With the FX show Justified scheduled to air its 4th season finale tomorrow night (4/2), we thought this would be a perfect time to stop and look back at one of our all-time favorite episodes of the show: “Thick As Mud”, the 5th episode of the 3rd season.
Some times a specific episode of a television show comes along and causes us to sit back in satisfied awe at the wonder we have witnessed. These are the episodes we refer to as classic without any trace of hyperbole. We think Justified’s “Thick As Mud” is one such episode.
THE SERIES: Justified
THE EPISODE: “Thick as Mud”
There are few shows on television as purely entertaining as FX’s Justified. The series is set around Harlan, Kentucky and features laconic, charmingly cocky U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) in the protagonist role, paired with the compelling and charismatic recurring antagonist Boyd Crowder (Walter Goggins).
The dialogue is sharp and delivered with a sarcastic, ironic edge. It sounds vaguely condemning to call a series “comforting” (especially one as violent as Justified), but it is so successful at being purely, wonderfully entertaining that there are few other series currently on the air I anticipate as much each week.
(From this point on, SPOILERS are present. Read at your own risk. You’ve been warned.)
“Thick as Mud” is a mostly standalone episode of Justified, featuring a self-contained plot that centers around…wait for it… illegal kidney harvesting.
The main thrust of the episode centers around Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), a phenomenally dim-witted, Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, who awakens in a hotel room with incisions in his sides.
He is informed that his kidneys have been removed, that his body will slowly rip itself apart in agony, but that he can buy them back for twenty thousand dollars.
Dewey, hardly the most sympathetic of characters (how sympathetic can one be towards a guy with a swastika tattooed on his chest?), but his quest to steal twenty grand is so absurdly ill-conceived he begins to seem pitiful (or at least pitifully inept). He tries to steal cash from a store specializing in large appliances only to be told there’s very little cash on the premises since most pay with credit cards.
He tries to rob a strip club, because he saw strippers in Las Vegas on television making a few grand a night, but this is Harlan, Kentucky, and it’s 10 a.m., so there haven’t really been any clients inside the club. Dewey goes into a gas station to ask for directions, but the cashier doesn’t care for Dewey’s agitated, rude demeanor and refuses to help him. Dewey decides to rob the station only to have the cashier shoot him in the leg, forcing him to lock himself in a supply closet.
Meanwhile Raylan is investigating Dewey’s new, random crime spree, trying to figure out exactly what’s going through his mind (since the usual assumption is “not much”). He finally catches up to him at the gas station, informs him that really the only thing that will happen to him if he doesn’t have his kidneys is some nausea before he passes out. Except Raylan convinces him to try to urinate, which he is able to do, meaning his kidneys are intact, and his pathetic crime spree was pointless.
Raylan eventually finds himself in the clutches of the couple running the organ harvesting scam, but he is able to over power him after the female member of the duo shoots her partner, and Raylan is able to shoot her.
Why I Love this Episode:
Like I said earlier, Justified is a series that doesn’t get the love it probably deserves (especially around awards’ season), because it appears effortlessly entertaining. However, it would be so easy for the balance between the comedy and the violence to be off or the characters seem to speak too cleverly, or half a dozen other issues to emerge that could make the series seem irritating rather than clever. Comedy is difficult to pull off, a blending of comedy, quirky character studies, and occasional tragic drama is nearly impossible. However, Justified does it with aplomb. “Thick as Mud” may be the series’ most overtly comic 45 minutes (although the comedy is jet black), until the dramatically rich ending in which Raylan finds himself shaken by the fact that he has shot, and possible killed, a woman.
What really makes the episode stand out, though, is the hapless, unintentional comedy source that is Dewey Crowe. His hapless quest for money he has no chance of actually getting, as well as the fact that this con was probably only played on him because he was seen as too stupid to question the fact that there doesn’t seem to be actual kidneys in the bag presented to him. He would have no idea what a kidney would even look like, and that ignorance is counted on during the con. When he finds himself able to urinate, despite the fact that this should be impossible, his only explanation is that he must have “four kidneys.” Raylan’s amused, baffled approach to solving Dewey’s crime scenes adds to the episode’s dark, edgy comedy.
It’s a perfect entry point into Justified’s sharp, edgy, wryly humorous world. Check out a promo for the episode below:
Justified’s first three seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray free to Amazon Prime members, the fourth season is available to purchase on Amazon’s streaming service, and all of the episodes can purchased through Vudu or iTunes. Fans of the show should be sure to tune in to FX (in the US) tomorrow night for the 4th season finale.
Did you approve of our choice? Is there another episode of Justified you think is better? Do you hate Justified all together, and think we should have featured a different series entirely? Let us know in the comments!