Justified begins its final season on FX this week with “Fate’s Right Hand.” Picking up just after last season ended, Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) is sticking around Kentucky just long enough to take down his old frenemy, Boyd (Walton Goggins), then he’ll be off to Florida, where his baby daughter lives. There are thirteen episodes to play out before that can happen, though, so obviously the story won’t zip along, even if it starts out in an exciting manner.
The Raylan / Boyd relationship is the linchpin of Justified. They aren’t always together; in fact, they spend much more time in their own arcs than crossing paths. But keeping Boyd, who is only a recurring character in the first season, around is a brilliant move. Every time the pair come together, it’s explosive magic, and it certainly feels like this final season will give us more of that than ever, since taking down Boyd is the focus of Raylan’s final story.
This dynamic is served nearly right away in “Fate’s Right Hand.” Boyd is intent on robbing a bank and suspects Raylan of watching him. To combat this, Boyd dangles Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) out as a distraction to Raylan and the marshal takes the bait. It’s a very smart move on Boyd’s part, knowing Raylan isn’t supposed to go near Dewey and knowing Raylan won’t be able to resist doing so anyway. It doesn’t take Raylan long to realize he’s been played, but it’s just enough for Boyd to get away with his dastardly deed. It’s this deep understanding of one another that makes the game between them so intense, and while I root for Raylan to win in the end, I’m glad it won’t be easy on him because it’ll be an entertaining ride.
Stuck in the middle of the duo is Ava (Joelle Carter). She is done with Boyd, but is being pressured by Raylan to pretend that’s not the case so she can feed information to law enforcement. Art (Nick Searcy) tells Raylan he would have never have approved such an arrangement, and I’m inclined to agree with Raylan’s former boss. It’s true Ava is in a position where she can help, but there are too many messy emotions involved to trust her, or to trust Raylan’s judgment concerning her. In fact, in this premiere, she tries to play both sides, searching for a middle ground, before being told that’s not an option. It’s a risky move to allow this to carry on, and it is likely to not end well for one or more of the involved parties. Though, I’m heartened that Raylan is wise enough to seek advice from Art, even when he doesn’t have to listen to it.
I talk about messy outcomes, and there’s one teased at in “Fate’s Right Hand” as Boyd, having just killed Dewey, sits and stares as Ava as she sleeps. Does he suspect her of turning on him? He’s smart, and he knows her better than most people. And if Boyd does know that Ava is double-crossing him, does he still love her enough to spare her life? Or will he use her as a pawn in the continuing match? We know Boyd caring about someone does not preclude him for murdering that person. She’s in deep.
I didn’t mean to toss out Dewey’s death as a mere mention, as it is vitally important to Justified. Dewey is a long-standing, recurring player. Justified is full of such people, bringing in excellent actors and helping them create memorable roles, but Dewey is one who has really stuck because he fits so well in the setting. He’s been in a LOT of episodes. “Fate’s Right Hand” does off him a bit earlier than I’d have preferred, but it does it in a cool way.
Dewey leaves prison and still feels trapped. The life he used to enjoy is gone, and try as he might, he can’t get it back. He has no one to turn to, Boyd betraying him easily enough because he senses how unstable Dewey is. That’s because Dewey knows Raylan is in pursuit and he won’t find a moment’s rest. There can be no happy ending for Dewey, and he’s done enough bad things that one doesn’t really want him to get one, anyway. But the way things come together, culminating in the moment Boyd pulls the trigger, fits wonderfully with the show and the character, especially after giving Dewey deserved focus throughout the hour. Plus, it informs Boyd’s stare towards Ava, and chills viewers to the bone.
“Fate’s Right Hand” is an excellent installment of Justified, although I expect no less for the series which has yet to deliver a bad season. Justified is done with such a specific tone and style, unlike anything else currently airing, and adding to that the weight of the approaching conclusion, felt often throughout this episode, it all just clicks into something spectacular. This hour also makes good use of all of its cast, including Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel (Erica Tazel), who are often under-used. These next twelve episodes should be something very much worth watching.
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HT84ZWK][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0038M2AQ4]