Raylan’s gunslinger reputation on Justified was a boon and a curse. It helped him outsmart people who thought they could keep up with him, like Danny Crowe, with his stupid 21-foot rule, and also attracted baddies who were just unhinged enough to take Raylan on, like the ironically-named Boon in season six. That aura was as much part of who Raylan was back then as his U.S. Marshals badge or his Stetson.
But in City Primeval, in a Detroit setting where neither Raylan’s quick-shooting actions in Miami nor Harlan are well-known, he’s free of all that baggage. (Even the Detroit mobsters Raylan killed weren’t actually killed in Detroit.) Here and now, he’s more of an investigator, trusting his instincts and knowledge of people to put pieces of relationships together, to guess at the connections between Sweety, Clement, and Sandy, and intuit that Carolyn isn’t working for Clement because she wants to. It takes longer to burn down Raylan’s fuse these days, which is how you know that Clement is a real goddamn problem. Threatening Willa got two dudes thrown in a trunk. Lying to her, cozying up to her, touching her, flirting with her? I’m surprised Raylan stopped at punching Clement in the face. The man we used to know would have killed him.
“The Oklahoma Wildman” starts with a flashback to 2017 that confirms Clement has been blase about murder for a long time and elucidates how he and Sweety are connected. Back then, they were two of four members of the Wrecking Crew, a criminal gang named, I’m assuming, as an homage to the session musicians of the 1960s and 1970s who added so much to the growth of rock, pop, and R&B. Sweety used to be one of those guys before he got caught with drugs and turned more fully to a life of crime. The Wrecking Crew would go around robbing drug dealers for cash and product, with Sweety — the only Black man in the four — infiltrating the dealers and then Clement, Mike, and Finn walking into those stash houses and cleaning them out. City Primeval has been nodding at issues of race so far in these two episodes, with Judge Guy calling Detroit a “racist-ass” city and some of the tension between Sweety, Carolyn, and Clement seemingly tied to his omnipresent, offhanded prejudice. This 2017 scene proves Clement has always been this guy, bristling at every perceived or actual slight.
He outs Sweety as the inside man when the elder encourages Clement to walk out with a smaller haul. He attempts to kill everyone else involved in the burglary — all three drug dealers, the other two members of the Wrecking Crew — but inadvertently leaves one of the former group alive to identify him. When Detective Wendell leads the raid against Clement three days later, he’s with Sandy (so their relationship has been going on for a while) and, although she’s terrified, he’s totally unfazed. He has the presence of mind to call Sweety asking for a lawyer, and that’s how Carolyn enters the picture, pulled into representing a client who she knows will spill about Sweety’s involvement if she doesn’t do a good job. She gets Clement off by using some obscure federal statute, he walks away from all those attempted-murder charges, and here we are. For a second there, I thought Sweety had been the one who told the cops about Clement, and I must admit that I’m confused as to why that eyewitness told the cops about Clement but not about Sweety’s involvement as the inside man. Sweety stayed behind and was arrested, right, which Wendell was present for? Maybe I’m missing some details here about why Sweety and Carolyn feel begrudgingly indebted to Clement, or maybe it’s one of the few elements of this episode that feel a little underdeveloped.
Like, why did Wendell and Raylan both leave the penthouse to follow Sandy when they seemingly suspected that Clement was there in the apartment too, and one of them could have followed him if they stayed behind? Or, why didn’t Wendell make some calls to get a search warrant for Sweety’s bar if Wendell and Raylan suspected the gun that killed Judge Guy was being stashed there — isn’t killing a judge a huge deal, and wouldn’t other judges be so sympathetic to the search to find his killer that they would fast-track a warrant? Raylan’s a federal agent; wouldn’t that be information hotel employees should know not to give out to random tattooed strangers who saunter into their establishment claiming to be from Glynco but with no official identification? And here’s a writing pet peeve: Wendell isn’t in that hotel room with the Givenses when Raylan complains about the $34 room-service coffee, but he’s then needling Raylan about that exact price during their stakeout together. Sure, Raylan could have told Wendell about the coffee off-screen; I might be being nitpicky. But that feels like an overworked moment in contrast to those other moments that ignore some real-world protocols and routines to make Clement feel more dangerous. Boyd Holbrook has great threatening swagger; this episode loses some internal logic in making sure we know that.
