Justified returns for its final season and we’ve already got our first casualty.
Let’s bitch it out…
First off: thank goodness that Justified is back. Second: thank goodness it came back good. There’s been some quibbling about whether or not S5 was truly bad, but it is hard to deny that S5 was less enjoyable than previous seasons of the series. If this first episode is any indication, the writers are firmly back on their A game.
There’s a feeling of finality permeating ‘Fate’s Right Hand’, as though series creator Graham Yost has infused the characters with the knowledge that this is their last stand. It’s definitely at work in the dialogue of both of the show’s leads, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Both men dedicate a substantial amount of their time discussing their future plans and ironically both plan to escape from Harlan County once they have managed to finish their business: putting the other one down. Judging by the events of the premiere, this will only happen when one – or both – are in the ground.
It seems that Boyd has taken Katherine Hale’s (an unseen Mary Steenburgen) advice to heart and returned to what he does best: rob banks. ‘Fate’s Right Hand’ is almost exclusively dedicated to this act, as well as Raylan’s efforts to tighten the net around him. The robbery bears the echos of any number of “final score” narratives; its purpose clarified by Boyd’s dialogue about leaving town while performs domestic duties around Ava’s (Joelle Carter) house. (Side Note: As a metaphor the repairs visually reinforce his argument that Harlan is dying; their surroundings are literally falling apart).
Ava is understandably torn since she is now Raylan’s undercover CI. He confronts her at the beauty salon and her confession that she’s worried about falling victim to violence makes sense (especially considering the final scenes), even if her decision not to tell Raylan about Boyd’s suggestion to leave says otherwise. Raylan ultimately talks her off the ledge by reminding her of the events of the pilot when she shot Boyd because he never suspected her, another sign – fate! – that things are coming full circle.
It’s important that Raylan can calm Ava down because she and – to a lesser extent – Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) are paramount to his end game. In order for Raylan to get back to Winona (Natalie Zea) and his daughter, he needs to leverage Ava and Dewey’s intel to ensnare Boyd and put him away for good. Unfortunately for him, as he discusses with Art (Nick Searcy) near episode’s end, Raylan can’t just do things the way he normally would because things to be by the book in order for the RICO to stick. Over five seasons we’ve seen how slippery and cunning Boyd is (he’s a worthy adversary for Raylan); unlike other Justified villains, Boyd will be extra difficult to pin down.
This first episode demonstrates how challenging Raylan’s case will be. Initially Raylan thinks he’s got a slam dunk with Dewey: all he has to do is get the simpleton to testify against Boyd in Johnny Crowder’s murder. Dewey’s get-out-of-jail-free card and the government seizure of Audrey’s puts him right back into Boyd’s fold (Dewey’s confession for killing Wade Messer evaporates a little too conveniently for my tastes, but whatever), which is ideal for Raylan’s purposes. The tit-for-tat cat and mouse game that we’re sure to see more of this season gets underway: Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Raylan take out Boyd’s man Cyrus – with a shovel no less – in order to ensure Dewey is used. What they don’t anticipate is Boyd’s suspicions that Dewey is untrustworthy. As a result Dewey is assigned the role of decoy so that Boyd and co. can take out the bank without Raylan and Tim hanging around.
The end result is a peeved Raylan who blames Ava and some wistful nostalgia from Dewey. In one of the most heartfelt scenes in recent memory, Dewey reveals to Boyd that he yearns for the old, “simple” days back when he and Boyd (and Devil) ran the roost. It’s here that Boyd spins his end of days tale again, fearing that things are coming to an end. There’s a moment of calm, abruptly shattered when Boyd shoots Dewey in the back of the head, demanding Carl (Justin Welborn) “roll him [Dewey] up in the back of a carpet and make him disappear.” It’s a telling reminder that not only is everyone’s life at risk, but that no matter how much everyone talks about the past, only the future matters.
‘Fate’s Right Hand’ ends on the suggestion that Boyd is wise to Raylan’s game and that he’s preparing for the final conflict. What is unclear is whether Boyd knows about Ava’s involvement. Despite that final ambiguous image of him staring at her while she sleeps, I’m leaning towards no. There’s no doubt that Ava is at risk for what she’s about to attempt, but I think Boyd isn’t looking at her suspiciously; I think he’s looking at her as the light at the end of the tunnel. She is his incentive to rob banks so that they can afford to escape before they get sucked into Harlan’s death spiral.
How long that lasts is anyone’s guess…
- ‘Fate’s Right Hand’ introduces Ty Walker (Garret Dillahunt), which offers us yet another Deadwood reunion! It’s a very tiny role so far, clearly with more to come. I did enjoy how Elmore Leonard-esque the dialogue around buying Arlo’s old house is. I also love that Raylan immediately identifies Walker as a crook.
- Best shot: The point of view handheld tracking shot of Cyrus as he runs through his house and gets brained by a shovel.
- Naturally Dewey mouths off to the state police, runs the roadblock, gets his tires shot out and loses control of the tow truck only to wind up in the ditch. He’s Dewey.
- With that said, RIP. Dewey was easily one of my favourite characters on the series, which means that only Jere Burns’ Wynn Duffy and his hilariously dry humour remain to lighten the mood. P.S. Where the hell is Wynn and why wasn’t he in this premiere?!
- Although it appears that Boyd yielded nothing from those safety deposit boxes, something tells me that the land deeds and paperwork may yet prove useful/valuable.
- Good to see both Art and Winona accounted for, even if it is only in cursory roles. I particularly enjoyed Raylan’s discussion with Art about why he can’t just back Boyd into a corner and “plug him”. There’s a nice ominous threat that hangs in the air as Art reminds Raylan that as you get older, things might not go his way. This is the final season after all, folks. Everyone is fair game now.
- Raylan (describing the Federali’s description of Dewey): “His description fits you to a T. Nazi tattoo, funny hair, stupid looking.”
- Ava (talking about her job at the beauty shop, while staring at Boyd): “I need a reason to get dressed before 4 in the afternoon.”
- Boyd: “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass out of a low flying duck.” That is…a weird thing to say.
- Tim (after Raylan suggests good things come to those who wait for stupid): “I believe that was in the sermon on the mount.”
- Raylan (when Tim reminds him of Dewey’s restraining order): “I’m pretty sure that’s just a figure of speech”
- Raylan (when Art asks if the alcohol is “doctor recommended”): “Civil war doctor maybe.”
Your turn: are you glad to have Justified back? Are you excited to see Boyd and Raylan go head to head? Is Ava’s cover already blown? Should Raylan be more cautious? Will you miss Dewey? And who is Ty Walker? Sound off below
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX