‘Justified’ Series Finale Discussion: ‘We Dug Coal Together’

After six years of reminding us through song that you — whoever exactly “you” is at the moment — will never leave Harlan alive, and backing that up by blowing the heads off of a fair chunk of the criminal population from the swamps of Miami up to Detroit, Justified proved itself a liar in the best way possible last night. It turns out that you can leave Harlan alive. Well, some of you. One of you is getting a bullet in the eye. And another is dying in the street like a dog. But just about everyone else got some degree of a happy ending. It was… kind of sweet, actually. Really sweet. No, you’re crying a little.

There was a lot of ground covered to get us there from where we were, though, so let’s start with that. When we left off last week, Boyd was surrounded by dead old coots and looking for his/Ava’s/Markham’s money, Ava had just been taken hostage by two of Harlan’s many corrupt cops, and Raylan was about to be taken into custody for what can probably be best described at this point as Second Degree Raylaning. But one of the best things about Justified is how little it dilly-dallies when there are perfectly good gun fights and dynamite heavings to get to, so we got Raylan back on the hunt all quick-like after Art pulled rank on the local cops, and Boyd escaping heavy gunfire thanks to said dynamite heaving — FIRE IN THE HOLE — to make his way to the barn where Markham was holding Ava. And that’s where the final standoff went down.

Kind of.


The final season — hell, the entire series — had been building to one last confrontation between Raylan and Boyd, so it’s more than understandable if you saw Raylan toss that gun over to Boyd after repeating their “I pull, you put me down?” conversation from the show’s pilot, and you looked at the clock and saw there was still something like 30 minutes left in the episode, and you thought to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute.” Turns out that, and the fact that Boyd refused to give Raylan the bloody showdown he thought he wanted (and that many viewers might have thought they wanted, too), was just the first surprise of the back half of the episode.

That’s not to say there was no bloodshed. This is Justified, after all. Of course there was bloodshed. Boyd put a bullet in Markham’s eye and Boon graciously showed up at the last minute to give Raylan the quickdraw duel he had been expecting all day. The scene with Boon was especially great, playing out like an old Western from the way it was shot all the way to Boon slowly morphing into Val Kilmer’s version of Doc Holliday in Tombstone as the season progressed. Boon missed because of his passion for head shots, Loretta got a triumphant little moment watching Boon die, Ava sped off in a stolen car (again), and Raylan got a new hat. Everyone wins. I mean, except Boon.

Which brings us to the flash forward. Justified didn’t take us on quite the future-spanning adventure Parks and Rec did a few weeks back, but it did zip ahead four years. Between the chronological hijinks in these two and the first season of Fargo, this is officially a thing now. I hope Mad Men skips ahead to 1993 and ends with Don taking his grandkids to a 4 Non Blondes concert.

Anyway, let’s check in with everyone, shall we?

– Raylan is in Florida stuffing an adorable toddler full of ice cream, and wearing Miami Marlins t-shirts, and still chasing punks. Looks like it never did work out with him and Winona, which probably makes sense, 51-49 odds be damned. They seem to be on good terms though, raising young Willa together with the help of Winona’s new beau, a guy named Richard, who has probably made a mess of his pants once or twice when he went downstairs to get a late night snack only to find Raylan sitting at the dinner table. Raylan’ll do that.

– Ava is off in the mountains of California helping special needs children, and raising a child of her own, a 4-year-old named Zachariah who apparently has enough Crowder blood in him to have picked up the genetic trait of wearing the top button of his dress shirt buttoned up. Who helped her get there with no money and half of the federal government looking for her? Why, Wynn Duff, it appears, in exchange for the remaining $9 million of Markham’s money. Seems like a fair trade. Although I’m still holding out hope she and Jackie Nevada grifted their way across the country. And across the country she’ll stay because Raylan’s heart grew three sizes that day and opted to let her stay.

– Art is finally retired, one imagines. And Rachel and Tim are presumably still hunting down Kentucky scoundrels, to whatever degree Kentucky still has scoundrels after the deaths of Mags, Hot Rod, Arlo, Markham, Katherine Hale, and other assorted felonious types; the disappearance of Wynn, Ava, and Limehouse; and the incarceration of Boyd Crowder. Between all that and Raylan’s particular brand of trouble leaving, the Lexington Marshal’s office might actually be a nice, relaxing place to work, depending how quickly young Loretta has filled the void. I hope Tim got paired up with a young female hotshot fresh outta the academy who knew Loretta growing up and won’t rest until she brings her down. That feels right.

