Justified

This analysis of the lessons learned in the Justified series finale puts a bow on the Season 6 coverage, co-branded between this site and The FDH Lounge.

Justified Episode 6-13

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Well, that was unexpected!

Whether it be on a meta level – like having arguably the most action-packed sequence in television history or cramming all the remaining explosions into the first two-thirds of the show – or in terms of developments, like Raylan letting Ava walk away in the end, Graham Yost and Company proved that we only thought that we knew what the available range of options contained.

When the show’s secondary theme “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” plays well before the show is going off the air – when it usually capped off previous seasons – and sounds those melancholy tones just before the standoff with Boon that the coming attractions promised, the feelings of doom and gloom were in the air.  But not only does Raylan come out alive in the end, so too do Ava and Boyd.  The sports books were probably giving long, long odds on that.

The final Justified episode ever, 6.13, The Promise, had an enormous amount of loose ends to resolve and as such, those first 40 minutes or so wasted no time whatsoever.  Art ends up pulling ranks on the law enforcement officials who are trying to arrest Raylan and after being hectored a bit, restores the gun and badge to his deputy.  Aggressive questioning of one of the dirty cops who delivered Ava to Avery provides Raylan her location, leaving Raylan to chase her down and Art to join the manhunt for Boyd.  Also, when Raylan heard of Ava having dropped a necklace to give a clue as to her whereabouts, he sniffed out that it was Dewey’s gator-teeth jewelry, indicating that poor Dewey did at least prove useful in the end.

Action is percolating with both Boyd and Ava.  Boyd, having dispatched of Zach Randolph, thinks to dig up the grave that contains the money.  Before he beats it out of the cabin one step ahead of the manhunt, he answers the call from Ava, who is being forced to call by Avery.  A shaken Ava realizes that Boyd killed her uncle, but she conducts a coded conversation with her ex, so that Avery will have a reason to keep her alive.

Boyd’s attempt to flee the premises with as much loot as he can haul – still just a piece of it, just like what Ava had previously lifted from there – is interrupted by Tim and the rest of the law enforcement swarm.  However, Uncle Zach’s dy-no-mite comes in handy, as Boyd had spirited some of that and he throws a few lit pieces back at his pursuers in order to create the space needed to escape – and reach Ava.

He does so as Avery is realizing that Ava gaslighted him, at the outset of that aforementioned unmatched sequence.  With a gun to her head, he demands real answers about why Zach didn’t show up at Compass Rock as the message had indicated.  We’ll never know what kind of answer she might have formulated, because Boyd barges in with the dirty cop (who had been outside) as his hostage.  Hilariously, though, both Boyd and Avery are holding hostages who are of no value to the other.  That discovery leads to imminent gunfire, which leads to Boyd gunning down Avery and his police henchman.  Crucially, however, his efforts took every bullet that he had, because his next move is to turn the gun on Ava and … well, he tries to fire, but the chamber is empty … just as Raylan comes strolling through the door.

Raylan wants to settle their matter for good, having Boyd draw on him so that he can put him down.  Boyd protests that his gun is empty, whereupon Raylan flips the cop’s gun to him.  Boyd first wants to ask Ava why she tried to kill him, with her reply being that it was her answer to the question of “What would Boyd do?”  Leaving aside the incongruous notion of Boyd trying to kill Boyd, the master outlaw returns to the subject at hand.  Realizing that he’s not going to be the one to walk away, he refuses to draw on Raylan and challenges his rival to kill him in cold blood.  After seemingly endless hesitation, Raylan ends his long battle with Boyd by bringing him in alive and dead to rights.

In the aftermath, he’s assigned to bring Ava back to Lexington.  She pleads with him that she cannot return to jail and he is unmoved.  His vehicle, however, is moved significantly beyond the speed that he is maintaining on the two-lane highway by the ramming force of Boon’s truck.  Afterward, Raylan and Boon emerge, with captives Loretta and Ava peering nervously from behind their respective windshields.  Once the obligatory pleasantries are out of the way and after a shot frames perfectly the ultimate Wild West shootout moment on a show defined as a modern Western, the two men draw and fire.  In a true Reservoir Dogs moment, it looks like they’re both dead, until Boon, shot in the upper chest, stirs just a bit, raises his gun … and sees it kicked away by Loretta, who leaves him to collapse and die.  Just as Constable Bob repaid Raylan’s belief in him in the last episode by forcing him to save his life instead of trying to kill Boyd in cold blood – granted, as selfless a move as you’ll ever make in that regard since it meant being gutshot – so too does Loretta help Raylan when he needs it the most.  On the other side of the affair, Raylan is down and bleeding from the head and it seems that he may be a goner – if you leave aside the massive time remaining in the episode.  However, the hat deflected the bullet just enough to keep it from causing any real damage.  Raylan’s going to live!  But he’s also going to lose Ava, as she has surreptitiously slipped into the driver’s seat and scooted away.  How did you leave the keys in the ignition, Raylan?  And thus ends that segment, truly one for the ages.

