“WE DUG COAL TOGETHER.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
I usually have a pretty good idea of how I want things to end going into a series finale, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to happen in the final ever episode of Justified. There was so much on the line heading into “The Promise,” with the stakes being expertly raised to the maximum over the last few weeks. It really shouldn’t be too surprising for fans of the show, but the creative team behind it managed to weave together a superb finale that proved to be the perfect ending that a show of this quality deserved.
It’s funny to think that all of the action was pretty much over here by the midway point of the episode. Those craving a massive shootout between all sides of the conflict may have been disappointed, but Justified has never needed to have a gunfight for the sake of it. Markham hadn’t originally seemed all that threatening to me in the first half of the season, but the last few episodes had finally established him as a threatening force. As much as Markham was built up to be the main villain of the season, he wasn’t from Harlan County, and his death was given as much respect as any of the other outsiders who have tried to stake their claim on that land. A bullet to the face was a grisly way to go out, but it was good to see Boyd get that final victory.
The most surprising thing about this finale is that every character that we liked survived! We got the final Raylan vs. Boyd standoff that we craved, and it was absolutely wonderful. It brought us all of the way back to the very first episode where Raylan sat across from Tommy Bucks. The question then was whether Raylan would have shot Bucks no matter what happened, and we were faced with the same question here. Raylan tried his damned hardest to get Boyd to pull that gun on him, but Boyd knew that he just couldn’t beat Raylan. All of that anger and frustration was clear to see on Raylan’s face, but he didn’t pull the trigger. He chose the good option, and it is the kind of choice Raylan’s whole arc on the show has been leading him too.
Boyd did pull the trigger on Ava, but luckily for her, there were no bullets left in his gun. Part of me likes to think that Boyd new that, although another part of me is wondering what exactly would have happened if Raylan hadn’t walked into the barn at that exact moment. Another great callback here was the location of all of this mayhem. The Bennett’s drying shed still stands as a symbol in Harlan County. It’s a reminder of a fallen empire, but it’s also a reminder that things will never really change around here. Loretta managed to survive the finale, and now finds herself without a serious rival with Markham and Boyd gone. The way is paved for her to become the proper new Mags Bennett, something which is both disappointing and interesting at the same time.
Loretta also bore witness to the biggest scene of the entire episode. As I mentioned above, I really didn’t know what I wanted from the finale, but I was really hoping Raylan would make it out [of Harlan] alive. As he drove off with a handcuffed Ava, the chilling sound of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” signaled the fact that something was about to go down. Boon just couldn’t let Raylan go without finding out who was quicker. And you know what, it was pretty damn close. Raylan has been this unflappable, almost unstoppable force over the years, but this was different. Maybe he was tired, maybe he’s lost some of that edge, but he was on the back foot for the whole of this confrontation. Both men pulled and fired, and both men fell. I’m not even sure who was quicker, but I have to admit I let out a mighty loud yell when that bullet went through Raylan’s hat. That turned to a cheer once Raylan sat up with that nasty grave on the side of his head. In the end it was Boon’s hubris that got the better of him. His penchant for headshots (something which was foreshadowed last week) ended up costing him, while Raylan’s reliable “aim for center mass” technique saved his life. As Art would say, Raylan was a real lucky son of a bitch.
The next part of the episode was all about goodbyes. We got a final joke and drink with Art. One last humorous exchange with Tim, and a final moment of respect with Rachel. Raylan returned to Kentucky to catch Boyd Crowder, and he was leaving six years later with that mission accomplished. I thought this was a lovely send-off for the marshal’s office, especially hearing Tim continuing his sarcastic ways while the elevator doors closed on Raylan. It really showed that as with Harlan County, Tim, Art and Rachel’s lives will all continue on as they did before any of this.
In some of my reviews for other shows I’ve mentioned that time jumps aren’t my favorite kind of plot device. Justified is another example of a time jump used correctly. We didn’t need to jump ahead to find Raylan in some new conflict, but we did need to check on how he was doing. So we got to see Raylan with his daughter, four years after arresting Boyd. He was noticeably happier, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him laugh like that before. He and Winona didn’t work out, although you never know what the future would hold for those two. I think all of this rolled together perfectly into Raylan’s encounter with Ava. A tip at the marshal’s office in Miami led Raylan out to where Ava had been hiding out for a few years. At first Raylan looked like he would bring her in, but once she revealed that she had given birth to Boyd’s son, there was never any doubt what he would do. Raylan let Ava go to live her life with her son, much in the same way he got himself out of Harlan to be a part of his daughter’s life.
