Blowing up a black church with a rocket launcher hardly lends itself to moral ambivalence, but over two dozen episodes, local rabblerouser Boyd Crowder has managed to play both sides of right and wrong to the point where it’s still impossible to know what to make of him. A childhood friend of Raylan who embodies the pitfalls of growing up Harlan, Boyd (The Shield‘s instantly recognizable Walton Goggins) doesn’t prove himself to be Raylan’s foil (they’re far too friendly and familiar for that), but rather a nagging reminder of what this Kentucky environment can produce.
For all the things Raylan appears to be – cocksure, self-righteous, entitled – those qualities are tempered during his run-ins with Boyd. It’s a (somewhat) soft side that Raylan keeps from even his love interests. That said, this blessing Raylan offers before sitting to a meal with Boyd sums up the state of affairs nicely:
“Dear Lord, before we eat this meal, we ask for forgiveness for our sins, especially Boyd, who blew up a black church with a rocket launcher and afterwards shot his associate Jared Hale in the back of the head on Tates Creek Bridge. Let the image of Jared’s brain matter on that windshield not dampen our appetite but may the knowledge of Boyd’s past sins help guide these men. May this food provide them with all the nourishment they need, but if it does not, may they find comfort in knowing the United States Marshals Service is offering $50,000 to any individual providing information that will put Boyd back in jail.”
In less playful, but still charming fashion, Boyd ingratiates himself to both the law and audience by being a little less ruthless in dealing with Raylan than his criminal pedigree would dictate, transcending the “love to hate” cliché, winding up squarely in the “love to watch” camp. Boyd’s dubious allegiances to neo-Nazism, the sudden Christianity, and Black Pike mining, result in a constant skepticism, but also evoke a strange sympathy for his need to belong. He’s always entering or emerging from a scheme, but his opaque intentions keep us from writing him off completely. Though, the fact that he recruits Raylan’s dad Arlo for a criminal enterprise in season three can’t be a good thing.
The reasons behind a Detroit mob fixer’s arrival in Lexington isn’t clear going into the new season, but one can assume that his employers are unhappy with the way things have been running in Eastern Kentucky. When Quarles involves himself in the power struggle, it’s unlikely that the tightly-knit communities and enterprises will find him to be a welcome guest. The residents of Harlan are very welcome and accommodating. Until they decide not to be.
It would seem by the imbalance of the “past” and “present” sections of this examination that Harlan is gaining criminal elements much faster than the town or law can dispatch them, creating an orgy of criminal activities that are eager to see that they’re the last men standing. But, hey, at least they’re colorful, right? Right?
Justified premieres January 17th at 10 PM on FX.