Justified: City Primeval Recap: The Detroit Way

Justified: City Primeval

You Good?
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Justified: City Primeval

You Good?
Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Chuck Hodes/FC

Carolyn and Raylan sitting in a police-issued vehicle drinking Blanton’s … k-i-s-s-i-n-g …

Okay, I’m very bad at rhyming. And fine — we don’t know exactly where the aisle-crossing hookup between Raylan, the deputy U.S. Marshal tasked with finding Judge Guy’s murderer, and Carolyn, the defense lawyer for the man who murdered Judge Guy, started. Maybe it was in Raylan’s car, or maybe it was after Carolyn invited him inside; maybe they finished that bottle and moved on to something else, or maybe the bourbon wasn’t really what led to them falling into bed together. I will leave these various details for Archive of Our Own authors to dream up; thank you all for your service. But more important than the details of how Carolyn and Raylan happened is what occurs afterward, which is another realignment of alliances and enmities that shakes up City Primeval.

We’re midway through this limited series, and who trusts whom remains all twisted up in “You Good?” — this is an episode of moves and countermoves, secrets and revelations, and they’re mostly handled quite gracefully in dialogue-driven scenes that center various pairs. The Carolyn-Raylan thing (I hesitate to say romance because they end the episode on messy terms) is a complication for both of them, but their unexpected dalliance also gives each character a new guiding question. Does Carolyn want to put her trust in someone like Raylan, who says he’ll protect her but also, to a certain extent, represents power and authority in a way that is a little self-serving, a little presumptive, a little gross? If Raylan is trying to stop being the shoot-from-the-hip guy, isn’t shoving his badge into Jamal’s face or considering entrapping Clement in some way a backsliding move? Carolyn and Raylan spend “You Good?” in phases of self-assessment, but I’m not sure the decisions they make by the end of the episode are really setting a potential relationship between them up for success.

There aren’t really barriers between the personal and professional for people like Raylan, Carolyn, Clement, Sweety, and Sandy, though. Raylan has always been bad at keeping his interior life and his opinions out of his work, and Carolyn is smart enough to read him for that. But she’s not savvy enough to play the political game, ending up on her back foot as she tries to get Judge Guy’s seat; her faith and trust in the law is admirable, but that’s not how you get ahead. You advance forward in this Detroit with friends, and the only ones Carolyn has (save Raylan, if they keep up what they’ve been doing) are criminals. Something similar is going on with Clement and Sandy: Sandy finally seems irritated by her lover’s short-temperedness, but she’s too tied up in his schemes to extricate herself even if she wanted to. She has always been a girlfriend and a partner in crime, and she can’t be one to Clement without being the other. Who can she turn to for help? The Albanians? Nope. Poor Skender — he’s already forgotten, seemingly wafting out of Sandy’s brain on a cloud of pot smoke and milkshake fumes.

It’s been five days since Judge Guy and Rose’s deaths, and the Detroit Police Department has no real suspects, no evidence, no leads. With the governor pissed off, the task force gets sent out to rework the crime scenes, meaning Raylan and Wendell are paired off again. Wendell is convinced the case will never be solved, but Raylan — unsurprisingly, of course — can’t accept that. This man lived through the Drew Thompson mystery, you know? A couple of murders aren’t going to get by him. Whoever has the book, Raylan figures, pulled the trigger. Meanwhile, Carolyn, trying to get Sweety out of his deal with Clement, leans on Sweety’s partner, Trennell, to retrieve Clement’s gun. Maybe if she has that, she can figure out a deal to save Sweety, like they had talked about before.

This is the side of Carolyn that will do anything for her clients, but it’s not until later in the episode that she finally takes the leap into using that same ruthlessness for her own personal gain. Before then, we see Sweety and Clement peruse Judge Guy’s book for blackmail opportunities, eventually targeting a real-estate developer nicknamed Bulldozer Burt. Because what’s in the book is still nebulous (“secrets or favors or payoffs,” Raylan mused), City Primeval doesn’t give us the full details on whatever Burt did, outside of “capitalism,” to get on Guy’s list. Instead, the shakedown scene between Burt, Clement, and Sweety is more about contrasting how little cash Sweety is satisfied with versus how much Clement wants, and I’m curious if Clement will tell Sweety about his later late-night visit to — and painting payment from — Burt. Or, now that Clement knows the book works, does he need Sweety at all?

Cutting Sweety out would mean cutting Carolyn out, too. After Carolyn starts “You Good?” on the seeming high of a rendezvous with Raylan and some delightful kissing in her driveway, she ends the episode embarrassed, demoralized, and determined to get the judgeship she believes she is owed. I accept all the frustrations that get her there because Aunjanue Ellis’s performance is so refined and her portrait of Carolyn as a woman teetering on the edge so fully developed. Her admission to Raylan that “if the Devil gave me a box of chocolates, I’d eat them” goes from flirty to foreboding really quick, doesn’t it? Yet it’s not Raylan who tips her into immorality but Jamal, the ex-husband who crashes her “Monster’s Ball–ish” date with Raylan and tries to win her back with declarations of love and devotion while actually living with another woman.