It wouldn’t have been right for the show to end without having one last Raylan and Boyd conversation. Boyd was back to his old preaching ways, steadily building a flock inside the walls of his prison. Raylan’s last gift to Ava was to convince Boyd that she had died, and in a way, this would be a gift for Boyd, too. I don’t doubt for a second that Boyd loved Ava, but I also believe that he would have hunted her down if he ever got released. After everything the two of them had put each other through, it’s amazing that they’re still able to have a conversation, but that’s always been a huge part of this show. Boyd and Raylan have foiled one another’s plans and came close to killing each other on multiple occasions, but they’re cut from the same cloth. They grew up together, they’re Harlan through and through, and, they dug coal together. Raylan’s admittance that that was the real reason he visited Boyd in person rather that ringing was a fantastic moment, and I really felt it was the absolute perfect note to end the show on.
Justified has aired its final episode, and I now have a ten gallon hole in my life. I completely understand and respect the decision to end the show while it’s at the top, but I also selfishly wish there were ten more seasons and a couple of movies. Even when Justified had a rare dip in form, the acting and production value was still top notch. One of the plusses of the show ending is that we’ll get to see all of these talented people joining new projects over the next while. I honestly believe Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins could improve any project they join, and that goes for most of the cast. There’s already a few whispers of a potential spin-off, and Wynn Duffy’s $9 million adventure would be amazing. Of course Duffy ended up with the money… of course!
So, I guess that’s it, our time with the effortlessly cool Raylan Givens has come to an end. After six years of bullets and bluegrass, Raylan defied the odds and made it out of Harlan alive. Many characters grew and changed over the course of the series, but Raylan’s arc has seen him go from the angriest man alive, to the most stubborn one. And that, like this finale, is just perfect.
100/100 – STELLAR
I just really want to know all of your thoughts on the finale, and whether you enjoyed it or not. So to chat about that, or if you want to go through ‘Justified’ withdrawal with me, tweet @OldSnake24 or drop me a line in the comment section below. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded!
Justified had a superb final season. Here’s what I thought of the episodes leading up to the series finale.
Justified has always moved at its own pace when it comes to storytelling, so this felt like an appropriate way to start the ball rolling. We got several hints about where things could be headed this season, all wrapped up with a big character death at the end. I normally like to throw around predictions when a series is wrapping up, but I feel that Justified could go in any number of different ways at this stage. Season 5 was not the strongest season of the show, but it did set us up perfectly for this final run of episodes. The pieces are all there, and I’m sure they’ll fall into place before the end.
85/100 – Great
We’re very early into the final season of Justified, but I’m really liking what I’ve seen so far. Certain elements of the previous couple of seasons had been a departure from the spirit of the show, but Season 6 seems primed to bring us home in a way that only Justified can. Each of the new characters introduced have hit the ground running, and we still don’t even know much at all about Sam Elliot’s mysterious character Markham yet. We all want to see our favorite characters drawn into one main plot for the show’s send-off, and “Cash Game” makes me think that’s exactly where we are headed.
90/100 – Superb
Even without a lot of action, everything moved forward significantly here. To be honest, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Walker and Markham out of the equation relatively early in the season. I don’t mean they’ll be gone by the end of next week’s episode, but with the way things escalated here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their side of the story finished up by the time we hit episode 10. That’s purely speculation on my part, but there has to be room for ‘Raylan vs. Boyd’ at some stage. The dream scenario would be the writers being able to adequately juggle all of these storylines and keep them running all the way through to the end of the season. It’s still very early, but what I’ve seen so far gives me fate that that dream scenario will come true.
96/100 – Superb
“The Trash and the Snake” may have lacked some of the intensity of the last couple of episodes, but it did a damn fine job of moving the season forward. We’re starting to see the whole picture with regards to Markham’s plan, and Markham himself is being built up into a great adversary for both Boyd and Raylan. Next week can’t come quick enough.
85/100 – Great
“Sounding” was another solid, albeit unspectacular entry into Justified’s final season. There wasn’t a whole lot of forward momentum, but we did get some progression, along with several good laughs. Boyd’s plan seems to be coming along nicely, but he remains blissfully ignorant of the fact that the person he loves most is working against him. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not completely certain of Ava’s motivations when it comes to that kiss with Raylan, but we’re sure to find out soon enough.
