“Ghosts” is the fourth season finale of FX’s Justified, which aired this week. Does the title refer to the ghost of Raylan’s father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry), recently deceased, whom Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) has always had a complicated relationship with? Or does it refer to the friendship between Raylan and Boyd (Walton Goggins), the men they once were, and the very different men they have become?
Justified works primarily because of the complex characters in the story. Raylan is a lawman, and only shoots the bad guys when he has a reason. His career is in stark contrast to his criminal father, and sometimes he struggles with the worry that he will turn into Arlo. This isn’t helped when Boyd compares the two, something Boyd may be doing just to get under Raylan’s skin, knowing him as well as he does.
But Raylan makes a huge decision in “Ghosts,” and it threatens his good reputation. He sets up Nicky (Mike O’Malley) to be whacked by Sammy (Max Perlich), his rival in the Detroit mob. Raylan may not pull the trigger himself, but he is complicit in the act. It will weigh on his conscience, drawing him closer to the man Arlo was, and that’s a huge sacrifice for Raylan to make.
Raylan does have a good reason for his actions. Nicky sends armed men into Winona’s (Natalie Zea) home; Winona who is pregnant with Raylan’s child, and whom Raylan still loves. Nicky vows to keep coming after them. Raylan does what he must to protect the mother of his child and his unborn daughter. However, in doing so, he gives away a piece of his soul.
This sort of no-win situation, the kind the tests a hero’s mettle, is what makes defines a man. Raylan may be a flawed hero, but he is a hero. He rarely acts out of any selfish impulse. Even the foolish choices he makes are to protect others. He’s stubborn and won’t quit, even when suspended, but that just proves his dedication to justice and serving others. It’s a complicated situation when a good guy disobeys the rules for the right reasons.
Obviously, murder is the greatest extension of that, and it’s a good thing that no one knows about Raylan’s actions. It may still come out eventually; Justified is the type of series to bring back something years later, when it’s least expected. If this comes to light, it will ruin Raylan’s career. It doesn’t matter that Nicky deserves to die, or that if Nikky doesn’t die, Winona very well could. It’s the fact that Raylan took matters into his own hands and allowed the killing to take place that is unacceptable to the government.
This will jeopardize his chances for promotion, which Raylan is up for as Art (Nick Searcy) considers retirement, even while under suspension. This proves just how good Raylan’s track record is. If the breach stays hidden long enough, Raylan may even get Art’s job, at least for awhile. Though I hate to lose Art, it would be interesting to see Raylan in charge, even if Tim (Jacob Pitts) or Rachel (Erica Tazel) may have the better disposition for it.
One wonders how the Detroit men will hold this wrongdoing over Raylan’s head. Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) is their man in Kentucky now, hiring Boyd to distribute heroin for them. Wynn may or may not know what Raylan does, but if he finds out, he will definitely use it to curry favor with Raylan. Will Raylan have to kill others to protect his secret, or will that be a line he can’t cross, willing only to do bad to protect others, not himself?