However, upon emerging from the commercial break, a slow truth takes root and manifests itself over the remainder of the episode: even with Ava on the loose and the money unaccounted for, the real action is over!  Raylan’s back at the Lexington office to say his goodbyes and take a few trinkets with him to Florida.  Repeat: it’s over!  Because even after Raylan departs the office, you still think that he’s going to go after Ava – until a time jump reveals that the show is now four years into the future, with Raylan and his little girl on a playground in Miami.  Heartbreakingly, it becomes obvious shortly that Raylan’s not with Winona anymore, because she’s found her Gary 2.0 Beta Male to protect her from her scary feelings for the Bad Boy.  Repeat patterns much, dearie?

That moment was so benign, though, in terms of actual action after everything that had previously happened that it was natural to expect Boyd to pop out from behind a tree and shoot Our Hero.  After all, Ava had previously given the dread “no walls will hold him” foreshadowing speech of doom.  But, nope.  No Boyd, no ghost of Boon, nobody.  Subsequently, Raylan visits the Miami office that is his new professional home and happens to stumble upon a newspaper clipping with a picture … of Ava, in some backwater in the Inland Empire!  And probably not too far from where the show is actually filmed, to boot.  It might have been funny to have her stumble upon that fact and have the fourth wall completely collapse, but such a scenario was not in the cards.

So Raylan beats a path to her front door and they go for a walk.  It’s clear that Raylan is not sure of his course of action and Ava cinches the decision by showing him Next Generation Boyd, the little fella that the monster sired (unbeknownst to everyone) before everything went sideways.  Seeing that Ava is living a clean life with her youngster, one that mirrors his own escape from the legacy of torment in Harlan, he agrees to leave her be.  He reminds her that he assured her at the outset of her informant duties that she’d be OK in the end.  However, her frightened retort that she still fears Boyd getting out and finding her leaves him with one last visit to make.

Predictably, it’s to Boyd, who has come full circle with a prison ministry.  While Season 1 Boyd left you unsure whether or not he was a legitimate believer, largely because he himself seemed to veer between sincerity and doubt, it’s clear that this version of Boyd the Preacher is a complete phony.  But his audience eats it up, until he is interrupted by a guard: somebody’s here to see him.  And he recognizes the man immediately, even though his trademark hat has been replaced by a black one.  As Raylan and he begin the final conversation of the series, through the prison glass, it’s clear that the duality of their relationship has been restored after a final season that was pushing them to an apocalyptic showdown.  Raylan has come with “proof” that Ava has been found dead, which still moves Boyd in spite of everything.  Oddly, even though Raylan is there to lie through his teeth – for the best of reasons, but still – and Boyd is still pretty smug about the Legend of Boyd Crowder, there’s still something between the two men on opposite sides of the law that humanizes them to each other.  As Boyd says yet again, “We dug coal together.”  And Raylan’s moment of agreement brings down the curtain on the series, in ways that could never have been imagined going into it.

So that’s it, folks.  Raylan left his worst traits back in Harlan, and played hero for Ava one last time, but was unable to change enough to form an intact nuclear family with his baby mama and baby.  Based on strong implications given, Wynn helped Ava get away in return for the $9 million of missing money, because he went off the grid and was rumored to be surfing in Hawaii and living the quiet life.  Loretta has probably filled the Avery/Boyd void to become the next generation of Harlan crime kingpin (queenpin?).  If Boyd ever makes it out of jail, which Ava feared, he’d be a great target for the Marshalls, again, wouldn’t he?  Isn’t the modern TV cliché “six seasons and a movie?”  This wrapped up six seasons, now make the movie, guys!  But regardless, many thanks to Yost and the entire team and to the late, great Elmore Leonard for creating this treasure of a world.  You did everyone proud and ended with the best season yet, which is exactly what you are supposed to do.

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.

 

Justified Episode 6.12

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

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.

