Because I was at SXSW last week, this open thread is a twofer, for which I’m sort of glad, if only because it gives me a chance to comprehensively discuss the political acumen of Mr. Boyd Crowder. This post contains spoilers through the March 20 episode of Justified.
Perhaps the biggest question in contemporary liberalism is whether it’s possible to forge a populism that brings together the white working class with people of color and immigrants. Boyd Crowder is probably not the person to answer that question, given the blowing up of churches and the white supremacy, but his behavior in these last two episodes suggests that in a world where we could run him against Rand Paul in Kentucky, we’d have one hell of an entertaining race on our hands.
His confrontation with Sheriff Napier at the debate is epic. After Napier tries to suggest that Boyd should be disregarded because his status as a felon means he can’t vote (a nice example of Justified drawing drama from real laws), Boyd calmly unloads on him. “”I didn’t come here to vote,” he explains. “You think Shelby’s the only man in this room been done by a coal mining company?…You talk down to me because I been in trouble with the law…[Starting with a picket line where] I know that you weren’t there Mr. Napier. There sure were a lot of men there who looked like you. Men standing on the company side. Laughing at all us hillbillies who were just trying to stand up for what we believed in.”
That summation of the balance of power gives way to some hilariously unorthodox electioneering. Ava’s decision to go contrary to Johnny’s wishes and the core of her and Boyd’s business, killing Delroy to save his girls may have been rather thrilling in the moment. But it doesn’t mean she’s exactly a feminist, just that she’s willing to run whores for a somewhat more innovative purpose than the vicious junkie she murdered. “The girls, they’re excited to practice their constitutional right to vote, and to give a free handjob for every vote cast for our friend Shelby,” she explains. “They’ve already given blowjobs to a couple of boys Napier was counting on to haul for him and convinced them to take the day off.” And Boyd is smart enough to realize that if shots, sex and populist appeal aren’t enough to pull off the election, that you can never go wrong knowing your electoral law as well as your voters.
Speaking of prostitution, we get a look inside the deeply troubled mind of Robert Quarles tonight in the wake of his defeat. When Wynn Duffy finds out his partner in crime has been popping Oxy, he asks “How long have you been taking those? Mr. Quarles, maybe it is time you leave Kentucky.” “I got nowhere else to go,” Quarles explains to him. And when a young man barges in on them with a gun, threatening to kill Quarles for torturing Brady Hughes, Quarles talks his way out of the standoff by exposing himself as a raw nerve end.
“My father was a heroin addict. He wasn’t necessarily an evil man. But he couldn’t kick his addiction, couldn’t keep a job either,” Quarles explains.Luckily for my father, he had a very pretty little boy. And plenty of men were willing to pay for my company. What is your name?…That’s what it was like for me, Donovan. For many years. And then one day a man named Theo realized what was happening. You see, Theo believed deeply in family…Theo ushered me in, where inside, on his knees, was my father. I was fourteen years old, and I understood what it meant to honestly be free…Hurt him. No, son, I never hurt him. I did everything I could to help him. And then I set him free.”
I’ve been debating with myself all season long whether I think the decision to make Quarles a sexual sadist adds to or detracts from his character. I tend to think the details, even these ones, are a bit formulaic. But I do think there’s something interesting about sending Raylan, in a moment when he’s a bit of a mess, up against someone who’s crazy. These are, in their own ways, two mythic figures facing each other at a moment when they’ve both been badly hurt. It’s Batman v. the Joker in Kentucky. In this land where hollers replace dark alleys, Raylan’s as close as you get to aristocracy, someone with a sense that peace is owed him and he’s going to take pleasure in wresting it from his rogue’s gallery.