– Wynn Duffy — my beloved Wynn Duffy — is blowing in the breeze, possibly surfing in Fiji after leaving the American South behind in a dog grooming van with the slogan “The Experts of Doggy Style” on the side. We never found out the particulars of the hows and whys, but they were never important anyway. Wynn Duffy is a scavenger and a survivor and he will outlive us all, wherever he is now or ends up later. I’m not entirely convinced he’s not immortal.

– Boyd is in prison, back in full-on preacher mode, and he’ll probably be there for a while. I don’t know exactly how many murders they ended up getting him on, but at the very least they got a pretty good case for Markham’s, Carl’s, and an attempted one on Bob, in addition to whatever charges you can pile up for hucking live dynamite at a flock of federal agents who are chasing you up a mountain. Point being: He’ll have lots of time to tell stories and save souls and run whatever scam it is he’s running. Oh, Boyd is running a scam. Make no mistake. Boyd always has one eye on some large amount of money that doesn’t currently belong to him. My working theory is that he’s planning on becoming a television holy man. There’s good money in that.

The revelation of the secret Crowder baby, and Ava’s understandable desire to keep his existence from Boyd, led to the show’s final scene: Raylan coming back to Harlan to feed Boyd a story about Ava dying, and the two of them having a tender moment through a few inches of jailhouse glass. It wasn’t the ending I expected going in, but man, was I ever glad it was the ending we got. For all the bluster and anger and very specific threats of violence, Boyd and Raylan have always shared a deep connection. The phrase they use to describe that connection is “We dug coal together.” While this is simple and accurate on its face (I mean, they did dig coal together), it also speaks to a shared history. They both grew up in Harlan, the sons of the community’s leading criminal assholes. They both learned to be hard-headed and stubborn, and willing to fudge the lines a bit to achieve their goals. They dug coal together because people where they grew up dug coal.

That’s why giving them that moment was fitting. According to reports from the set, that was the last last scene they filmed, too, so those Boyd Crowder tears were quite possibly real Walton Goggins tears. It was a beautiful, happy ending to a show that was a blast for six seasons, and I don’t know if I could ask for anything more. To put it in the simplest terms I can, Justified figured out a way to have its bourbon and drink it, too.

A few other highlights, one last time for the road:

– I was honestly surprised to see Boyd pull the trigger on Ava, and very relieved the chamber was empty. Dude definitely had a right to be upset, seeing as she — his fiancee — snitched on him and robbed him and shot him recently as a few days ago, but that took my breath away for a second.

– There were a bunch of other callbacks to the pilot in addition to the “put you down” one I mentioned above. Hat ones, dialogue ones, ice cream ones, etc. Alan Sepinwall at Hitfix put together a pretty comprehensive list. That was very cool, and a fun treat for longtime fans of the show.


– A few dynamite throwing thoughts: One, I can’t be the only one who saw Tim miss a pretty clear shot at Boyd and thought “NO. TIM DOESN’T MISS. THE WHOLE SERIES IS RUINED.” Two, I loved Art’s tone when he hung up his phone and said “Crowder started throwing dynamite” to Raylan. It wasn’t like “Holy crap! He threw dynamite at people!” It was more like a “Welp” an exhausted father would emit after getting a call that his kid colored on the wall with a crayon. Says a lot about Art, sure, but it says a lot about Boyd.

– Speaking of Boyd Crowder and mischievous children, young Zachariah is going to be a charismatic terror on the playgrounds of California, yes? Don’t go near the monkey bars, kids. That’s Zachariah’s territory.

– Something very fitting about Raylan getting driven in by a no-nonsense cop who threatened to put him in the trunk if he kept talking, regardless of whether what he was saying made sense. The shoe is on the other foot now. At least until Art chewed the cop out and gave Raylan his badge and gun back.

– Raylan and Tim calling each other difficult pricks for a few seconds was as tender a moment as you were ever gonna get from them, and it still sent me on an emotional journey. This show, man.

– One of my only complaints about this show is that we never got to learn more about Tim. Like, everything. I want to see his home life. I want to see interact with the civilian world. I want to see him GO ON A DATE. I will take all of these in a spin-off about him hunting Wynn Duffy throughout the islands of the Pacific. Thank you.

– “Wanna drink in here you need a badge or a pair of tits.” “Art, show him your tits.” Way too much to get to in the finale to focus on all the great dialogue last night, but there was an awful lot of it, as always. I am going to miss this show spectacularly.

That’s a wrap, gang. Your thoughts below. Thanks for making these discussions so much fun over the years. It’s been a blast.