With Justified kicking off its final season tonight, I thought I’d take a look at Raylan Givens’ nearly-deceased boss, Art Mullen (played by Nick Searcy). The gruff, often-sarcastic Chief Marshal tried to be the father figure that Raylan had sorely lacked due to having been raised by a real shitheel in Arlo Givens. Problem was, Raylan often fought back against authority, probably due to his childhood… and when you’re a lawman, bucking the system often winds in badly for both the person doing it and the one in charge too.
It came to a head when Art was investigating the death of mob hitman Nicky Augustine, who was riddled with bullets by his former compadres while Raylan walked away. Augustine was far from an angel worth being lamented, even by a Mrs. Augustine — hell, he even shot Stephen Tobolowsky’s corrupt FBI agent in the head. That was a moment that even rendered the normally sassy Wynn Duffy into speechless mode. (Side tangent: I bet Bill Murray wished he’d had his character do that in Groundhog Day. “Phil? Phil! It’s me, Ned Ryers– BLAM!” “I Got You Babe…”)
Art tried everything he could with Raylan, but eventually even he had to show that he had enough of the cowboy act and began shutting him out. Those days of protecting him were long gone and now Raylan has a new boss in Rachel Brooks, who will likely not come close to tolerating anything he does, despite their having worked quite a few cases together in the past.
When it comes to Art, I have two really vivid memories of him. One’s really funny and the other’s really scary. I’ll start off with the scary one. It came when he had someone bad tied down in a chair. The chief acted like a bad ass and just whaled on the guy, knocking him back. It showed that he had not gotten soft while sitting in an office overseeing the Marshals. He could get down and dirty.
The funny: It was when he was chasing a bank robbery suspect who was nearly the same age as he was… and was using a portable oxygen tank. It was the slowest foot race in the history of television, with both men winding up having to get their breath back at the end of it. Just the way the two actors sold it had me nearly rolling on the floor with laughter when it was happening.
OK, OK. I lied. There were three scenes. This one was all dialogue, when Art was in the diner last season, talking with the mob enforcer Elias Marcos (who was played by Alan Tudyk to near-perfection). It was such a fantastic combination of great dialogue and great acting. There was always the underlying threat there might be a shootout in that diner and it made me impressed how cold-blooded Art could be.
So, what is going to happen to the former chief this season? I hope he comes back several times to rip Raylan a new one after he screws up again… this time in his war against his former friend now enemy Boyd Crowder. It’ll feel emptier if that doesn’t happen.