 

 

Justified Episode 6.11 picture

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

 Warning: Spoiler Alert

Expectations coming into Justified Episode 6.11, Fugitive Number One, were as high as they have been for perhaps any non-finale of a program since Ozymandias, the second-to-last episode of Breaking Bad.  As noted previously in this space, the Justified creative team has been daring in their pacing from season to season, mixing up the structure every year.  In the final campaign, they put forth their most action-packed season debut to date and followed it up with one of the most exciting and satisfying of the “non-signature” (meaning that they might not be regarded as on the first tier of all-time episodes) chapters in 6.3.  From there to Episode 6.7, it was a steady build, with some strong developments – such as the shootout with Tigerhawk Security and Boyd smoking out Ava as a rat – but no real game-changers.  But since then?  It has been absolutely incredible, with both Burned and Trust making a great case for inclusion on that top tier and so many different elements left in play for the final three installments.  Clearly, the direction that has been targeted is to build a finale in five parts, with each one better than the one before it.  That is as ambitious as Graham Yost and Company could have possibly played it.

Opinions will vary, but many would agree that, for a third consecutive week, the writers took the story to an even higher level, building towards an incredible endgame.  At the very least, it would be hard to regard this episode as weaker than the last two.

As last week indicated, the Fugitive Number One that tonight’s title refers to is Ava, something that few could have foreseen when examining the names of upcoming episodes.  Given that nobody dies on this show without a body being produced, of course her uncle, Zach Randolph, survived the funny business down in the mines and he joins her on the run.  Even with the chopper deployed by the Marshalls, they manage to stay one step ahead of the law in the woods throughout the episode, but their would-be getaway accomplice is found dead at the end of the show – so they appear trapped and encircled.  However, never forget that Zach Randolph is a master of the subterranean!  If they tunneled their way to China in the last two episodes, it probably wouldn’t be a major shock given everything else that’s transpiring.

One of those developments has been the return of the sour attitude towards Raylan from AUSA Vasquez.  He fears that his career and Rachel’s are about to go up in flames due to the flaming wreckage of the Boyd investigation and the confidential informant being on the run with a stolen $10 million.  Indeed, Rachel has been replaced in charge by the returning Art, who, fearing the effects of Vasquez telling one and all that Raylan is in cahoots with his “partner” Ava, orders his rebellious underling to come back to the office.  Although grimacing, Raylan surprisingly appears about to do just that, only to change his mind as events unfold.  In a subsequent phone confrontation at the end of the episode, Art gives Raylan 48 hours to wrap everything up, teasing a supremely-compressed timeframe for the final events.

Raylan’s decision to stay in the field is precipitated by a violent incident at Boyd’s hospital room.  The chain of events begins when Avery and Boon visit Boyd’s two stooges in jail.  Avery tries to explain that Boyd sacrificed them as decoys to facilitate his selfish plan for the money, but they are disbelieving.  However, it’s not their belief that Avery’s after, simply their cooperation.  With the aid of a crooked cop, he springs Carl from jail in his custody and tells him that Earl will die if he deviates from his orders – which are to infiltrate Boyd’s hospital room, notwithstanding the police presence, and kill him.  He gets in there with the help of one of Avery’s other goons, but he then attacks the henchman and turns his attention to Boyd.  In a virtuoso performance, truly one of his very best, Boyd sweet-talks Carl with a gun to his head and offers him half of the $10 million once they catch Ava.  Of course, once Boyd is released from his shackles by Carl, he uses the fallen thug’s gun to kill his erstwhile underling and escape.  Really, at this point, if you work for Boyd and still think that he gives half of a wet crap about you, you’re too stupid to live anyway.

Boyd’s inability to care about anyone outside of his tight circle – now inhabited just by himself with Ava having betrayed him – stands in stark contrast to the weird and ultimately fatal codes held by Katherine and Mikey.  In somewhat of a surprising twist from the conclusion to last week, Avery leaves his engagement to Katherine intact despite learning of her betrayal.  The fact that it was prompted by trickery from Wynn and in defense of her late husband made her transgression forgivable in his eyes, even if he doesn’t fully trust her.  In what would turn out to be their farewell conversation, each expresses interest in finishing off Wynn.  Katherine makes it to the RV first, but her rant about loyalty – again, an odd point coming from the woman who relentlessly cheated on her dear, departed hubby – triggers second thoughts from Mikey, who jumps in front of her as she’s about to put some lead in Wynn’s head.  He beseeches her to let him live, albeit with word put out to the Dixie Mafia about his treachery.  To Mikey, that’s the least that he owes his boss, who he realizes that he would be sworn to avenge if he was killed.  Katherine has no time for the sentimental twaddle of a mere henchman and she tries to kill Wynn anyway, only to trigger a violent struggle for the gun.  Keep in mind that while all this is happening, Mikey – who told Wynn earlier in the episode that he always preferred simply to be called Mike – had the classical music (his love of that was another revelation) blaring, rendering the scene one of the truly most surreal in the entire history of the show.  By the time it was over, both would die, with a freed Wynn cradling his fallen subordinate and then calling 911.  For as much as pundits have laughed about Wynn being the ultimate cockroach, slinking away from any number of impossible scenarios, this one topped them all: he was the last person standing after two people sworn to kill him instead turned on each other.  Since he’s not good, for him it’s really better to be lucky than good!

