Tuesday, August 22, 2023

REVIEW: 'Justified: City Primeval' - A Lack of Trust With Law Enforcement Makes Everyone Desperate in 'The Smoking Gun'

FX's Justified: City Primeval - Episode 1.07 "The Smoking Gun"

Raylan and Mansell show down.

"The Smoking Gun" was written by Dave Andron & Michael Dinner and directed by Katrelle Kindred

Clement Mansell has always been lucky as a criminal. The previous episode suggested that wasn't necessarily the case. He was smart enough to examine the landscape of his criminal operation and take the appropriate measures to ensure his own survival. However, that was a false reading of events. He didn't remove the gun that Sweety had stashed away in the jukebox. Instead, Trennell took it and conveniently hands it over to Raylan to help solidify his case after Sweety's death. Similarly, Clement didn't realize he was walking into a trip when meeting Diane and thus didn't bring the book. Instead, he was let free because Maureen's name is included in the pages. She leads the investigation now. Raylan believes he can trust her. Bryl was the obviously corrupt cop in this unit. And yet, not enough time has passed for any of these characters to be confident in how much they can rely on each other. That history is apparent in some dynamics. Sweety was a father figure to Carolyn since she was a child. When he first shared his dreams of opening a bar, she was the first person to voice her encouragement. She knew he could be successful. Of course, she was always aware of the shady deeds he did to maintain his life in the city. That never damaged her opinion of him. She would do anything he needed. She didn't support all of his choices. However, she allowed him the freedom to make those decisions. She wanted to protect him as best she could. Her work in the criminal justice system could only do so much. And so, Sweety is dead and Clement breaks into her house to intimidate her further. She cannot escape this client. He is destined to destroy her life no matter what. He is so effective at striking fear into people. Sandy never believes he will be held accountable for the numerous crimes he has committed. No one can promise her that he will. She is scared into inaction. She could never testify against him because his reach is still so expansive. Even if he was dead, she would still be terrified of his vengeance. Raylan encourages her to start her life over somewhere new. All he needs from her is the ability to lure Clement into another trap. That confrontation is different. It's more personal. It's just between Raylan and Clement. They believe they won't be interrupted by others making their own efforts to control this case. Of course, that's a wrong assumption by both men. Carolyn is just as desperate to punish Clement. The police fail her. She has grown incredibly close with Raylan. But they don't have the inherent trust to believe the other will deliver on this ultimate promise. They don't believe anyone but themselves can deliver justice to Clement. That's arrogant and selfish in a way. It's complicated because it also puts more lives in danger. It's driven by a sense of morality that's overwhelmingly good. The city may not operate that way though. And so, everyone is forced to make desperate decisions they may not otherwise choose.

Meanwhile, Clement doesn't live in fear. He leads with absolute certainty that nothing bad will ever happen to him. He can overpower anyone who stands in his way. That can be as simple as Del returning home early. He was simply one of Sandy's marks. She doesn't care about any of them. She simply makes bad choices. That's the pattern. She can't escape it. She doesn't know how. She understands the gravity of the situation. She is being targeted by the Albanian mob because of what she did with Clement. They need to escape. Clement only feels that impulse for the first time when Raylan walks into the bar instead of Sandy. He hopes his charm will once again get him out of a perilous situation. That has happened countless times. Circumstances continually present themselves perfectly for him. He has been allowed to operate as a vicious monster unchecked for a long time. It all started when he killed his mother. That crime spree has only intensified since. He leads with that domination in every interaction he has. Raylan has dealt with worse criminals. Clement is goading Raylan into delivering the kind of showdown he is skilled at despite not always being the best version of justice. Sometimes Raylan is forced to fire his gun in a quickdraw battle for survival. That's the situation so often forced upon him. It's an active choice on his part some of the time as well. It's a skill he has long been noted for. It makes him special and highly qualified at his job. He knows Clement is guilty of so much. He delivers the murder weapon to the police. It's used to frame an innocent man. Bryl suddenly presents with morals. He knows every criminal he has sent to jail deserved to be there even if he used fake charges to produce that result. It's foolish for him to genuinely believe that. No one in law enforcement can lead with that certainty all the time. And yet, it's beneficial to Raylan. He needs the gun to do what's right. He can't rely on his new partners in Detroit. The corruption runs too deep. Maureen was selfishly trying to expose Judge Guy because of her own liability. Raylan sees that clearly now. Clement simply became the latest target she needed to work with. This was the end result. It's not the conclusion though. Raylan is still determined. Meanwhile, Carolyn reaches out to the Armenia mob. Their sense of justice may be the only solution to this whole mess. It may be the only thing that actually works against Clement. Raylan wanted to provoke a conflict. Instead, that option is taken from him. He had his time to arrest Clement. That time is now over. Something new must be done instead. Raylan has grappled with the weight of this kind of justice before. His freedom and choices are taken away from him. He spirals not knowing what to expect next. That chaos defines the story heading into the season finale. It's a bit more plot-centric than driven by genuine character motivation. It still creates a final showdown where truly anything could happen and everyone involved will have to live with those inevitable consequences.