Warning: Spoiler Alert
For the second time so far in this final run, the creative team behind Justified has instructed us to forget what we thought we knew.
After Season 5 concluded and set up the final Raylan/Boyd showdown, it seemed as if Season 6 would consist of that dynamic to a dominant degree. Then Avery Markham came on the canvas in the second episode and quickly established himself as one of the dominant “heels” (to use the pro wrestling vernacular) in show history. All of a sudden, it looked like he, Raylan and Boyd were all going to be circling one another over the course of the last few episodes.
But after Episode 6.6, Alive Day, chaos is now the theme as all of the show’s main characters find themselves beset with new and unexpected problems. The last man – or woman – standing at this point might be the one best able to compartmentalize the distractions and mounting issues. And now, it’s safe to say that nobody without the benefit of real spoilers at this point can say with any confidence the order of events yet to come. And that’s a good thing.
How did this episode turn everything sideways? Let us count the angles:
1 Ava gets burned. When Boyd gets home at the end of the last episode/beginning of this one and finds Raylan at the house, he thinks nothing of it. On the surface, it was just one more time that Raylan stuck around waiting to question him on a matter – in this case, the disappearance of Dewey Crowe. Boyd claims to know nothing and that was that. But upon arriving home at the end of the episode and receiving a call from Limehouse, dropping a dime on Ava for her visit the previous day with her desire to run – well, now Boyd is going to piece together Ava’s betrayal pretty quickly. Why would she want to run? Why had she been acting so squirrely around him when she was first released from prison? The answers to those questions will all point in one direction, especially since Boyd is aware that Raylan is sticking around Kentucky to take care of one more issue before accepting the Florida transfer. It seems inconceivable that Boyd could ever harm a hair on Ava’s head. But everything will seem up for grabs once he pieces together her actions.
2 Zach Randolph’s got some nasty post moves in the mines. The dangers of the abandoned mine shafts, from the steep drops in various places to the threat of poisonous gases, end up plaguing Boyd, as he falls through the floor and has to be rescued. But after he takes his leave, Ava’s Uncle Zach demonstrates some real treachery by shoving one of Boyd’s henchmen to his death when he finds something that the old guy wants to keep hidden. He’ll no doubt pass it off to Boyd as a terrible accident, but now we know that Boyd has ANOTHER member of the Randolph family who could undermine him at any time.
3 Katherine and Avery: who’s zooming who? All season long, Katherine’s been using her feminine wiles to get close to her old sackmate Avery while she sends Wynn, Boyd and the Dixie Mafia after his fortune. But his shock proposal to her in this episode gave the first real indication that he’s on to her. He tells her that he thinks that she ratted out her husband and led to his downfall; of course, she does not confess that she suspected him of that act and has been pursuing revenge. But a later conversation with Wynn causes her to wonder if Avery knows of her suspicions and is somehow setting her up for a fall. Even Art and Rachel aren’t sure of what exactly went down back in the day, so in the midst of the show’s final stretch of episodes, this old case seems likely to be reexamined – with ramifications for the two puppetmasters who are currently sleeping together. That could lead to some awkward post-coital conversations!
4 Avery’s infrastructure disintegrates now that realtor Calhoun is dead and the Tigerhawk Security leadership is on the run. For as much as Raylan likes stirring the pot with the bad guys – as demonstrated yet again toward the end of the episode when he points out to Choo Choo that Ty had clearly labeled him as a liability – it’s unlikely that he realized that he was beating Ty to the punch when he informed Avery of Calhoun’s unfortunate demise. But the discord sowed from within by the move, as Avery pressures Ty to eliminate Choo Choo – leads straight to that unpredictable moment in the woods, when Raylan and Tim get the drop on Ty, Choo Choo and Seabass. Realizing how much incriminating evidence the Marshalls already had on them, the special forces veterans decide to take their chances in a shootout-and-flee situation and they are successful. Well, except for Choo Choo who bleeds out from his wounds, fittingly enough on a train track. But now Ty and Seabass are on the run, and while they may be armed and resourceful enough to pop an Eric Rudolph scenario and stay buried in the hills notwithstanding a massive manhunt, they’ll be of no help to Avery in warding off the law and Boyd – and completing those remaining land purchases. Were it not for Boyd’s own problems right now, you’d be tempted to drop the “better to be lucky than good” tag on him right about now.
5 Rachel is unsure that Raylan can complete the case as required. On any great show, no menacing undertone can ever be ignored, so when Rachel seemed a bit apprehensive about some of Raylan’s actions in the field earlier this season, that should have been a tipoff of something bigger. And in this episode, the visit from Art causes her to look in the mirror about what kind of office leader she’s going to be. Her monitoring indicated that Ava tried to run and Raylan brought her in – which he didn’t report to her, of course. So Rachel also wonders what else he’s not telling her and whether he’s involved with her again. It can’t be ruled out because of the verboten nature of it, because he was sleeping with her in Season 1 when it was equally inappropriate. Rachel realizes that Art would simply overlook any suspicions about how Raylan’s doing his job to choose the path of least resistance. Still imbued with the idealism of (relative) youth, that’s not how Rachel sees herself handling such situations. So now the prospect of Raylan getting pulled off the case before it is fully resolved cannot be dismissed out of hand, as shocking as that would be.
So now there are major, major disruptions afoot with the apparent trajectory of the season that had been building. Avery, Raylan and Boyd (or Boyd/Katherine, as the case may be, since she’s the one who initiated going after the Colorado weed kingpin) remain on a collision course with each other, but the endgame is quite opaque indeed. As the man who created this world, from his divine perch, Elmore Leonard has to be very proud of the colleagues who took his work to TV immortality and the roller-coaster ending that they’ve constructed.
As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time. Past webcasts for Season 6 can be found when searching the Justified category on this site. Additionally, here’s our Season 6 preview and our 10-hour Season 5 “box set” containing a season preview, review and analysis of every episode.