Given what we learned about the legitimacy of Avery’s deep feelings for Katherine – despite her plot against him – the effect of her demise on his mindset will be a big part of the conclusion to the series.  Raylan, having grabbed Earl out of jail following Carl’s murder – over the objections of the cop on Avery’s payroll – stops by to put Avery on notice, but is delayed in doing so by Boon attempting to trigger an Old West showdown.  Avery intercedes – this time – but is probably sorry that he does so when Raylan insists that he abandon his remaining evil plans.  Avery crows about how he and Katherine are going to control the entirety of Harlan before Raylan drops the news about the RV massacre.  With Boon already having given Loretta a thinly-veiled ultimatum to join them or else earlier on – which she predictably rebuffed – the cool, calm, collected Avery may be morphing into a maniac possibly on a scale with Robert Quarles.

So for all of the characters like Boon and Boyd who have taunted Raylan about how successful he’d be without the benefits of his badge – and for those like Coover who actually got him to take it off – we may be about to find out how Kentucky’s most stubborn badass law enforcement official would fare as a true lone wolf.  With Vasquez out to pin whatever he can on him once again, Raylan cannot count on his disappointed superiors, Art and Rachel, to save his bacon one last time.  Plus, Boyd, Ava and the $10 million are still in the wind, with Avery/Boon and Loretta as huge remaining wild cards.  All season long, the Justified creative team has refused to play it safe and simply provide the inevitable Raylan vs. Boyd showdown without any other competing elements.  They’ve dared to be ambitious, interjecting countless other compelling personalities and developments into the series climax.  And if they pull off their seemingly-impossible feat of producing a series finale in five parts, with each more explosive than the last, then they will elevate this final season and the series as a whole to a consensus short list of the greatest of all time.

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.

Justified Episode 6.10

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

At some point, an interested TV historian is likely to come along and compare Justified Episode 6.10 to other major episodes in the history of the medium.  The name of this one, Trust, referred to the seemingly countless times that it was breached and relationships were torn asunder.  Has any major, critically-acclaimed television series ever featured an episode with as many long-term alliances (however fake some of them were in nature) torn asunder?  In chronological order, they proceeded as follows:

1 Boyd and Earl/Carl – Sensing a trap regarding where Avery’s money was headed, Boyd served up another of his interchangeable henchmen to the authorities as a decoy.

2 The Marshals/AUSA Vasquez and Ava – Vasquez decided that Ava’s testimony would never hold up in court because she had been burned and so he decreed that she would be heading back to jail even she helps to nail Boyd.

3 Mikey and Wynn – Wynn’s sidekick did more than continue to grouse about his snitching; he attacked him and called Katherine to serve him up to the Dixie Mafia.

4 Katherine and Boyd – Having set up a fake kidnapping, these two lured Avery with the $10 million in “ransom” only to have Boyd make off with all the money and endanger Katherine’s life by rubbing her betrayal in the old guy’s face.

5 Katherine and Avery – The fact that Avery realizes that she was tricked into believing that he was the rat who got her husband killed and thereby was tricked into gaslighting him may be the only mitigating factor that could save her.

6 Ava and Boyd – She was working with Raylan to try to serve up Boyd, but the line was crossed for good when she shot him and made off with his stolen millions.

7 Ava and Raylan – When Ava went into business for herself and left, holding a gun on Raylan the whole time, she sealed her fate with the law and with her old flame.

That, right there, is an implosion of the majority of remaining alliances on the program outside of the Marshall service – and considering that Rachel is likely to be unhappy with Raylan’s handling of the situation and that Limehouse may have a bone to pick with Boyd and/or Ava for being tricked into being bought so cheaply – groundwork was laid for future ruptures as well.  The magnitude of the work achieved in this episode is compounded by the fact that it had such a tough act to follow.

