It was a sad day for righteous gun slingers with daddy issues in Harlan County. “Slaughterhouse,” the season 3 finale of Justified, begins with the case of a murdered state trooper, Tom Bergen, a father and husband as Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens later emphasizes. Raylan searches high and low for the culprit and finds that it was in fact his own father, longtime crook Arlo Givens, who pulled the trigger. Early in the episode Arlo walks onto the tumultuous scene with a curt “Heard that a cop in a hat got shot. Guess it wasn’t you,” aimed directly at Raylan’s well masked heart of pudding. Come to find out, daddy dearest had steadied his aim at the state trooper genuinely believing him to be Raylan—because he’s an old coot and old people are generally off kilter.
But in the mean time, there’s fun to be had in Harland. Quarles got his arm chopped off by Limehouse. That’s one of the most fulfilling sentences ever written. Prior to that, viewers were treated to the beautiful and loyal Ava treating a prostitute like, well, a pimp would treat a prostitute—rough but with purpose and subtle restraint. She acted in accordance to her primary impetus, to help Boyd, and although usually some feminist critique might be applicable, Ava’s agency and liberation is almost undeniable at this point. She singlehandedly (because her other hand is busy punching whores) gives love a good name.
But once again, Quarles got his arm chopped off by Limehouse. The scene was interesting in that Justified precedent dictates that in a showdown of this nature—Quarles, with a gun on Raylan and a young boy hostage, attempting to extort or threaten money from Limehouse armed with a butcher knife, as always—that people will get shot, people will die, it most certainly won’t be Rayland and chances are, the young boy is safe too. This is a family show after all, in a strange, very true sense.
The sheepish telephoned request by Quarles earlier that day, “I want to come home,” was perhaps the most straightforward foreshadowing of his death that could still be palpable. Contrast this with the saddest Black man in the world being turned away from his Noble’s Holler home by Limehouse earlier and making sure to look back as he walked away, and you have at least two characters that don’t have a justifiable reason to exist anymore. So….Quarles got his arm chopped off by Limehouse. And Errol, the saddest Black man in the world (really look at his face when he’s excommunicated from the Holler), gets shot.
But back to the family show, and fathers in particular. The reason all of this went down, Raylan’s commitment to finding Quarles, the prime murder suspect at the time, Arlo being the one to actually have killed Tom Bergen, Ava smacking whores, was family. It’s revealed that Arlo killed the cop in the hat, the man he believed to be Raylan, to protect Boyd, his family. This dynamic has been used throughout the series to convey how Boyd and Raylan are sort of like brothers, but never before has it seemed so poignant as to point out that Raylan could not be in the family at all. Arlo apologizes to Raylan at some point in the episode for some things he’s done. It didn’t seem like much. But after the realization that he would kill his actual son to protect his real son, the apology may not mean anything at all.
Note: Limehouse is ostensibly a butcher and as the de facto banker of the criminal community keeps money inside of pigs.
…At least Quarles laughed.