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The Morning After: One Bad Mama

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FX

Quick spoilers for last night’s Justified coming up:

I wish I had more time to give “Brother’s Keeper,” the best episode of Justified this season (following on last week’s, which was the best to that point). But simply because attention must be paid, a quick hail of bullets on this explosive installment:

* I don’t believe Margo Martindale is going to win an Emmy this fall. I’m sorry. I would like to say otherwise,  but I suspect Justified is the kind of show that gets crowded out (it doesn’t have the broadcast-network support, and AMC, HBO and Showtime have been filling up the available cable slots) and, if anything she would fall into the “honor to be nominated” category. But she damn sure deserves to win: Mags is a once-in-a-blue-moon role, and Martindale wholly inhabits her—her craftiness, her emotion and her sociopathic coldness. And she got to hit every beat here, first cannily outwitting Carol (and revealing her impassioned objections were just talk) and then, in the episode’s climax, showing both raw emotion (her attachment to Loretta) and icy ruthlessness (her relative lack of mourning for son Coover).

* Speaking of which, there were plenty of acting plaudits to go around here. Kaitlyn Dever has been captivating as Loretta, and she was fantastic here in finally showing vulnerability, as her prematurely-grown, hardened character discovered her father’s murder and the horrible situation she really was in. And Brad William Henke, as menacing as Coover was, also managed to make him sympathetic (as well as pathetic), showing how deeply damaged he’s been by Mags. His violence, and inability to control it, is frightening, but it also shows how he’s a prisoner of his own brute body and limited mind—after he chokes Dickie, for instance, he’s immediately, childishly sorry, as if someone else did the deed.

* Also a nod, once again, to Jeremy Davies. Who, by the way (Lost, Spanking the Monkey) does have quite the history now of playing men with complicated relationships with their mothers.

* Finally, while I was initially unsure how well the coal-mining storyline would mesh with Justified’s drug-crime stories, it’s worked out fantastically well so far, and helped deepen the show’s sense of its particular regional world, its grievances, culture and alliances. With four more episodes to go, let’s hope this terrific show keeps delving deep.

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