gutterson, sniper in the Iraq and Afghan wars, is used to pulling that trigger through a long scope from miles away. Not this close. Not a face he knows. Not a man who’s been in the shit, who’s been where he’s been been, who’s lighting the cigarette and with a relish taking that one last deep, free breath. The right thing at the right time for the right reasons— and still, it can be a bitch.
Caring sucks. It hurts and it filets you like a perch and it’s so much easier to not care at all but I guess we got it straight a long time ago that easier’s not what we’re after. Who is it, after all, this new Raylan who cares so vehemently about his job? We’ve had vehement Raylan, yes, and crazy headstrong Raylan but only about something that deeply matters which is usually all kinds of personal and not so much at all about anything that’s gonna earn him a paycheck. The job, possibly, the deflection and self-deception now. The distraction, the substitute, for the heart of the matter he’d just as soon avoid. Because Jesus God, it can hurt. It’s walking around with your heart outside your body. A heart that’s vulnerable enough buried deep in a ribcage and now there’s not even that protection.
In the end, he lets Ellen May know it, that all this has been Shelby looking out for her. And he gives the go-ahead for her to run and throw her arms around Shelby, protocol be damned. It hasn’t quite been Drew Thompson and the Hooker with a Heart of Gold. It’s just been Shelby, and Ellen May. Neither quite worthy by half, a lot of folks might say, of that kind of selfless father-daughter love but that’s not the way it works, not by a long shot and instead they’re both worthy of it twice over. And how important it is, how major and crucial and precious, gets hinted at when Raylan turns his head away. Buries it in the paperwork of the case that’s haunted him to make his career. He won’t look it straight in the eye, all his own demons he’s been trying to ass-kick this season. The soft, awed “holy shit!” on the phone with Winona, it’s a girl more momentous than maybe the one round of applause the marshals’ office is ever gonna give him. (“What’s the matter with you, Raylan?” says Art. “You’re not used to positive attention?”) All the backslaps and congratulations (and suspensions) of the most important case to ever cross his desk and all it amounts to is a nuisance in the background. Here’s what really matters. And, same as Boyd, here’s what’s going right in the crosshairs. It’s time to care. It’s gonna hurt like a bitch. There’s nothing like it in the world.
Another knockout by Elmore and Leonard (as in Taylor and Chang), but what’s really fitting is that Gwyneth Horder-Payton— alumni of The Shield and just about every other show— gets to direct the episode that’s so full-circle from Loose Ends, her episode last year. Oh, to be so innocently cheering Ava on to take out Delroy again.
Nice touch as Johnny thinks he knows exactly what Boyd and Limehouse are up to, à la what we were so fond of last week, and it’s the hard-cut to Boyd gunning up to take out Limehouse and Johnny is wrong. (Right after Limehouse, incidentally, spells out Johnny’s predicament point by point.)
“It’s everybody wins-day here at Johnny’s bar!” Well, the theme of the season: “Everybody except Johnny.”
“Oh! Sexy!” Rachel v. Limehouse? 1. That’s a fight I will watch all day. 2. Watch Tim (as in Olyphant) crack up over Mykelti’s shoulder. 3. Limehouse? Oops, I mean “Lemonhead.” (Aww. Lemonhead.)
“I told the guy I was gonna toss the joint. Can’t just be an idle threat or I’ll look like a pussy.”
“It’s my job, being a dick. It’d be weird if you liked me.”
How To Be A US Marshal, A Field Guide by Raylan Givens.
“Winona! I don’t know shit about girls.”
“That is so sweet, saying it like I don’t already know.”
There is flat-out no one here I don’t care about, as evidenced by the 0.5 seconds it took my brain to synapse from delight at seeing Picker to oh shit Picker!, registering what that meant. I don’t even know what my wishlist is for next week. I don’t even care! I’m scared to re-up what I had for last year’s finale— 1. Boyd and Ava intact— but for the sake of my heart and head (and Boyd’s) those kids better be intact. (Shit. It hurts to care.)
Same time, season three: Boyd was getting the big picture on Dickie Bennett before Dickie Bennett ever walked in a room, triple-guessing all the double-crosses of Coalition. Limehouse and Raylan left Loretta with a shit ton of money, but it was Boyd who swore over the pulp of Dickie Bennett: “There ain’t enough money in the goddamn world.”