In this week’s episode of Justified, “Where’s Waldo,” Raylan, Art, and Tim go in search of Waldo Truth, whose driver’s license was discovered in a diplomatic pouch hidden in Arlo’s wall in the season opener. The Truths are a clan of hardscrabble, gun-toting miscreants who distrust the government but, as my chat partner Jeffrey Bloomer pointed out last night, nearly cause a gunfight over disability checks. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Graham Yost said the characters were inspired by the documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. But they reminded me of some folks a little closer to the hearts of Justified fans: the Bennett clan.
Film and television rarely give us great female villains. But that’s exactly who Mags Bennett (Emmy winner Margo Martindale) was during Season 2 of Justified. She and her sons ruthlessly controlled the pot market in Harlan, she killed Loretta’s father, and—perhaps most unforgiveable in the eyes of her community—she sold out to a mining company. Yet she was also complex and multilayered: She smashed her son Coover’s (non-trigger) hand, one knuckle at a time, when his stupidity aroused Raylan’s attention, but she loved her kids fiercely. She could be warm and charming and appeared to have real affection for Loretta. She is widely missed.
When the marshals arrive at the Truth compound (a rundown house and an RV), the Truth sons draw their guns. Yet “Mother Truth” invites the marshals into the house and charms them with a funny story of how she met Waldo at a drive-in theater when he slipped into her car while her then-husband was in the bathroom.
Finally, “Waldo” shows up and everything goes south for the Truths when it turns out that he’s actually a guy named Harold who’s been posing as Waldo to keep the family’s disability checks coming. Here we see how Mother Truth (Beth Grant) is both conniving and protective (Of her family? Of their draw? Both, I suspect.). She threatens to castrate Harold and then, with the pressure on, admits that she hasn’t seen her husband for 30 years, when a man came and said he had a job for Waldo and that he wouldn’t be back. And how that was a good thing for the family, because “Waldo was an asshole.”
Beth Grant absolutely steals these scenes. Mother Truth is not a villain on the scale of Mags: Her biggest crimes are fraudulently keeping the family on the dole and having idiots for children. But the women are cut from the same cloth. They aren’t as simple-minded as you’d expect, and their survival skills are impressive. They fostered a considerable distrust of authorities in their children, but they are also wise in their dealings with them.
Sadly, Yost also mentioned in the EW interview that there are no plans to bring the Truth family back. We’ll have to savor Mother Truth’s few minutes onscreen, like a glass of Mags’ “apple pie.”