Justified Season 4: Leave it to Beaver

On a recent episode of “Justified”– and you’ll want to skip this article, if you’re not up to speed on the show- it was revealed that semi-regular character Shelby Parlow, played by respected character actor Jim Beaver, was actually the much-sought after master criminal Drew Thompson that most of this season has revolved around. It was an unexpected revelation, but upon further reflection, not as surprising as it might have seemed at first blush, and there’s a major reason for that: the aforementioned Mr. Beaver.

Jim Beaver has been kicking around the television landscape in particular since the late 70s, cropping up in everything from soaps like “The Young & the Restless” and “Days of Our Lives” to sitcoms like “Third Rock from the Sun,” “Psych” and “Monk.” Often typecast as a lawman or some sort of public official, Beaver has quietly been doing solid work for years.

Perhaps most notably, his much-beloved turn as mentor/father figure Bobby Singer on “Supernatural” came to a sad end last season, though he continues to crop up as a ghost from time to time, it being that kind of show and all, where the dead don’t necessarily stay that way. Horror fans might also know him from turns on the underrated slasher/mystery hybrid “Harper’s Island” (now available on Netflix) and the likes of “Dexter,” “The X-Files” and the fun “Duel” homage “Joy Ride.”

In fact, “Justified” isn’t even the first time he and co-star Timothy Olyphant have crossed paths, either, having acted together on the cult fave “Deadwood,” which isn’t too far removed from “Justified” if you think about it. I mean, what’s “Justified” if not a modern-day Western, with Olyphant as a Clint Eastwood-style gunslinger type?

But back to “Justified” and more importantly, Beaver. It must be said how first rate a job Beaver has done with the tricky role of Shelby/Drew. After all, here’s a guy that convinced not only the criminals but the cops alike that he was an honest-to-God lawman, in spite of the fact that he was himself the biggest scam artist of them all.

It takes some skill to dupe both the wily Boyd (the superlative Walton Goggins) and the equally quick-on-his-feet Raylan (Olyphant)- not to mention the audience itself. But damned if Beaver didn’t pull it off like gangbusters, and I suspect if one were to go back and re-watch his acting choices along the way, you’d see the clues were there all along. It was one of those big reveals where you were like, “Of course it’s him! Who else could it be?”

I think back to the way Shelby/Drew let Boyd think he would be an easy con that he could ably control every step of the way. All the while, he was laughing every step of the way, knowing that he was pulling the biggest con of them all, as everyone around him was fruitlessly searching for a man that was literally right under their noses the entire time. It’s not often that a single actor can make you want to re-watch an entire season, but Beaver is indeed that actor. Every acting choice he made this season has been spot-on, especially in retrospect.

So, it only seemed fair to give a little love back to the source, as this excellent season winds down. You gotta hand it to “Justified”– they keep finding ways to top themselves every season. This show easily has one of the richest casts in television right now, including such past actors as Margo Martindale (an Emmy winner for her role, who can be seen currently on another great FX show, “The Americans”), Neal McDonough, Jeremy Davies, Kaitlyn Dever, and Brent Sexton; as well as current ones like Michael O’Malley (who’s so good as a bad guy I actually forgot he was such a sweetheart on “Glee”), Mykelti Williamson, Natalie Zea, Ron Eldard, Jere Burns and Patton Oswalt. No doubt about it, Beaver’s certainly in good company.

They may have finally got Drew on “Justified,” but they’ll never be able to pin down Jim Beaver, the wiliest of them all. Here’s hoping they find a way to keep him on the show…might I suggest a last minute escape? Hey, it worked for D.B. Cooper, right?