In Jamal, Carolyn sees all her mistakes: someone she loved and trusted since childhood who destroyed her reputation and her credit, who took advantage of her willingness to forgive, and who will lie to her face. Ellis’s devastated look when she realizes Jamal had moved on but was still draining her of alimony, coupled with her conversation with Raylan about how “everybody has their foot on my neck to get what they want,” was enough to make me believe that she would go to Sweety and try to use Judge Guy’s book for her own benefit. So whose name did Carolyn see in Judge Guy’s book that is big enough that it would cause in Detroit the same impact as the biblical story about the walls of Jericho tumbling down? My first guess is a DPD-related name since Judge Guy had really emphasized to the task force that he had dirt on its squad: “I’ve seen some shit, things you and your bosses don’t want to come to light.” My second guess is Diane, Carolyn’s friend turned rival, who we know is friends with the governor and is intent on using that political connection to end up with the gavel. I look forward to Ellis taking Carolyn in a potentially more villainous direction, and if she gets to share a scene with, say, the more straightforward baddie Toma, that would be welcome.

Speaking of the Albanians: Where are they? After all the violent hype they received in “Kokomo,” I’m surprised “You Good?” passes with only a couple mentions of them (including someone in Judge Guy’s book whom Sweety advises not messing with). Wouldn’t the cops be questioning Tina, or the sole living Albanian muscle holding her captive, to get more information on Clement? Shouldn’t there be some cops watching the Venus facility to see (and follow) if Toma gets a lead on Clement and sends any of his men after him? Those little gaps remind me a bit of how Raylan and Wendell let Clement slip out of their grasp during “The Oklahoma Wildman,” and I think the show has been uniformly weak on really communicating the urgency and desperation of the DPD in response to Judge Guy’s murder — especially if Guy, as he had threatened, really did have dirt on the cops in his book.

Nevertheless, “You Good?” is probably the best episode of City Primeval so far, and I don’t say that just because we see Raylan leaning rakishly without a shirt on. I had praise for “Kokomo” because the absence of Willa transformed Raylan, and I’ll offer the same compliments for “You Good?,” which finally delivered a lengthy chat between Sweety and Clement about music and Miles Davis that explained why these two disparate men would be friends, another that successfully sold Carolyn’s breaking-bad decision, and a closing that made good use of Paul Calderón as Raymond Cruz, the protagonist from Elmore Leonard’s source-material novel. The series is really running into the ground its gag of “Raylan is surprised by another cop being more of a tempestuous maniac than he is,” but Calderón is so balanced between fatigued and ambivalent while telling his story about killing a longtime foe that I’m more moved by this altercation and his shrugging “That was that” than any time Raylan has butt heads with the short-tempered Norbert. Leonard veteran Calderón (he was also in Out of Sight!) really coming through.

Cat Videos, Mostly 

• Original-Justified-cast-member-cameo count: Continuing to include this little bullet point is just setting myself up for sadness. What do we think Tim Gutterson is doing right now? You know that he loves this shit! You know this shit would make him hard! Get our man on a plane to Detroit already!

• Was Raylan’s text to Willa the first text he has ever sent her? Wouldn’t there have been an existing father-daughter chat history? Also, I would have loved to know what Winona thought about Willa coming home early.

• Will the fact that Rose was an informant for Maureen matter at any point? It felt like a big moment when Maureen admitted that over Rose’s body in the park, and now Maureen is in charge of the investigation into Rose and Judge Guy’s murders, but nothing else has been said about how and why she was feeding info to the DPD. Curious.

• Speaking of Calderón, he got a mention in Vulture critic Bilge Ebiri’s long talk with Samuel L. Jackson, which you should absolutely read.

• A few weeks ago, a reader named Robert (hi, Robert!) emailed me to ask what I thought about the blocking in Clement’s murder of Judge Guy, in particular how “the encounter with the Judge was seen by us viewers as a random one set into motion by [Clement] being cut off, yet he goes right for the black book as if he knew it was there.” I agree that it’s odd how Clement rifled through Guy’s pockets and found the book almost immediately, but I took that to mean that Clement has a killing-people routine and a set of steps he takes after each murder: search the body, search the car, take whatever, and get away. Robert’s point is a good one, though, because it’s the same question that we see puzzling Raylan and Wendell in this episode. Did someone hire Clement to kill Judge Guy? Surely that level of violence had a predetermined motive, and surely the motive was the book! Most other villains would have reasons for what they do, but I think the contradiction here is the point. The Oklahoma Wildman does what he wants, and trying to assign logic to his actions is a fool’s errand. He’s just a bundle of id, and he’s experienced enough to have found the book with seemingly no effort at all.

• The TV industry needs to come up with some kind of award to give Timothy Olyphant for his beautifully sardonic delivery of “So don’t tell everyone at school?” when Carolyn asks Raylan to keep their night together private. An exceptional line reading.

• I’m not sure how much longer David Cross will stick around as the blackmailed Burt Dickey (or if he will, as Tobias Fünke did, blue himself), but Justified has always done a good job integrating former stand-ups and mostly comedic actors into its ensemble; I’m thinking of Patton Oswalt, Stephen Root, and Mike O’Malley. Cross-joining that crew feels right.

• SPOILER ALERT: Both of the stories that Raymond tells Raylan, about a baddie one time shooting up his house and Raymond shooting someone who ended up only holding a bottle opener, come directly from City Primeval. From Chapter 15:

The typewritten message said: SURPRISE CHICKEN FAT!!!

Raymond would replay the scene, what happened next, and at first believe the guy was right outside because the timing was that good … sitting there looking at the typed words, wondering …

And the front window and the lamp exploded, the glass shattering and he was in darkness. 

• Oh, and related to that: LOL at Wendell’s “If I wrote this case as a whodunit, wouldn’t have sold one copy.”

Justified: City Primeval Recap: The Detroit Way