Though “Watching the Detectives” was short on action like last episode, it managed to nonetheless maintain high tension while keeping the many abounding plot threads advancing steadily even with Raylan stuck in his office for the majority of the time. Anyone familiar with the series knows Raylan’s been the focus of many investigations by other law enforcement agencies, which is why I loved “Watching the Detectives” for exploring how Raylan and the Marshals’ office reacts to multiple investigations occurring on top of each other. Not only is the FBI, in conjunction with ASUA Vasquez, grilling Raylan for his connections to Boyd Crowder (something Boyd took a few hits from Raylan over not long ago), but the Lexington Police Department are also very interested in Raylan after Winona’s pathetic ex-husband, Gary, was shot dead on the front lawn of his and Winona’s old home by none other than Robert Quarles. I wasn’t entirely sure how Quarles was to exploit Gary once they met at the end of last episode and instead of dragging out some elaborate blackmail scheme or hostage negotiation as I imagine many other series would, Gary was quickly dispatched before the opening credits to send a message to Raylan – that if he persists in getting himself tangled up in their dealings, Quarles and his crew will not hesitate to eliminate those close to him. I thought Raylan’s reaction to this message was a tad underwhelming though entertaining, as all we saw of it was his visit to Quarles’ recently evicted Lexington house in which he and Wynn Duffy had the most exciting exchange of the episode in which the Duffy we all love had some choice words for Raylan regarding some pretty tough threats for someone who got laid out by Raylan not long ago.
The fact that this potential shit-storm of convalescing investigations of Raylan’s professionalism was more or less abandoned by the end of the episode didn’t stop me from enjoying it as their resolutions made sense and foreshadowed potential development for the finale. The LPD only gave up after Winona, in a surprising and refreshing turn, successfully helped Raylan dispose of the planted evidence instead of making matters worse. I was also fairly moved by Natalie Zea’s performance when Winona received the news of her ex-husband’s untimely departure. I’m sure the Lexington detectives’ sentiment that Raylan’s explanation of his prints on the bullet used to kill Gary was “The coolest thing I’ve ever laid ears on,” (couldn’t’ve said it better myself) didn’t hurt either. Meanwhile, the FBI ultimately removed themselves from the collective ass of the Marshals’ department after Art, in totally nonchalant Art fashion, inquired as to the source of the Feds’ tip that Raylan is a “dirty cop” – their surveillance of Quarles’ boss’ shrimpy son whose later conversation with Quarles informing that he and his father will no longer be backing Quarles’ operation in Harlan revealed that they have a man in the FBI. Whether this insider is a fed turned criminal or a criminal in fed’s clothing shrouds the true nature of the FBI’s keeping tabs on the Detroit crime family and I’m curious how that will play into the climax of this season which got an added layer of intensity at the end of the episode when we learned that the now slightly more desperate Quarles does indeed have a wife and kids and is also dipping into his own oxycontin supply – breaking the cardinal rule of drug dealers. However the Fed’s involvement plays out, I enjoyed the contrast of the FBI’s shadowy investigation and that of the Marshals. It emphasized why Raylan is such a much loved character – his heart-on-sleeve consistency. Raylan is always the same honest, determined cowboy no matter the situation, whether he’s staring down the barrel of a gun or that of bureaucratic avalanche, which is why an episode that finds Raylan mostly confined to the walls of an office building can still be one of the most entertaining of the season.
While the law was preoccupied with impeding its own best agent, Harlan’s criminals had their own set of complications to work through. The episode’s first post-credits scene found Limehouse formally introducing himself to Quarles in which he revealed his desire to “back the winning team” in the Sheriff’s election which the audience saw literally heat up when Sheriff Napier’s car exploded just after he exited the vehicle. We got to see some of the dirty politics behind such a race as it is eventually revealed after Napier arrested Boyd for the car bomb, that Napier was in on it the whole time and the plan was designed to make him look like a hero in the press. Quarles’ former oxy clinic operator, Tanner, was actually Napier’s partner in the scheme which I found slightly confusing as he was previously seen attempting to make good with Quarles at the behest of Limehouse to which Quarles threatened to cut off Tanner’s balls and asked if he was willing to go to Harlan to shoot someone in the face. Instead I guess he asked Tanner to assist Napier’s image. Then in typically wonderful Justified fashion, the scene between Quarles and Limehouse at the beginning of the episode is round-aboutly returned to at the end in which the now fundless Quarles takes up Limehouse’s offer to back him. Limehouse has predominantly acted as a background character not because he isn’t profoundly influential in the plots of this season, but because he’s been consistently pragmatic in his machinations. Though it now appears Limehouse is going to back Quarles and Napier, Boyd, who’s contending with Quarles and backing Shelby against Napier (now from behind bars apparently), recently began “banking” with Limehouse and threatened to come after Limehouse should he not supply Boyd with good information on Quarles’ moves, therefore, I’m not sure whether Limehouse is ready to enter the game directly, or is simply playing both sides to his own benefit.
With only four episodes left before the battle for Harlan County concludes, “Watching the Detectives” was an excellent execution of more suspenseful and progressive set up that is peerless among television today.