[Post-shows such as the ones always contained at the bottom of this column are always interesting to record in the immediacy bubble right after Justified.  One can only speculate about how the rest of the world is reacting to the episode when the show is being analyzed from the moment that it goes off the air.  And those early (and real-time, thanks to Twitter) reactions are critical to forming the consensus of the masses; former Washington Post publisher Phil Graham once referred to journalism as the first rough draft of history and today’s “culture of now” reflects the extreme acceleration of this phenomenon over time.  The rapid shaping of the collective opinion on matters extends most definitely to today’s critical favorites on the tube such as Justified.  As such, hazarding a guess about what the rest of the world is saying while we are recording the postshow is always a gamble, no matter how obvious something seems in the heat of the moment.  Last week, we proclaimed Burned as one of the great episodes in show history, just as we did last year with Shot All to Hell.  In both instances, our reactions were ratified by most of the public, including conventional wisdom barometer AV Club — who awarded a rare “A” grade to both.  Having said that, however, it was jarring to see Alan Sepinwall, the granddaddy of Internet long-form reviewing, refer to Burned as essentially very entertaining filler — since he asserts that many fundamentals of this season remain unchanged after the episode.  Considering that the Zach Randolph storyline peaked last week and Wynn and Loretta had their progressions moved forward substantially, we will simply have to agree to disagree with Mr. Sepinwall about what of lasting consequence transpired.]

Significantly, the serial shattering of relationships chronicled above did not even come close to summing up the entirety of events on this most consequential of occasions.

^ The return of Limehouse, as a would-be navigator for Boyd and Ava on the run, raises the possibility of one last visit to Noble’s Holler for the program – although Limehouse and Ava gave voice to their serious mutual dislike.

^ After voicing suspicion about the information that he received from Wynn last week, Boyd just flat-out assumed this time that Raylan was feeding him data through Wynn in terms of the alleged money route to Charlotte.  If Wynn survives his Dixie Mafia problems somehow, he’s going to have to face down a dangerous and wounded Boyd Crowder.

^ Amidst the hullabaloo about his money from the bank vault, Avery remains a dangerous man simply with his other resources.  Loretta’s great-aunt was put to death when she refused to cooperate with him and his new trained assassin, Boon, is one sick puppy – as he demonstrated with some sadistic bullying in a coffee shop simply for the benefit of his own jollies.  Loretta’s in the crosshairs of these two reprobates and that’s a bad place to be.

^ The gator teeth left behind by Dewey Crowe seemed like they were going to play a tangible role in the investigation of Boyd, but Raylan was dismissive of them when Ava offered them to him.  Raylan was right to suspect that Boyd covered his tracks even if he did murder the hapless dummy, but to Ava, that smacked of simply shooting down her initiatives for his own reasons.

^ Perhaps Ava hadn’t fully formulated her escape plan – from her fiancée and the law – when she showed Raylan the fake ID that Limehouse had obtained for her, but now Raylan’s going to be able to add that to the description of her that will be going out to law enforcement agencies.

In terms of the Justified endgame, the creative team has lulled the audience into focusing on the climactic conclusion to the series-long Raylan/Boyd dynamic and other adjacent endings, like the finale of Raylan’s time with the Marshall office in Lexington.  The moment of reminiscing that Ava indulged in with Raylan prior to her implementation of the double-cross seemed like others that had come before and others that might lie ahead in the future.  But Episode 6.10 proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that when this series is over, nothing will ever be the same.  We won’t be able to imagine RV rides continuing to be shared with Wynn and Mikey once the show goes off the air.  Katherine’s world will be turned upside down, if indeed she still inhabits it and the examples go on and on.  We indicated last week that the endgame had begun with a truly great and historic episode.  This week, the momentum continued and even accelerated and now only three episodes remain.  If Graham Yost and Company can keep matching this feat over the last three weeks, the five-episode arc to conclude the season may go down as one of the greatest multi-episode blocs in TV history and the show’s already-strong claim to immortality will be strengthened even more.  We can only hope.

As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode: 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.

 

 

Justified Episode 6.9

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Throughout its history, one of the more intriguing elements of Justified has been the way that Graham Yost and his fellow writers and producers have defied the expectations vis-à-vis the formatting of their seasons.  It’s been consistently difficult to forecast the pacing of different seasons, exemplified most famously perhaps by the decision to unveil the identity of Drew Thompson about 2/3 of the way through Season 4 instead of much closer to the very end.  It’s one thing to be unconventional about the pacing and to mix it up from season to season as they do, but it’s another thing entirely to make it work – and coming into this final campaign, the public consensus seems to be that they made it work in every season except the last one.