81/100 – Great
Justified continues to rattle along nicely at its own pace. A few surprising moments in “Alive Day” have really shifted the balance of power in several key conflicts. Markham’s paid goons have now crumbled almost completely, while Boyd faces another unknown threat in the form of Zachariah. The most intriguing shift comes from Limehouse’s phone call to Boyd at the end of the episode, where he presumably told Boyd all about Ava’s little excursion last week. We saw what Boyd did to Dewey earlier in the season when he felt he couldn’t trust him anymore, but things with Ava are a lot more complicated. I’m just hopeful Limehouse’s little favor gets him a bit more involved as we reach the halfway point in the season.
80/100 – Great
This felt like more of a transitional episode than most. Raylan was sidelined for the majority of the episode, while the search for Walker continued. The Ava and Boyd material was really good, with Ava coming clean to Boyd. It’s rather clear that Boyd still doesn’t trust her fully, but I’m interested to see how he’s going to use her against Raylan. My favorite part of the episode was Art’s conversation with Markham. It was easy to assume that Markham was the snitch all of those years ago, but Art clearly doesn’t think so. Katherine Hale seems like the likely alternative, and the brutal nature of the case would mean she will be a definite force to be reckoned with over the remainder of the season.
80/100 – Great
“Dark as a Dungeon” was a real outstanding episode. It may not be remembered as one of the must-sees of the whole series, but everything about it was on point. The dialogue crackled, the pairings were great and it all acted as a great setup for the remaining episodes. I’m pretty convinced now that Katherine Hale is the snitch, and I could see her being the next of our main players to meet their maker. I’m still not sure how any of this is going to play out, which I find incredibly exciting. We’re really set for the Boyd and Raylan confrontation now, and next week could be Boyd’s big snatch for the gold.
90/100 – Superb
Another episode, another close call for Boyd. With time running out for the show, I don’t expect Boyd’s luck to continue for very much longer. He’s desperate now, and that desperation will likely see him end up in prison or six feet under. Raylan is also running out of time in his mission to catch Boyd before leaving Harlan. This all leaves us with the fascinating prospect of both of our main players facing a race against time to achieve their goals. I expect Zachariah to be a momentary obstacle for Boyd in the next episode, but then it’s time to get down to the end-game of the series. Everything is near perfectly setup for these final few episodes, it’s just waiting for someone to light the fuse.
85/100 – Great
“Trust” was the perfect name for this episode. Raylan and Boyd both trusted Ava to some extent, while Markham and Hale’s relationship was basically built on a lack of trust. Along with all of this, Mikey turned on Duffy in a serious breach of trust. My mind has been racing for nearly a full year now as I contemplated how the series might end. Boyd vs. Raylan has always been the expected outcome, but Ava has stolen a march on the boys, and now finds herself hitting the open road with millions of dollars at her disposal. Raylan will be pretty miffed, and Boyd isn’t going to give up very easily, so we could end up getting Raylan vs. Boyd in the form of a race to find Ava first. Ava’s judgement call was completely unexpected, but also makes total sense. And with just three episodes remaining, it sets us up perfectly for the final act.
92/100 – Superb
I couldn’t possibly think of a better way for Justified to be heading into the final few episode. With Art on his tail, Rogue Raylan is out to get Ava and Boyd. Boyd is in pursuit of his money and his ex-girl, with every cop in the county out looking for him. Avery Markham just wants to kill everyone and take his money back. We’ve had a few months of preparation for a heist that was doomed to fail, and we now find ourselves facing a madcap race to the finish where pretty much everyone is in danger. I’m going to leave my final predictions for now, but I will say that there’s far too much foreshadowing of a duel between Raylan and Boon to just ignore it. This close to the finish, you have to wonder could Raylan be about to come up against a quicker draw than his own.
95/100 – Superb
So that’s all of our main players accounted for, and your guess is as good as mine about how this will all go down. Loretta found herself forced to side with Markham, so now he’s as powerful an opponent as ever. Raylan and Boon will definitely have to face off at some stage too, unless all of this build-up has been a red herring. I’d like to think that Raylan will get his targets and ride off into the sunset, but it surely can’t end that happily for him. He has signed over his house and cut all ties with Harlan, so now all that is keeping him there is Boyd Crowder. It’s fascinating to see how perfectly everything has been set up for the finale. Back at the midway point of the season, it would have been impossible to predict virtually any of this. The characters were moved into position throughout the course of the season, and then Ava shooting Boyd set everything into overdrive. Simply wonderful.
100/100 – STELLAR
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