After a tumultuous season chasing after Drew Thompson, the Justified season finale closes with a simmer as we refocus on Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). One man comes out on top, while the other suffers his greatest loss, but which is which?
Let’s bitch it out…
At its heart, Justified is about Raylan and Boyd. The two are childhood friends who have traveled very different paths, but as ‘Ghosts’ demonstrates, they frequently face the same conflicts and struggles. The difference is in the decisions that they make.
The finale finds both men in the undesirable situation of desperately trying to protect the women that they love. We knew after last week that the safety of Winona (Natalie Zea) and his unborn daughter would lead Raylan into conflict with the Dixie Mafia. After he and Winona eliminate the immediate threat in typically bloody fashion, Raylan heeds Art’s (Nick Searcy) warning that if he pursues Nicky (Mike O’Malley) his career is over. Instead of using his considerable talents to kill Nicky, Raylan opts for a subtler approach.
Sensing a regime change, Raylan uses Sammy Tonin (Max Perlich) and Picker (John Kapelos) to do his dirty work. The result is a Mafia assassination that kills Nicky, promotes Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and eliminates the threat on Winona. Raylan still sends her away, though, ending the season alone at Arlo’s house patching the hole in the wall that opened the season. It’s a hollow victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Boyd similarly ends up alone, but his story features no victories. Unlike Raylan, who perseveres and achieves his (mostly) desired outcome, Boyd loses his lady love, Ava (Joelle Carter) whose involvement in Delroy’s death finally catches up with her. There’s a certain symmetry to her arrest, which pays off Ava’s season long arc in an unexpected way. While it is Ellen May’s (an unseen Abby Miller) testimony that leads the police to Delroy’s body, ultimately Ava’s apprehension by crooked police officer Mooney (William Gregory Lee) has less to do with her and more to do with Boyd. This is what makes it so unexpected, but satisfying: while Ava is, in fact, responsible for Delroy’s death (and is therefore justifiably arrested), she is merely a pawn in a larger game being played by Lee Paxton (Sam Anderson) against Boyd because of his actions in 4×08 ‘Outlaw’.
While I can’t say that I enjoy seeing Boyd beaten by a WASP-y criminal from Clover Hills, anything the leads to the haunting final image of Boyd standing in the house he and Ava would have owned had his grand plans worked out is okay in my books. It’s heartaching and the emotions it stirs up are yet another testament to Goggins’ talents as an actor. He evokes so much with just a look.
- A few questions about what occurs with Ava and Boyd: does Ava send away Jimmy (Jesse Luken) because she anticipates a double-cross or does she simply feel the need to take care of the matter herself? Was Cassie (Lindsay Pulsipher) involved in the scheme or is she simply on-hand to witness Boyd’s fall? And what happened with cousin Johnny (an unseen David Meunier)?!
- The affection between the two couples is repeatedly on display throughout the episode, but the simplicity with which Winona and Raylan communicate their affection is hilariously understated. “That’s why I love you” is so simple, and yet so meaningful (even if it is under threat of violence)
- Alternatively, I struggled mightily with the scene when Raylan forces Boyd to take him to Nicky. After the history that the two men have with Ava, it’s uncomfortable that Raylan so casually threatens Ava in order to achieve his goals. Perhaps it’s because of this that Boyd later asks Raylan how he’s so sure he’s not the bad guy
- Casual threats of extreme violence are nothing new in the world of Justified, but did anyone else shudder when the goon suggests that he’ll cut the baby out of Winona and kill it in front of them? Graphic, extreme and unnecessary. He was one character I wasn’t sad to see meet a bloody end
- I know that we’ve seen Mooney before, but he seems particularly caricaturish and cartoonish this time around. Memo to William Gregory Lee: tone it down
- Finally, it pains me to see how good Natalie Zea is on the show because it reminds me how terribly she’s being wasted on The Following. Hopefully Raylan sending her away isn’t the end of her time on Justified
So that’s it for Justified‘s fourth season. How did you feel about the more low-key finale? Were you surprised that Raylan opted not to pull the trigger himself on Nicky? Did you see Ava’s arrest coming? How will Boyd cope with this loss? And are you as excited as me that we may get to see more of Wynn Duffy now that Boyd works for him? Comment away below
Justified has been renewed for a fifth season and will debut sometime in 2014 on FX