By John Keegan and Henry Tran
Robert Quarles tried to pull off something that would makes things real complicated for his two chief opponents. There were mixed results that followed. For a time, all of the investigations converged towards Raylan, with the very real possibility that he might be booted from the Marshal Service.
Quarles also arranged for his underlings to frame Boyd on charges of attempted murder. Since the current sheriff is in Quarles' pocket, this is easier to achieve than the mess with the Marshals and the FBI. But Quarles seems more worried about what Raylan will do to him than anything else, so he goes to make an alliance with Limehouse, and that might be the first instance where Quarles doesn't have the upper hand.
It's interesting to see how the sudden murder of Gary at Quarles' hand leads to so many problems for Raylan. Quarles and his gang try their darndest to make the frame airtight by tampering with Raylan's car. If not for the intervention of the owner of the bar where Raylan is currently living, Raylan might be in jail. The Lexington police investigate the murder, and even though we know he didn't commit the murder and has a solid alibi, it appeared as if the detectives could have pinned anything on him.
The various interrogations of Raylan, Quarles, and Wynn Duffy demonstrate how ridiculous their ongoing battle seems to be. Raylan is given free rein by Art to get his job done, and it seems to push up against the very edge of the law. It gets worse when the FBI get into the act, working off misinformation by Sammy Tonin that he believes Raylan is corrupt. I think it's hilarious that Quarles and Sammy continue to believe that Raylan is in league with Boyd Crowder. It's playing games within games because Sammy and Quarles know that the FBI is listening in on their conversations.
The FBI investigations do bring up some of the past transgressions by Raylan, even touching on the threats Art made to Terry Powe from earlier this season. When the FBI went after Art, they lost the cooperation of the entire Marshals' office. This, along with some assistance from Winona, ensured that Raylan was free from prosecution on all fronts for the time being. His fellow Marshals still tolerate working with him, but it looks like Winona is permanently out of his life. That seems to be the most sensible decision with the revelation that Gary sent two hitmen after both of them and then ended up murdered for that association. It's proving to be too dangerous to be around Raylan Givens right now.
Getting Boyd in jail may have been the easier task, but I have to wonder how long that will last. I have no doubt that Boyd's gang will do something to get him out of this predicament. So part of Quarles' plan is working, even if the sheriff has next to no real power in Harlan County. That may be part of the reason why Quarles goes to Limehouse for an alliance at the end. They don't know anything about each other so it might not function as smoothly as Quarles would probably like at first.
I think Limehouse has a hidden purpose for coming to Quarles now. His allegiances seem more malleable than everyone else, except maybe Boyd. His comment that he wants to "back the winning side" should come with a caveat. Right now, he sees Quarles as the man with power and I think Limehouse is going to wait and see who actually wins in the battle between Quarles and Raylan. He's out to look for his own survival and given Quarles' compromised state after this episode, that might not happen if he is supporting him.
It's all a complicated mess and there seems to be no let-up as the season continues. I had thought that Quarles and Wynn Duffy might use Gary in a more long-term fashion, but the murder did open up more interesting avenues that the story could take. This episode showed that every action taken by Raylan in the past has some kind of consequence. It could still come back to hurt Raylan so he would do well to curb his temper and tendency to assault suspects. It has already cost him Winona and the respect of his co-workers. His life might be next on the firing line if he's not careful. Leaving Harlan County seems like a good idea for him right now, I think. Things are getting out of control real fast.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Henry Tran is Critical Myth's reviewer for Justified.