So past performance means that Yost and Company had an 80% chance to get it right in this final season, even as they eschewed playing it safe yet again.  The Raylan/Boyd final battle has had many different complicating elements thrown in its path, from Sam Elliott’s badass Avery Markham character to the weird Avery/Katherine dance and emerging backstory to the whole subplot with the Tigerhawk Security boys.  And with the great strides made last week by Raylan in boxing Boyd in, the series certainly didn’t feel coming into Episode 6.9, Burned, as though it only had five episodes left.  Because aside from burning and then turning Ava – a feat negated by the fact that Raylan quickly sussed out that she had been compromised – Boyd was completely up a foul Kentucky creek at the end of 6.8.  His great caper is being undermined by Zach Randolph and Raylan, Rachel, Tim and the Marshalls are now just waiting for him to complete it so they can bust him for good.  On a lesser show, you’d fear that the epic clash six seasons in the making is going to fizzle out like a dud firecracker – and with too much anticlimax time left over after it.

But with Justified, the benefit of the doubt earned by the writers causes you to make the positive assumption that there’s nothing to worry about and that the final five episodes are going to be full of all kinds of twists and turns – chief among them being Boyd’s ability to escape the noose one more time before the climax of the series endgame.

So, with all of that said, there was no reason to expect going in that Yost and Company would turn to the Season 4 playbook, with Burned turning out to be the Decoy of this season, an explosive culmination of all that has happened thus far.  But that’s exactly what played out, in extremely glorious fashion.

There was so much that happened that developments that would have taken up a good percentage of the focus of earlier episodes are somewhat at risk of being overlooked; such was the magnitude of what was poured into an episode that remarkably fit into the standard broadcast window, without the overrun that has been utilized many times this season.  Some of these developments included:

^ Seemingly out of nowhere – in a sudden moment that probably deserved a bit more setup – Seabass breaks in on Avery and Katherine to hold them up for “severance pay.”  Unfortunately for him, he makes the mistake of trusting Katherine to pull an expensive tennis bracelet out of her purse, when her actual move is to fire a gun through it and through him.  RIP, Seabass.

^ Wynn being unmasked, in the cold open no less, as the snitch who got Katherine’s husband killed.  Raylan and Art squeeze him with this knowledge and the threat of a leak to the Dixie Mafia, who would not be gentle with him.  While Mike momentarily disapproves of his boss’s decision to inform again, Wynn chalks it up to just another consequence of the life.

Wynn’s first job for the Marshalls is to approach Boyd with the “tip” that Avery is moving the money out of the vault later in the day after a shindig that he is throwing at the Pizza Portal.  While Boyd, paranoid about a great deal these days, is suspicious of the intel, he decides to act on it anyway.  Thus, the episode builds to an incredible second half with Avery and Katherine beseeching the people of Harlan attending their party to trust him and sell their land, with almost all of the main characters on the canvas in the room – and the culmination of the break-in through the mines transpiring literally under their feet.

Before that, though, there are a few intriguing developments and pulse-pounding moments.  Loretta arrives home to find a menacing intruder, Boon, who has left her a dead animal as a thinly-veiled metaphor for her own fate if she doesn’t sell to Avery.  After staring him down, Raylan’s surrogate daughter figure makes the bold move of approaching Boyd to be her business partner.  Boyd accepts and offers her the chance to be the Queen of Harlan, being in a position to be generous in his own mind since he believes that he and Ava will be making off with their fortune before the sun rises the next day.  Later, Boyd’s final preparations for the heist appear to be airtight.  Initially irate when he learns that Ava fed Raylan info about the vault heist, he sees the bright side when he considers that the authorities will not fathom that he’s coming at it from underground.  And as we know, he’s wrong about that.

At Avery’s function, a gatecrashing Loretta again demonstrates her gumption by refusing to be intimidated by Boone and agreeing to purchase the Givens property (a deal which Raylan will later state is negated by her public revelations).  And once Avery takes center stage and tries to sweet-talk the townsfolk, he tries to use Boyd and Ava, the other party-crashers, as a foil.  Boyd starts to banter back as fans everywhere have flashbacks to his other memorable moments in public speaking.  But what follows is delicious misdirection from the creative team, as Loretta again takes center stage, playing the outsider card against Avery and turning her fellow locals against him.  Katherine whispers menacingly to Avery that something’s going to have to be done about her and the vicious visage of Boon suggests that it will be swift and brutal.  Boyd, unmasked in her remarks as her partner, is none too thrilled with her indiscretion, which means that she might be lacking the muscle she will need to avoid having her bluff called.

