Justified: City Primeval recap - Ep. 2 "The Oklahoma Wildman"

Raylan Givens, in his glory days, was considered a loose canon. A trigger-happy anachronism whose method of investigation was largely to show up where he wasn't welcome and stir up trouble until someone attacked him, which...we all know how that always ended. His process was not the most subtle or intelligent, but it was just what criminals in the hollers of Kentucky demanded. Now, fifteen years later in the urban sprawls of Detroit, that dog will not hunt.

Ultimately, that is the chief thesis of "The Oklahoma Wildman," the second of eight episodes of City Primeval that functions quite clearly as the back half of a two-part premiere, spending the majority of its hour clearing up a lot of the loose plot threads introduced in Ep. 1. Namely, who is this smirking psychotic Clement Mansell? What does his seemingly random sauntering and slaughtering have to do with defense attorney Carolyn Wilder, or the wizened barkeep, Sweety? And how will the investigation of Judge Guy's murder become a fuse that sets off the stick of dynamite lying dormant in the heart of one particularly pissed off Deputy US Marshal?

A flashback to 2017 does most of the work to answer these questions. Mansell, as the title of the episode implies, is a stick-up artist from Oklahoma who specializes in preying on drug dealers during transactions, right about the time the drugs have made them careless and slow to react. During a particularly spirited--and pot-fueled--discussion about Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars between some weed dealers and their customer, Mansell moseys in with two armed men to rob everyone. 

"Fellas, you know why we rob drug dealers instead of rich folks up in Palmer Woods? Because drug dealers hold lots of cash and...wait for it...drugs." Okay, I know I was uneasy about Clement taking over as the nemesis for this little revival season, but I like how his palpable intelligence slowly unfurls in this episode, and this is the first hint of it. His bloodthirsty opportunism clearly rules his decisions, however, as he blows away everyone in the room including his own two thugs. 

Everyone except the customer, Marcus "Sweety" Sweeton, who was in on the operation the whole time. The twist to this flashback is that Detroit police find Mansell instantly and he's arrested for a quadruple homicide, but not before he gives Sweety a call. Enter Carolyn, a friend to Sweety and against her better judgement, Mansell's attorney who presumably is good enough at her job to get him off the hook.

From a novel or movie pacing perspective, this is a sharp use of setup and payoff, but it becomes pretty clear why FX and Hulu decided to drop both episodes 1 and 2 at once. They don't work terribly well as standalone chapters. It's fine. I just hate that streaming services and the binge model have warped television irrevocably as a medium.

Now we jump back to the present, with Raylan investigating the Judge and his assistant being similarly filled with holes. Only instead of the lone-wolf, hard case methods from his days in Harlan, our hero is far more content to follow eyewitness leads back to the casino alongside Detroit PD detective Wendell Robinson, played with a relaxed "seen it all" demeanor by Victor Williams. Wendell is a fun foil for Raylan, and clearly a perceptive gumshoe. In the first of many instances in this episode where characters read each other impeccably, he labels Clement's girl Sandy as a "my-own-worst-enemy" type.

Poor Sandy does everything she can when questioned about the Range Rover that she and Clement have 'borrowed' from one of her many sugar daddies--the one Clement smashed head-on into the Judge's car before he started shooting. She falls into every single basic cop tactic. "Warrant? What for? We just want to ask some questions" and even relinquishing the keys. This gives the cops the okay to search the inside and take paint scrapings to match it to the Judge's car. She's not terribly clever, which is probably why Clement later tasks her with disposing of the murder weapon.

Yep, turns out Mansell's Luger/Walther/whatever gets to be a literal smoking gun, and he is smart enough to send a proxy to toss it off a bridge. Sandy's decision to instead stash it right back in the bathroom at Sweety's bar could be either the smartest or dumbest decision in her whole life. It certainly gives Sweety himself a piece of leverage on Mansell, which is why he gives our detectives a cute kiss-off when they come in asking questions.