After the flashback, “The Oklahoma Wildman” picks up immediately where “City Primeval” left off. Raylan has to work because of the double murder, and so he does to Willa what he used to do all the time to her mother Winona: promise that the very important thing he’s doing will take far less time than it actually will, setting her up for resentment and frustration as he chases his single-minded law-enforcement goal. Aw, Raylan, we know all your tricks! While he dumbly expects his headstrong daughter to stay in their hotel room all day, he rides around with Wendell, chasing down whatever information they can track down from the scene of Judge Guy and Rose’s murders. First up is Del Weems’s penthouse because it turns out that the Range Rover Clement was driving when he purposefully hit the judge was Del’s car. Sandy’s performance here, with her little coughs and her little lies, is hilariously transparent, and Wendell and Raylan follow her because they know she’s lying about her relationship with Clement. And they take a paint sample from the Range Rover because they’re pretty sure they’ve found their killer; the issue now, of course, is proving it. Sandy, Sweety, and Carolyn are all in their way, defending Clement or, at the very least, refusing to go against him. Could any of them turn? The fact that we see Clement grab and threaten Carolyn, within Raylan’s earshot, feels deliberate. So do all the mentions of Sandy’s marijuana dependency; is there some kind of charge she could get hit with to make her cooperate against Clement?
Meanwhile, Clement knows that he has a goldmine in Judge Guy’s little brown notebook; after reading through it, people would have paid “real money” to have him killed, Clement says. But how is this information actionable? Does Clement just call up Guy’s enemies and say, “Hey, I got rid of the judge for you, want to pay me off”? I’m curious if there’s actually a narrative avenue here, maybe involving some of the other shady characters we know about. Jamal’s creditors? Or the DPD, who we see actively looking for the notebook? Clement’s already set up a defense for himself by going to Carolyn and telling her that Raylan is harassing him, which, lol, okay. How will Carolyn respond when she learns that Clement misidentified himself and threatened Willa — shouldn’t that be something Raylan calls to tell her? Or was Clement banking on the fact that Raylan would lose his cool and beat him up to basically entrap Raylan? I’m a little cool to the latter idea, just because I don’t buy yet that Clement is this criminal mastermind who, after meeting Raylan once, can size up everything he’d do. And I’m also cool to the idea that Willa would just wander around desolate, worn-down areas of Detroit on her own; is she confident because she knows Raylan will always get her out of trouble, or confident because she’s his daughter and thinks she’s more street-smart than she actually is?
A lot of questions are raised by this episode, but this is what we know: Clement has pissed Raylan off. In that first meeting between the two, Olyphant does a great job making Raylan seem reassured by, almost gleeful about, what a jerk Clement turns out to be; this is a man he can hate, a man who deserves to, after years of getting away with crime and violence and destruction, get taken down. And as we know from what eventually happened to Boyd Crowder, the Bennett clan, the Detroit mob, Winona’s crappy second husband Gary, Tommy Bucks, the Florida Crowes, Avery Markham and his crew, including the gloriously bearded Garret Dillahunt, Wynn Duffy, and Raylan’s own dad Arlo, you do not want to piss Raylan off.
Cat Videos, Mostly
• If the talk of Isiah Thomas and his legacy with the Detroit Pistons is intriguing to you, add the 30 for 30 episode “Bad Boys” and The Last Dance miniseries to your watch list. Thomas is such an interesting figure in both because, with a wide smile and a calm tone, he’ll rationalize every incredibly competitive and, arguably very unsportsmanlike, thing the Pistons did back during their dominant reign. Michael Jordan has such a pure, crystalline dislike for Thomas in The Last Dance; the best gifs from that series are Jordan reacting, with mockery and disgust, to something the former point guard and coach said or did.
• Original Justified cast member cameo count: Sadly, still zero.
• How do people feel about the series’s look so far? I’m not loving this muddled cinematography in which it looks like only the top of people’s heads are lit; it’s giving faux-gritty. On an acting level, though, Holbrook’s mispronunciation of “corrobrate” made me laugh very much.
• Detroit’s elite Palmer Woods neighborhood got a mention last episode when Clement was surprised that Judge Guy lived there, and again in this episode, again by Clement, when he’s robbing the drug dealers. It’s slightly repetitive writing, but as an attempt to emphasize Clement’s obsession with money and status and surprise when Black people have either, it’s effective so far.
• This episode’s music mentions: Travis Tritt, the Chamber Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today,” and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog.”
• Of course Sandy likes espresso-tinis. And of course Clement scratches his tighty-whitey-clad junk with his gun; a wonderfully gross little character detail.
• Best descriptions of the episode: A tie between Sandy saying of Skender, “He’s kind of Albanian,” and Clement’s “Chicken Fat” nickname for Raylan. I’m assuming Clement goes with that since he’s irritated by Sandy describing Raylan in very hot terms: “dewy skin … quiet, polite … there’s some meanness in him.”
• Detective Raymond Cruz, played by Paul Calderón in the 2017 flashback, is the protagonist of Leonard’s City Primeval, a homicide detective who chases after Clement and whose maybe-Latin-American heritage sets him apart in Detroit. In the series, he’s described by Wendell as a Rust Cohle type, someone who after 32 years couldn’t keep up with how “the world changed … hell of a detective who just had enough.” Curious to see if the character plays more of a role, or if this little glimpse of him as the arresting officer whose charges against Clement couldn’t stick is all we get as Raylan takes his place.