As all of this is unfolding, the robbery plot is building to a climax.  Raylan’s demeanor with Ava makes it plain that he’s sniffed out the fact that she’s been burned, so she tells him that her role in the matter, which is unfolding in real time, is to set a fire as a diversion and make sure that the alarm is pulled.  Ready for what’s to come, Raylan tells her to do so and the plot unfolds exactly as it should from Boyd’s perspective – until Zach Randolph finally makes his move against him, attacking him and chaining him so that the explosives will finish him off.  A dramatic last-minute rescue by his crew gets Boyd out of the mines, shaken, physically intact and lacking any of the loot.  He confronts Ava intensely, wondering if she was in cahoots with her uncle, until she reminds him that she was the one who pointed out that Zach Randolph was not to be trusted.  Given the damage to the facility and the knowledge that the vault is not safe from any angle, Boyd tells her that the money is going to be moved in the next several hours and he intends to intercept it.  Yet again, Boyd’s plan is sniffed out by Raylan, who relates it to Rachel in an attempt to placate her after she expresses extreme frustration that they still have nothing big to stick on Boyd.

So now the mine storyline has culminated in ignominious failure for Boyd, a development that many would regard as surprising.  His fallback plan has also been detected by Raylan, who has turned Ava against him again – at least for the time being.  Avery and Loretta/Boyd are now raising the stakes in the Harlan land grab.  Given the fact that the show doesn’t feature loose ends, Zach Randolph being out there in the wind has to mean something.  And the patience of the feds is waning rapidly with Raylan.  On first viewing, Burned belongs on a short list of the greatest Justified episodes ever, alongside Bloody Harlan, Decoy and Shot All to Hell.  Now, Decoy was acceptable as a highpoint for Season 4, with an entertaining anticlimax winding up the last few chapters of the season.  In the final run of the show, however, the writers have a much steeper challenge: to build off of the greatness of this episode and actually carry the momentum forward in even more memorable fashion.  It won’t be easy; it’s a thankless task.  But creating one of the most outstanding TV dramas of all time isn’t supposed to be easy.  We can only hope that the final four episodes can carry the program to the heights that we have come to expect over six seasons.

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.

Justified Episode 6.8

Photo Courtesy of FX Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

What began as a simple Raylan/Boyd final battle — with Ava as the fulcrum — at the start of the final season very quickly became so much more.  From the introduction of weed kingpin Avery Markham (and his Tigerhawk Security crew and his weird relationship with Katherine Hale) to Ava’s Uncle Zach Randolph coming back into the mix as Boyd’s unreliable mine guide, the program has moved at an interesting pace.  Early on, it seemed as though the show might ape its Season 5 pattern with a midseason finale and then a real one later, but instead Justified has advanced all of the moving parts at a deliberate rate that suggests that the biggest detonations will be saved for the final few episodes.  After starting the season with some of the biggest adrenaline rushes ever in an opener — with Boyd’s bank robbery and the murder of poor Dewey Crowe — the writers throttled back significantly and have simultaneously ramped up the intrigue.

But now, in Episode 6.8, Dark As a Dungeon, the action accelerates again while still leaving almost every huge thread for the season still in play – while seemingly introducing some new ones.  That’s the work of a tremendous creative team.

On a macro level, in the aftermath of Winona’s visit with the baby last week, Raylan finds himself more ready, willing and able than ever to truly put Harlan and all that it represents behind him.  While he as a character bears almost no resemblance to laid-back substance-abuser Hank Moody from Californication, the two men have one important trait in common: both are capable of committing completely to the woman that they consider their soulmate 100% when they know that she is on board.  If she wavers, they only talk a good game about staying committed.  Winona came up and laid her cards on the table last week about wanting to have a family with Raylan and the baby and now he’s all-in.  Forever haunted by abusive father Arlo – literally at the end of the episode in Arlo’s shed in a thrilling apparition appearance by Raymond Barry – Raylan burns Arlo’s old possessions and arranges for the relocation of the family graves in preparation for selling the family estate.