While I was worried how long it would take for Carolyn, Clement, and Raylan to bring their parallel plots together, that happens quickly and in a shockingly blunt dialogue scene. Carolyn merely calls a conference of all three of them in her office, and with very little ado the villain and his lawyer are trading barbs with the Marshal face to face. I appreciate the straightforwardness of it. A good remedy for the previous episode's bobbing and weaving between each of them.

In this office confab, we get to see exactly how worthy Raylan's new adversaries are. Clement not only knows plenty about police procedure, he also pegs Raylan correctly from moment one: "Only two kinds of lawmen chasing bad guys at your age. Ones that got passed over for the big chair, and ones that just love doing it so much they gotta be dragged off. Only question is if they'll be breathing or not." Ouch.

Carolyn also has a good bead on him, and warns him not to contact or harass her client unless he plans to arrest him. That puts a damper on Raylan's old playbook, and unknowingly gives Mansell exactly the perfect weapon to get the intrepid lawman shunted from the case and rode out of Detroit on a rail.

That brings us to an appropriately lackadaisical B plot starring Willa. While her pop is out investigating, she fills out her day ordering room service and watching TV. It's the exact sequestering of the character that I dreaded. But true to her Givens nature, she almost instantly breaks the explicit rules her father drops on her not to leave the hotel. Her idea of fun exploration of Detroit involves paying seven bucks for a Rolex knockoff and wandering an abandoned Pontiac factory. Though one might predict her cabin fever will put her in serious peril, she returns to the room without incident...only for Clement Mansell to appear in the guise of one of Raylan's old buddies from his days as an instructor at Glynco. 

Cut to the two of them cozied up at a table in the hotel restaurant sharing a milkshake, quite possibly the most horrifying and enraging sight in Raylan's entire life. And that is definitely saying something. His eyes could burn through that blonde 'do, and it takes every measure of his newfound self control to not immediately kill the Oklahoma Wildman. What finally breaks Raylan is a casual mention of a rooftop incident in Miami some years back. He shoves his suspect outside the hotel, and when Clement finally starts making sexual comments about Willa he finally surrenders his wits and smacks the shit out of him.

Unfortunately, Raylan is seeing so much red he can't understand Mansell's gambit. Now our Deputy Marshal has tainted whatever case he can build against this scum-bum because he's gone far beyond harassment. He flat-out assaulted an unarmed man, likely in view of security cameras. If there's one thing this episode has accomplished, it is assuring us that Mansell ain't dumb. Not by a long shot. Of course, this cute little stunt might keep him out of jail for now, but he likely just signed his own death certificate in the long run.

What's worse, this incident has driven a stake through the warm (enough) father-daughter relationship from the top of the hour. It's probable that Willa has never heard the famous story of Raylan's deadly Miami ultimatum that kicked off the original series. Judging from her tearful, scared reaction to him thrashing Clement outside the hotel, she has no idea what kind of monster lives inside her laid back, corny, cop dad. But we know, and it only took two episodes for it to rear its ugly head.

Can't say I blame him, though.

Episode grade: A-

Stray Notes:

-Something I found amusing: the subtitles on the episode incorrectly has Sweety and the weed dealers talking about "Isaiah" Thomas, despite that particular current Charlotte Hornets player being born in 1989 and named after the actual Detroit Pistons player "Isiah" Thomas, who won the NBA Finals that year. Subtitles are either AI-generated or carelessly cranked out by gig workers, so what do you expect?

-Raylan's barely contained amusement and pride at Willa's "Teenage girls are complicated" quip is some of Olyphant's best acting. I could seriously just watch a show where they actually have a peaceful road trip together. But alas, there's this narcissistic murderer to deal with.

-Sandy describing Raylan as having dewy skin is pretty strange. It's the one moment I'm in perfect lockstep with Clement when he questions her on that.

-Sweety sure knows how to cite his lore, likening Mansell to Apophis, the ancient Egyptian god of chaos. An evil serpent locked in an unending battle with Ra, he leaves destruction in his wake. That sure sounds like the Mansell from Ep. 1, but the far more measured and calculating villain we have in this episode barely lives up to the "Oklahoma Wildman" title. Curious.

-Willa has Raylan in her phone as "Marshal Daddi-o." Little details like that are pure candy in my opinion.

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