Warning: Spoiler Alert
Rarely does it seem necessary to begin one of these reviews by referencing the post-show recorded immediately after the program with NJATVS’s Jason Jones that can be heard below, but the sheer number of genres invoked in it to describe Episode 6.12, Collateral, need to lead off this column. Everything from Bane in the Batman series to slasher flicks to Breaking Bad to pro wrestling seemed to be seasoning this chapter, preparing us for a finish that will be hugely disappointing if it is even a millimeter shy of all-time great.
In the cold open, the program’s leading men are exchanging illusory versions of which side of the law they occupy. Boyd, impersonating a policeman, carjacks a civilian, while Raylan has left his badge behind to pursue his archenemy without it.
Raylan’s actions make it impossible for the Marshalls to protect him, what with AUSA Vasquez on the warpath. Before you know it, he’s got a BOLO alert out on Raylan and is pursuing an indictment. Vasquez’s state of mind isn’t improved any by Wynn’s coy refusal to finger the murderer of the AUSA’s old boss. Speaking of the ultimate survivor/cockroach, Wynn lines up his getaway tools with a Dixie Mafia contact, appearing to make good on his vow to Vasquez to leave the state for good – before requesting a topographical map of Harlan County. Notwithstanding his awareness that Avery, Boyd and probably Raylan want him dead and buried, he’s headed back into the mix to try to grab the $10 million himself. Wynn Duffy, series finale wild card. Nice! And in a classic Wynn touch, he pays for the services rendered with the expensive tennis bracelet and engagement ring that he obtained via a five-finger discount off of Katherine’s corpse in his motorhome. Then again, Katherine pocketed that very bracelet from a jeweler in Lexington several episodes ago. Spinoff idea: a series dedicated to following that tennis bracelet throughout Appalachia, as one cretin after another lifts it!
At the outset of the episode, all of the stolen loot is still with Ava and her uncle, Zach Randolph. He refuses to believe that Boyd is hot on their heels, while she is insistent that Boyd’s coming their way. When a radio alert confirms her horrible suspicions, she takes off with as much of the money as she can stuff in a knapsack. Zach is determined to stick around and lie in wait for Boyd, killing him and securing the remainder of the money. When Raylan finds the old miner in the compound, Zach insists that he doesn’t know where Ava is and that he’s staying to kill Boyd when he arrives. Raylan doesn’t think much of the plan. He’s so singleminded that, during another encounter in the woods, he signs away the Givens property to his estranged distant family who had been wronged by Arlo. He says that it takes away another excuse for him to stick around Harlan, although with his general state of mind, perhaps we could substitute the phrase “Planet Earth” for “Harlan.”
Boyd is indeed headed in Ava’s direction, with his hostage as the wheelman. The humble backwoods man is almost a bit in awe of Boyd, who has become the modern-day Jesse James of Harlan County. Initially, they are even joking a bit about the circumstances, until Boyd begins the process of steeling himself to do what he figures must be done. By the time the phrase “the ballad of Boyd Crowder” passes his lips, it’s with a bitter taste – because as the hostage himself has guessed, Boyd does not leave any loose ends. And as Boyd psyches himself up by proclaiming himself “an outlaw” one more time, he splatters the poor guy’s brains across the car glass. With this action, much like his cowardly shooting of the hapless underdog Dewey Crowe in the season premiere, Boyd has secured beyond any shadow of a doubt his status as a vile, unsympathetic figure. In the terminology of pro wrestling, he was a bit of a “tweener” coming into this season and his death, if it comes next week, would have felt unsatisfying to some. But by now, he’s a full-blown “heel” and at this point just about anyone with a moral compass has to be rooting for him to pay for all of the innocent blood that he’s shed.
Boyd’s gunshot draws the attention of none other than Constable Bob, who actually got the drop on Ava and had her tied up to his Gremlin. When he goes to investigate, an exchange of gunfire erupts and while the result is not made immediately clear, Bob takes one in the shoulder and, ominously, the gut. Ava, meanwhile, is able to rip herself free from the restraints – the predictable result of being attached to a rust-bucket – and heads off on her own again. However, the vast manhunt being conducted by various law-enforcement agencies allows Avery’s dirty cops the chance to catch up to her and prepare to bring her to him. Her earlier mysterious phone call – to Wynn Duffy, perhaps? – attempting to bring another co-conspirator into her escape attempt is sure to come into play, however.
But that person better track her down quickly, since Ava’s not going to experience any mercy when she ends up in Avery’s hands next week – because the old coot is in a bad mood throughout the episode. Losing your hot-older-woman fiancée to a violent chain of events – with her having defied your statement to leave revenge on Wynn to the menfolk and you already having somehow forgiven her for causing you to be out the $10 million in the first place – will do that to you. Avery vows to her corpse (that feels like an incredibly weird phrase to type) that he will take care of Wynn, so that’s another large piece of foreshadowing for next week. As this is happening, his underling Boon ambushes Loretta again, baiting her ex-boyfriend/protector into drawing on him. Ominously for Raylan at this point, it doesn’t appear that anyone in Harlan draws faster than Boon, so Loretta’s muscle goes down. When Avery arrives on the scene, he wants the young man to be finished off and then he turns his attention to Loretta, grilling her about what she knows of the present circumstances of her allies Boyd and Ava. She knows nothing and he believes it, but indicates that he has no reason to leave her alive – whereupon she plays the only angle available to her, the partner card. Avery needs little convincing about her ability to be an asset, so Raylan’s surrogate daughter figure being under Avery’s thumb is one more intriguing development heading into the very end.
Of course, as enthralling as all of these developments are, nothing compares to a standoff between Raylan and Boyd, partially because the dialogue is always exceptional and partially because, remarkably, these encounters have almost always lacked gunfire. But this one brought it, and in the dark and in the woods, no less. Boyd tries as always to bait Raylan, but doesn’t draw any figurative blood. However, revealing that he shot Bob and that the bumbling “lawman” may be bleeding to death is enough to stir Raylan’s protective side, even though he initially tries to suppress it. At the end of the episode, he’s rushing a touch-and-go Bob to the emergency room – only to find himself getting ready to be brought in by law enforcement officers. It’s unclear whether or not he managed to save Bob’s life, but it seems likely that in a strange way, Bob saved his. The previews for next week show a calmer, more collected Raylan back in the field, not fumbling his way blindly through a backwoods, one-man hunt. If Raylan has any chance of getting out of this mess in a satisfactory manner, it will be because of the pause in his efforts that was forced on him by Bob’s attempt to be helpful.
So now the series finale looms with countless consequential balls in the air, a development indicated all throughout what has been the busiest season yet. Avery Markham – and his lethal sidekick Boon – remain on the canvas and considering that it was a gutsy move to take the promised Raylan/Boyd final showdown and interject Avery as a common enemy in the first place, keeping him at the center of events with only one hour remaining appears to be the epitome of high risk, high reward. As remarkable as it is to say it, the creative team has essentially crafted a finale in five parts, building week-by-week since Episode 6.9 after spending most of the season in a patient build to that point. Episode 6.13 will, of necessity, be filled with wall-to-wall fireworks given the countless elements still in need of resolution. Can Graham Yost and Company achieve their ambitious goal and establish this as arguably the greatest final few episodes in TV history by fitting everything together in a coherent manner? Without question, it’s going to be their greatest challenge yet.
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.