But Raylan’s methods of putting the family legacy in southeast Kentucky behind him take a questionable turn when he admits to Boyd that the only reason he’s still hanging around is to put him away.  Now, Boyd knows this in the aftermath of Ava’s confession about being an informant last week, but Rachel would surely be furious if she knew that he’d tipped Boyd to the enormity of what the feds have planned.

Otherwise, Raylan’s pretty much on his game, visiting Zach Randolph and brawling with him briefly before getting a look at his mining tools.  Also, his marriage of convenience with Avery – which might lead to Avery purchasing the Givens land – results in the (room temperature) capture of Ty via the $100,000 bounty that Raylan convinces him to post.

But before Ty breathes his last, a sad moment for anyone who appreciates the great Garret Dillahunt, he introduces intrigue that seems certain to outlive him.  After taking Ava and Earl captive at her house, he is holding a gun on her when Boyd arrives there.  Now, prior to Ava revealing herself as a rat, Boyd would have sacrificed himself in a heartbeat if any bad guy was threatening her.  But in this scene, he bluffs Ty into dropping the gun by acting unaffected by his fiancé’s life being in the balance.  It works, but with Ava’s death appearing to be a chance that he’s willing to take, there’s no way that she’s not going to throw that back in his face at some point.

As it was, each finds themselves acting in highly unilateral fashion once Raylan introduces himself into the mix.  Out on Ava’s front lawn, Raylan delivers the aforementioned warning as the two joust in their usual charming style – whereupon Ava suddenly invites Raylan inside, drawing a stern glare from Boyd.  Walker’s hiding out on the first floor of the house when Raylan mentions the 100 grand reward to Boyd and the great outlaw – who had just spent several minutes conspiring with the fugitive about how to keep him hidden long enough for them to steal from the Pizza Portal vault together – immediately throws him under the bus.  Walker’s feeble escape attempt draws fire from Raylan.  Later, Raylan surprisingly intervenes on Boyd’s behalf, beseeching a puzzled Avery to pay him the bounty.  Raylan has the sense that the money will cause problems for Boyd and it does, in two ways.

1 It exacerbates the tensions with Ava.  She wants them to take the money and make a run for it.  He counters, reasonably, that $100,000 would not last the two of them for anywhere near the rest of their lives.  From his view inside the vault when Avery was fetching his money, he estimates that the elderly pot baron has $10 million hidden down there and he makes the case that they’re very close to obtaining it.  But she has a tremendous point of her own: no amount of money will ever be enough for Boyd.  If Boyd and Ava don’t get their “riding off into the sunset” moment – and it’s hard to see how they will – then this conversation may go down as the last chance that they let get away.

2 It allows Raylan to identify Boyd’s robbery plan.  While down by the vault, Raylan hears the underground explosions and feels the tremors of the game of Dig Dug happening beneath his feet.  Combined with the visit to Zach Randolph, it’s not hard for him to deduce what’s going on, as he informs Rachel.

But he also has bad news for his new boss, as he guesses that Boyd has figured out that Ava’s working for the feds and that she can no longer be trusted.  So that’s a new wrinkle coming out of an episode that, as stated above, wrung a tremendous amount of drama out of the last hours of Ty’s life while not burning a single other element of the endgame for the season and the series.  An additional angle involves the temporary alliance between Raylan and Avery, one that doesn’t seem fated to last given the old guy’s outlaw ways – even if his method of money-making has been legal by state (if not federal) law the last few years.  And the season-long dance between Katherine and Avery is heating up, as the widow Hale openly contemplates with Wynn the prospect of marrying the white-haired gent just to become a two-time widow.  Hedging her bets, she provides information surrounding the web of her husband’s murder to Art, who still joins AUSA Vasquez in suspecting her of involvement in a related killing of a federal prosecutor.  This web from long ago, which began to be hinted at late last season for the first time, should also prove to be surprisingly instrumental to the climax of the series.

For now, Raylan looks to be solidly ahead of Boyd.  He knows that Ava can’t be trusted and that Boyd’s crew is attempting the big robbery from underground.  Moreover, as Raylan also suspects, Boyd can’t trust Zach Randolph either.  Everything looks to be wrapping up in fine fashion for the US Marshalls.  But this is Justified, the show where nothing unfolds nearly or simply.  With five episodes remaining, Boyd’s got a reversal of fortune or two up his sleeve, ones that he might not have even conceptualized yet.  Raylan tried this week to put the past definitively behind him – but before it’s all said and done, Arlo’s surrogate son will almost certainly get the upper hand again on Arlo’s biological son.

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.