On the whole, season four of Justified was pretty spectacular. With a few exceptions, almost every episode was filled with perfect writing, skillful, action-packed direction, some of the greatest acting performances on television, and really interesting character arcs. We also said goodbye to one of the show’s greatest assets, Raymond J. Barry as Arlo Givens in one of Justified’s greatest show openers ever, a vicious prison shanking. While Arlo’s passing was a loss to the show, we all made it through, and have one helluva episode to remember him by.
Though most of this season did involve the marshallin’ stiffy-inducing search for fugitive Drew Thompson, who was Arlo’s buddy in Vietnam, and who brought cocaine to Harlan County. Drew, of course, turned out to be the kindly old Sheriff Shelby (Jim Beaver), who rescued dumb-but-sweet prostitute Ellen May (Abby Miller) from the clutches of Boyd and Ava, since she witnessed Ava kill Delroy…
Now that Raylan officially brought in Drew/Shelby and skirted the Detroit mob, this season’s central “mystery,” now what? With most of the season’s plot wrapped up last week, this week’s finale did not have that much to do. Raylan had to tie up some loose ends with the Detroit mob, and Boyd had to get that whole Delroy thing squared away. The episode, entitled “Ghosts,”directed by Bill Johnson and written by Fred Golan and Benjamin Cavell, was certainly a very good one, but Justified could have done just a bit better. There were some unanswered questions left over from the rest of the season, and a lack of the kind of energy that had been exuded in recent episodes past.
So, Art is still going ahead with that 30-day suspension, and Raylan is heading off to Winona’s to help her with a mysterious second rocking chair (delivered by Detroit mafia heavy Picker). When he gets there, he arrives to a shit storm, as the Detroit men have officially invaded Winona’s house and are holding Winona hostage in the nursery. One heavy threatens that Raylan and Winona will be on Nicky Augustine’s “list.” Obviously, Raylan Givens is Raylan Givens and kills all of them… with his lady’s aid. This scene is pretty, for lack of a better word, awesome. Second to perhaps the second hottest Marshal in Lexington (Tim), Raylan’s a damn good shot and it’s great fun to watch him do his thing. And act upon some fatherly instincts. It’s also a relief that the whole “holding Winona hostage” thing wasn’t dragged out for an entire episode.
Still… Raylan’s suspended. And Art won’t let him go after Nicky. So Raylan goes stealth and calls upon his dearest frenemy, Boyd Crowder, to lead him to Nicky. Thing is, Raylan catches Boyd and Ava in the middle of a dead body switch. To prevent Ava from getting caught (they happen upon the police pulling up Delroy’s body from the mines in the beginning of the episode), Boyd teams up with the crooked Harlan police and Mr. Paxton, one of the Harlan elite from that party who is also owns the morgue. When Raylan arrives at the bar, the dug up body is resting on a table in the back.
As always, the high point of this episode is when Raylan and Boyd are driving together to see Nicky. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins have such amazing chemistry, and their characters have a relationship that is so layered, so complicated. Raylan can threaten Boyd with arrest all he wants. They can insult each other for hours. But when it comes down to it, there’s a love there deep, deep down that makes their relationship so utterly satisfying. Their exchange in the car is so amazing, again, I thought I should transcribe it for your reading pleasure:
Raylan: “You love her, huh? Ava?”
Boyd: “Do you have to ask?”
Raylan: “Yeah. You love her like… how you love the Lord? Your lovely white skin? How you loved Arlo… I know he meant a lot to you.”
Boyd: “You know, you can know a fellow your whole life and not really know him at all. You know what I think, Raylan? I think you’re just jealous that I get to open a present that will never be under your Christmas tree.”
Raylan: “I think you love anything that will let you put your head on a pillow at night, believing you ain’t the bad guy.”
Perfection, right? Sometimes it is hard to think back to the time in season one that Boyd was a white supremacist. Raylan doesn’t find it too hard. Also, way to go, writers, for implying Raylan’s deep-seeded resentment for Arlo’s close relationship with Boyd, bringing back that all-important Justified theme of fathers and sons. Raylan acts like his relationship with his father didn’t bother him, to the point of insisting on going back to work right after Arlo died, but it’s gratifying to almost hear him verbalize it. The episode also concludes with Raylan patching up the hole in Arlo’s wall from the wire stripping back in the beginning of the season, then resting in the backyard, looking at his parents’ graves. Ah… so good.
Raylan is no fool – he has something up his sleeve. Apparently, he already conferred with Theo Tonin’s son, Sammy to be waiting at the airport when Nicky didn’t turn himself in. Nicky did not, of course, and Sammy and his men shot away at Nicky’s limo. Bye, Mike O’Malley! I wasn’t into it at first, but I ate my words once he traded bons mots with Walton Goggins and just served it up raw this season. Well done, sir. I bet you will really hate being on Glee after this.
This is mildly troubling, in terms of my distorted view that Raylan Givens is a real person, since Raylan got his hands pretty dirty here. He certainly was not upholding the law, despite the fact that he was technically not a lawman because he was suspended. I hope Raylan doesn’t go on a darker path… though I have faith that his belief in the law will transcend. Also, greater measures had to be taken, since no one touches Raylan’s fetus and lady! Raylan, unlike Arlo, will be a great provider.
Now, I have been projecting Ava’s death for weeks, since she and Boyd obviously can’t run off, buy a chain of Dairy Queens, and own that beautiful suburban home. But… she just gets arrested by the crooked police when burying Delroy. Sneaky, sneaky… the arrest was supposed to be for Boyd, and who is lingering in the background? Preacher Cassie.
This is all well and good, but the finale should have gone out with a much bigger bang. I didn’t want Ava to die, but wouldn’t that have been a much more powerful way to go at the end of this season? Also, where was Johnny? Was he taken into custody? I think one of the most powerful aspects to this season was the ongoing struggle between Boyd and Johnny and how Johnny felt supplanted by Boyd since he took over the family crime syndicate. This theme was even nudged at with the whole Theo/Sammy/Nicky saga, and how Sammy felt supplanted by Nicky, so it would be only natural to bring this back to characters that matter more – Boyd and Johnny. I’m glad that Johnny didn’t die, so he could come back, but he definitely should have had a major part in the finale, and for him not to be present at all just gives the episode a somewhat hollow, unfinished feeling. Also, there should have definitely been more Marshal Tim.
So, where are we for season five? Raylan made out with Winona, so maybe that’s back on track. Winona is a red-blooded woman, after all. Raylan is also up for Art’s job, which is good. Wynn Duffy put Boyd is now in charge of moving heroin, but Boyd is sad because Ava’s in prison. Johnny is probably in prison. And as of the end of season three, let’s not forget, Dickie Bennett is also still in prison. Limehouse is still cleaverin’ meat. Marshal Tim is still second hottest Marshal and fighting that PTSD. So, should be good stuff, I say!
The Upside: Raylan shooting up the Detroit heavies, Raylan and Boyd riffing in the car, the meaningful episode conclusion.
The Downside: The finale didn’t uphold the momentum of episodes past and there were some unanswered questions (i.e. Johnny).
On the Side: With all of the hullaballoo involved with the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, it’s hard for the public to remember that Walton “Boyd Crowder” Goggins would have been in Veronica Mars’ fourth season, had it been picked up.
Top Moments of Badassery: Raylan’s nursery massacre, Raylan offing Nicky, and Boyd digging up the body.