Season premiere review: ‘Justified’ – ‘Fate’s Right Hand’

“Justified” is back for its final season. I published some overall thoughts on the new episodes this morning, and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I tell you that carrying my underpants is important…

“Fate's Right Hand” simultaneously points towards the end of the series while it looks back at the beginning. In the return and then murder of Dewey Crowe, it gives us both at once. Dewey was one of the very first bad guys Raylan met in his return to Kentucky, and the fact that the show is finally ready to stamp out the poor, stupid cockroach tells us how close the story is to wrapping up. If there's no longer any room for Dewey's antics, then things are about to get very dire indeed.

We open the season, interestingly enough, not with anyone in Harlan or Lexington, but with Winona and the baby out in Florida, Winona wondering what it is that Raylan has to do that's worth missing this for. It's a brief scene, but it suggests all that Raylan has to gain if he can finish this assignment alive (and out of prison), and all he has to lose by going after Boyd rather than simply walking away. When he goes to visit a convalescing Art, Art makes yet another callback to the series' first scene, suggesting Raylan may intend to do to Boyd what he did to that gangster in Miami, and ponders what might happen if Raylan isn't still the fastest gun in the south, “and the bullet finds you.” Raylan looks confident as always, but times change, people get older, and anything can happen in this dying coal town, as so many of the bigger and badder gangsters from out of town have discovered when they've gone up against Raylan and/or Boyd.

As for Boyd, we get a reminder of his own past when he stands shirtless in his introductory scene and we get the best look we've had at his Aryan tattoos in quite a while. That's several identities ago for him, and yet Katherine Hale and Wynn Duffy have him robbing banks once again, and Ava once again is carrying a gun because she's terrified of him coming into her home – even if she has to act otherwise for the benefit of her undercover operation with Raylan.

But what's perhaps most interesting is that we still don't know which side Ava is on – perhaps because she's not sure yet. On the one hand, she's afraid of Boyd. On the other, she doesn't tell Raylan everything that Boyd tells her (omitting his talk of retiring to Costa Rica, for instance). Given her circumstances, she may simply not trust either of her former lovers, and is just holding her cards close to the vest until the proper angle presents itself. Or maybe, after all she's been through with both men, and her prison ordeal, Ava simply doesn't know anymore what she cares about and to whom she feels loyal.

In a series that was always destined to conclude with Raylan going against Boyd one last time, Ava is a huge wild card. Should be interesting to see what she does, and who's still standing by the time we get there. All I know right now is that I felt much more confident watching this episode than I did for most of season 5. 

Some other thoughts:

* No Sam Elliott yet, but Garret Dillahunt makes his first appearance as the mysterious Ty Walker, reuniting with his old “Deadwood” nemesis Timothy Olyphant. Given Graham Yost's love of that show, I wonder if it's an intentional homage that he's introduced trying to buy up land around Harlan, given that Dillahunt's second and more memorable “Deadwood” character spent much of the second season arranging the purchase of all of the camp's gold claims.

* Raylan advises Ava to “Be cool,” invoking the title of Elmore Leonard's sequel to “Get Shorty.”

* The song playing as Raylan drives out of the desert and we see Boyd in his office is “Protection,” by Lucinda Williams.

* As was established at the end of last season, Rachel is in charge of the Lexington office while Art recovers, and looks very comfortable behind that desk. Given how little time tends to pass during most seasons – and given how old Art is and how badly he was wounded – I wonder if we'll see him back on the job before the series ends.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at