FX’s Justified completed its penultimate season this week with a nice wrap up of this year’s arcs, and an excellent setup for the final go-round. In all, it feels like the series is not only coming full circle, but preparing the perfect batch of endings for its motley crew of players.
The season’s antagonists have been members of the Crowe family. In “Restitution,” the season finale, Kendal Crowe (Jacob Lofland) is about to be tried as an adult for the shooting of Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) tells Kendal’s mother, Wendy (Alicia Witt), that the case will go away if she can get her brother, Darryl (Michael Rapaport), who is actually the guilty party, to confess. Wendy does so, killing Darryl in the process.
Justified does an excellent job of creating complex family relationships. Like Margo Martindale’s brood before them, the Crowes are developed quite deeply, and the shifting alliances and positions make sense to the story. Viewers may root against these characters because they are not on the right side of the law and hurt innocents, but rarely do we see bad guys so compellingly detailed as those in this series.
The ending, Wendy taking down the leader of her clan gang, is about a mother protecting her child, but also about making up for her own past wrongs and escaping a family curse. There is so much emotion that goes into that scene, and the authentic way Witt and Rapaport play the showdown is simply amazing. Let’s hope they follow in Martindale’s footsteps of at least being nominated come award season, as they deserve it.
It’s interesting to see the Crowes clean up their own mess, Raylan stepping back and pulling the strings from the sidelines. Usually, Raylan wants to be right in the thick of things. Perhaps having a baby convinces him that he must be more careful, giving him a reason for self-preservation. With his transfer to Florida to be near his kid imminent, Raylan doesn’t want to screw up his chance at happiness.
Of course, there’s still time for Raylan to make more mistakes as he helps with AUSA Vasquez’s (Rick Gomez) new mission, likely Raylan’s last in Kentucky: bringing down Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Boyd is a dangerous and tempting foe, his path with Raylan inexorably entwined throughout the show. They have been friends at times, which only serves to make their animosity more intense. It makes sense for Raylan to want to be present for Boyd’s comeuppance. Yet, there’s a nagging suspicion that Raylan won’t be as triumphant as he expects, and maybe he should just get out of town while he’s ahead.
It’s cool to see Rachel (Erica Tazel), now the acting chief, and Tim (Jacob Pitts) go hard after Boyd. They’ve often been under-utilized on Justified, but with their beloved boss, Art, taken out of commission, they show their mettle in working towards justice. The Crowes and the Crowders are responsible for a great many ugly things, and Tim and Rachel definitely step it up when facing these foes.
Raylan will need his co-workers’ help because Boyd isn’t exactly acting alone. His most recent alliance is with Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen), whom Winn Duffy (Jere Burns) introduces Boyd to. Katherine seems nice enough on the surface, but there’s an undercurrent in her role that is edgy and scary. Boyd teaming up with her immediately makes taking on Boyd a more risky venture, sure to increase the stakes and drama in season six. Hopefully, though, they will be the only bad major bad guys, instead of splitting screen time as other years have done, allowing the stories to focus even more on them.
The marshals do have a secret weapon in Ava (Joelle Carter), whom they spring from jail. Ava likely cooperates even though she cares for Boyd because the months spent behind bars have been rough on her, and every day she spends locked up is another day she could die, having made more enemies than friends in confinement. She’s also a good choice as a weapon because Raylan knows her well and Boyd is blinded of suspicion by his love her for.
The Raylan-Ava-Boyd triangle, sure to be a centerpiece of the final season, cannot end well. Part of me is rooting for Boyd and Ava to somehow escape and find a happy ending. The other part of me knows they don’t deserve to avoid justice any longer. What is worrying is that it will be surprising if all three survive, one or two likely to be killed off along the way. The problem is, they are all too dear to go without being a huge blow to the program. We’ve spent years getting to know them, and any deaths here will be rough on fans.
I’ve been a fan of Justified from the first scene of the show. Over five years, it has maintained a consistent high quality, if not raising the bar from time to time. This inspires confidence that season six will be quite memorable, and with the stellar fifth year finale, it’s already on the right track.
Justified will return to FX in 2015.
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