Of all the times to be away for work, I had to miss the best episode of the season last week. Thankfully I’m back in time to tackle the season finale, though it’s more about things to come than anything else.
Let’s bitch it out…‘Starvation’ was an amazing episode of Justified – the kind that made all of the troughs in S5 bearable because it delivered so many highs. Watching Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) go after each other is always enjoyable, but this time there was genuine malice in their interactions, an edge that suggests that they are on the verge of no longer tolerating each other’s shit. It’s the high water mark of the season and as this season finale highlights, it sets the scene for the final season next year.
Unfortunately ‘Starvation’ proves to be the high point. ‘Restitution’ suffers from having to wrap up the messy storylines and the rush leaves things feeling convenient and even a little anti-climatic. It was always clear that family would be at the heart of Daryl Crowe Jr’s (Michael Rapaport) downfall, though last week suggested that it would take Raylan’s moral decay to bring it about. That was an exciting, point of no return moment because it was the most public display of Raylan’s willingness to do terrible things for the greater good yet. So what does the finale do? Sweeps this idea under the rug almost immediately. <le sigh>
Instead of forcing Daryl’s hand in freeing Kendal (Jacob Lofland), Raylan switches tactics and employs Wendy (Alicia Witt). Again, this makes sense given the contentious and confrontation relationship they’ve had this season, but their final encounter is little more than a predictable taped confession and a manslaughter shooting. As a result the Crowe storyline ends with a whimper – a one-season waste of time wonder that never managed to stand on its own as a season-long arc in the way that Mags, Quarles and Drew Thompson did.
The same can almost be said of Ava’s (Joelle Carter) imprisonment. After coming thisclose to leaving her locked up and in mortal danger last week, Raylan resuscitates his offer to Boyd’s ex when Rachel (Erica Tazel) and ADA Vasquez (Rick Gomez) indicate that it’s finally time to make a move on Boyd. Obviously the confrontation between Raylan and Boyd has always been the endgame for the series, and now we even have a timeline: 14 days. This is how long Raylan has to bring Boyd down before Raylan transfers out to Florida and presumably a quieter life with Winona (Natalie Zea) and their baby daughter. It makes sense, then, to spring Ava and get her help in bringing Boyd down – their relationship fell apart during her time in prison when he made the misguided decision to go into the heroin business. Still all of this last minute deal-mongering doesn’t help the fact that we had to sit through thirteen episodes of bad “women in prison” cliches simply to get Ava on-side. I’ve got to think that there was a way to do this in a convincing manner without the unnecessary and time-consuming detour.
Unfortunately the same argument can also be said for Boyd and the Mexican cartel. Ultimately the writers needed to bring Boyd to a place where he was desperate enough to end up in the cross-hairs of the US Marshal service and prompt Raylan to bring out the big folder. The writers also need him to be in an uncertain place – his silver-tongued antics haven’t gotten him what he needs this season and he’s on the verge of bowing out (possibly for a white picket fence with Ava), but his hubris allows Katherine (Mary Steenburgen) and Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) to flatter him into robbing banks for them. And so, to bring this all about, we had to put up with the heroin / Mexican cartel stuff. The ease with which the cartel members are taken out by Rachel and Tim (Jacob Pitt), though, is laughable. It’s hard to shake the feeling that all of this was simply the writers biding their time before packing up this particular chapter in anticipation of the more engrossing story that’s been six years in the making: Raylan vs Boyd.
As far as building excitement for the final season goes, ‘Restitution’ does a good job of laying out the groundwork for next year. As the final episode of a hit-and-miss season, it clearly bears the strain of closing off unsuccessful storylines in a facile way that doesn’t always feel satisfying. Onwards and upwards, though: there are banks to be robbed and criminals to be caught and the timer is ticking. If last week’s exchanges between Boyd and Raylan were any indication and this final season is all about the two of them, then I can’t wait to see it.
- Kudos to Ava for standing up for herself – literally – against the white supremacists in prison. I’m not sure her plan was well-thought out considering she likely would have died had Raylan not rescued her, but at least she wouldn’t have gone down easy.
- RIP Jimmy (Jesse Luken). You were a good henchman who probably deserved better than to die at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel.
- Finally, I saw a few speculative comments last week, but do we know if Tim is gay? He has a number of colourful quips about being turned on criminal activity and while this feels particularly noir / Elmore Leonard-esque, I wonder if there’s something more to it. When you think about it, we really don’t know much about Tim or Rachel, do we?
That’s a wrap on S5 of Justified. Now that it’s all played out, how do you feel about the season? Were you satisfied with the resolution to the Crowe storyline? Do you think that Boyd got off too easily? Does Ava’s prison time feel justified? And were you surprised by Raylan’s last minute transfer as the impetus for the final season? Sound off below!
Justified has finished airing its fifth season. It will return for its sixth and final season early next year.