A review of the “Justified” season one finale coming up just as soon as the elevator comes…
“Did you think you could do what you did and there would be no consequences?” -Bo Crowder
I’ve loved this season of “Justified,” but I didn’t love the finale – as a finale, at least. As just an episode of this show, it had a lot of great moments – Boyd’s despair at finding his men strung up and murdered, Raylan finding various memorable ways to kill the bad guys (Raylan under the windowsill being my favorite of those) – but as the culmination of the story Graham Yost and company have been telling for the last three months, it felt lacking.
I don’t mind the show reverting to the trope of Raylan the master gunslinger. At the end of the day, “Justified” is a modern-day Western, and there has to come a point where our man slaps some leather – and short of another showdown in the middle of a sunny road (which we already saw in the LA episode), what more appropos Western climax is there than our man trying to fend off assault while hunkered down in a makeshift fort?
My problem is that the writers spent most of the year deconstructing Raylan – putting him in an uncomfortable setting, rubbing his nose in the consequences of his trigger-happy ways and turning him from the supremely confident man who killed Tommy Bucks and snatched a shotgun out of Dewey Crowe’s hands into a more uncertain figure who was almost desperate to prove he could solve problems without resorting to lethal force – and then largely reverted him back to bad-ass Raylan without a big transformative moment in between. The Raylan of this episode isn’t exactly the man he was in the pilot – for one thing, he’s again hatless for a good chunk of the action – but I still wanted the moment when he takes out Bo’s first two goons to feel like it mattered to him more than it did, whether it was frustration that he has to kill people even when he’s not trying to set people up for justified shootings, or a recognition that it doesn’t automatically say something about him every time he has to use his gun.
We got emotional payoff to Raylan’s relationship with his father (the hurt in Tim Olyphant’s voice as he said, “No, don’t call me that” in response to Arlo referring to him as “son”), but Raylan’s relationship to his capacity for violence was an even bigger part of this season, and it felt like a ball got dropped here at the end.
Still, Olyphant was good, and Walton Goggins was even better at showing Boyd being utterly lost in the aftermath of his flock’s murder. In case there was any lingering doubt about Boyd’s sincerity, “Bulletville” should put that to rest. I liked the full-circle idea of Boyd returning to Ava’s house (and then helping Raylan save her from his daddy and the cartel hitters), as well as the idea that Raylan and Boyd began the series wanting to kill each other and ended it as the only allies each other could lean on during this crisis.
With Goggins now a regular, I do wonder what role Boyd will play in season two. Boyd doesn’t do anything in the finale that could put him back in prison (though we’ll see what happens if/when he catches up with Gio’s niece), one of his followers took the fall for blowing up the meth trailer, and anyone else who can connect him to anything is dead, including most of his family. Will he be a snitch next year? Will the jailhouse conversion fade as he sees an opportunity to take over all the open territory left by Bo’s death? Goggins is terrific, and especially when paired with Olyphant, and I hope Yost has a good plan for how to use him now that this arc is essentially done.
Not that everything was wrapped up, of course. I imagine Arlo will go to prison for trying to aid in kidnapping Raylan (and/or for screwing with the feds), Gio will surely keep trying to kill Raylan, and with Winona and Gary now on the outs, there’s still the question of which woman (if either) Raylan might end up with. Lots to deal with next season (along with hoping the producers do a better job of distributing the episodes they have with Rachel and Tim so we don’t have supporting characters vanishing for long stretches), and I look forward to it, even if I don’t think they entirely stuck the landing here.
What did everybody else think?