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Moment of Goodness

Anatomy of a Henchman, Justified “Alive Day” 

Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

[Warning: Plot spoilers ahead for “Alive Day.”]

We can always count on Justified for interesting villains.

While Choo-Choo seemed like muscle and not much else, tonight we got to see a little more of him, and learn a little more about him, before he sealed his fate and chose the location of his death.

Last week, Choo-Choo tapped Calhoun once with enough force to kill him. When we pick up this week, Ty is on the scene to evaluate, and they realize they have the loose end of Calhoun’s pretty friend and prostitute, Caprice, who saw them come into the office. After some ugly back and forth where Seabass pretty much pronounces the whole SNAFU to be Choo-Choo’s fault and washes his hands of it, Choo-Choo says he will dump the body and take care of the girl.

Separately, Ty has to tell Avery about Calhoun after Raylan and Tim come calling because Choo-Choo dropped the body off in bear country. Avery’s verdict is that Choo-Choo has completed his service and orders Ty to take him out.

Surprisingly, Ty struggles with this, and shares with Avery the horror of what Choo-Choo survived when he was riding in the tank ahead of Ty and it was struck and somersaulted by an IED. The outcome was that Choo-Choo was the only one in that tank to survive, but he was rendered limited in his capacity, and thus resigned to be the muscle for their crew. Ty feels he owes Choo-Choo, but Avery says it has to be done for the greater good.

Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Choo-Choo goes to pick up Calhoun’s girl, and she’s kind and warm to him instead of afraid, so of course he falters and tells Ty she won’t talk and he doesn’t have to kill her. Ty comes to him, goons in tow to take care of both of them, but they’re interrupted by Raylan and Tim, who tailed them from the pizza shop.

Raylan tells Choo-Choo that Ty is there to kill him and you see that register somewhere in the fog and break his heart. The situation falls apart and all of the men exchange gunfire. Choo-Choo is hit several times but makes it to his car and drives away.

As he bleeds out, he comes to a stop on a railroad crossing, and parks on the tracks just as a train approaches. He looks at the light head on, unflinching, at peace, but the train falls short, braking in front of him. The engineers jump out and race to get him out of the car, but he’s gone, still looking at the train.

From a real-world standpoint, I was glad that’s the way it went since we’ve had train vs. truck in the news twice this month. From a plotting standpoint, I liked the idea of Choo-Choo literally facing himself. We don’t know what he was like before, but when Caprice tells him that she likes that he takes his time when he speaks, that she thinks it’s because he wants people to hear what he has to say, it humanizes him. And then Justified 101 says you’re done (unless you’re Boyd Crowder).

It was interesting, too, to see Ty genuinely rattled and aggrieved about what he’s asked to do. We see that Choo-Choo is his family, and that in his own way, he’s just as damaged from surviving that day. I’m curious to find out exactly what Avery’s hold on him is.

Choo-Choo was the first major role for Duke Davis Roberts. It’s a hell of a calling card to have. He layered what could have been a one-note role, weaving a very specific speech pattern and perfect deadpan delivery with moments of clarity and heart. I’ve no doubt we’ll see him again.

P.S. — Did anybody else have a Moment of Hmm about Art’s conversation with Rachel? My Spidey sense tells me maybe Art had something to do with flipping Katherine’s husband back in the day. We’ll see…

The final season of Justified is airing at 10/9c Tuesdays on FX.

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