On January 20th, FX’s Justified began its sixth and final season. Based on several Elmore Leonard works, Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal who is “exiled” to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Raylan frequently finds himself in conflict with erstwhile mining buddy, now criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), as the two attempt to coexist in a world that seems a little too small for both of them. Justified highlights the local culture and explores numerous themes, such as family, religion, history and the thin line that divides the good guys from the bad.
Join Jeff (of Slazenger1) and me in the coming months as we honor this criminally underrated drama with a series of “RayActions” to each of Justified’s Season 6 episodes. These posts will not be particularly formal, but will give us the chance to make some observations and reflect on each episode, likely culminating in a full Season 6 Dead Season Discussion after the finale.
This week’s RayAction is focused on Justified Season 6, Episode 9 – “Burned.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!
Justified has comfortably settled into being great again after last season, as we’ve already covered. “Burned” feels like a sort of in-between episode to me. It’s not bad, or by-the-numbers or even “table setting,” but it’s all about escalation. We’re on the uphill climb toward our climax. All of the biggest pieces are still in play and we’re just waiting for them to start falling.
Sounds like Wynn Duffy was the snitch who ratted out Katherine’s husband back in the day. That seems almost like an anti-climax given the weight the rat has had so far. Still, it gave us a wonderful Art/Raylan/Wynn scene, complete with another appearance by the tanning bed. Also, it raises the stakes for Wynn and gives us the tiniest bit of conflict between Wynn and Mikey. Wynn seems safe for now, but I can imagine Raylan twisting him even harder to get what he wants.
Loretta, after being threatened by glorious new Hillbilly the Kid henchman Boon, crashes Markham’s big pizza party and appears to win over the residents of Harlan to her side. It’s a nice speech, ably delivered by Kaitlyn Dever, and the entire scene with Markham, Boyd and Loretta talking to the townspeople is a pleasant throwback to something you might see in one of the old westerns Raylan is so fond of. Several parts of this season have had that feel, actually.
Markham isn’t pleased by Loretta’s speechifying, naturally, but I can’t imagine that eliminating Loretta solves any of his problems. Then again, if he can find some way to “inherit” her land through a next of kin, that might just do the trick. I can’t wait to see what Boon’s next move is.
Ava continues to play her dangerous game of siding with and against Boyd. After “The Hunt” I wouldn’t have expected her to continue informing to Raylan, but maybe lying to Raylan is harder than lying to Boyd because there’s no fog of love to cloud anyone’s judgment. Regardless, the Pizza Portal robbery doesn’t work and the Marshals come up empty handed, which frustrates Rachel to the point where she seems about ready to call it a day on this case with Boyd.
For his part, Boyd almost gets killed by a vengeful Zachariah, who apparently doesn’t know mining as well as Boyd hoped. Carl saves Boyd’s bacon, but the safe stays, well, safe in the basement of the Pizza Portal. Boyd’s not done yet, but I can’t imagine his plan to snag the money while it’s being moved is going to be any less risky than the dynamite gambit. All eyes are going to be on Markham after the fire, the explosion and the accusations Loretta threw at him.
Wynn’s a CI. Loretta’s under fire. Zachariah’s a troubling wild card. Hale and Markham appear closer than ever. Boyd’s getting desperate. Ava’s working for both sides. Raylan is under pressure. Oh, and Seabass is dead. Bye, Seabass. We still have four episodes to go, but can’t gather steam for too much longer before another explosion. We’ve got to be saving Raylan vs. Boyd for the finale, so the question is, who’s time is up now?
Jeff, I have to agree with you that this week’s episode was brought to us by the word “Escalation” (as well as the number “5,” as we’ll see) The narrative noose continued to tighten around the necks of Justified’s entire cast. Is there a single character who ended “Burned” in a better place than they began? Tim, maybe? I mean, even if Raylan dies and Rachel gets fired, he’ll still get to wander around Harlan sarcastically muttering to Agent Dunlop. Seabass, perhaps, because he’s finally been relieved of this mortal coil?
This episode was a weird one for me. I absolutely loved it, but I also don’t feel like I have a lot to say about it. It was, as you said, an “in-between episode.” It was just as good as the last several episodes, but I’m really impatient as to what comes next! As a result, this seems as good a week as any to bust out a list of random thoughts and observations.
1. It’s a credit to both Jere Burns and the Justified writers that I felt pretty bad for Wynn Duffy this week. Heck, I didn’t even feel bad for Ava when she got twisted into being a CI at the end of last season. Then again, Wynn was never involved in anything as dumb as Ava’s prison story. That’s to say nothing for Mikey, who seemed very aplexed by the fact that his boss was a rat.
2. Boon is just perfect. How does Justified introduce memorable henchmen with this level of consistency? The only shame is that he’s not going to get more than an episode or two to shine before “departing.”
3. I loved the dueling speeches at the Pizza Portal. It was a perfect callback to Boyd and Mags squaring off at the Season 2 town meeting and Season 4’s confrontation between Boyd and Billy St. Cyr at the revival church. If you are going to do a callback, make it your best seasons (for now).
4. Jeff, you mentioned Ava’s dangerous game. I have no clue what she has going on at the moment (note my “Biggest Question” this week), but I think I’ve narrowed it down to two options. Option 1: She’s trying to play both sides, confirming that she’s the market economy version of Nina from The Americans. Option 2: She and Raylan have been through so much and know each other so well that Ava knows there’s no point in trying to lie to him, so she might as well tell the truth. In any case, her telling Raylan didn’t impact Boyd in any way, so we’ll see if it matters beyond a character standpoint.
5. I think it’s finally official. Carl is the best henchman Boyd has ever had.
So, the end is in sight. I think the most terrifying thing about the home stretch is that no one is safe. From a narrative perspective, every remaining character on the show is in some sort of peril at the moment. That itself should be enough to keep the humble reviewer up at night, but it’s actually worse. Not only could any given character die, but any given character’s death would makes sense within the story too.
Seriously, whose death would be shitty storytelling? Raylan and/or Boyd are killed in the show’s climax. Ava is killed by Boyd for feeding info to Raylan. Wynn dies for ratting out Grady Hale and Mikey dies protecting him (or turning on him to save himself. He’s a quick learner). Katherine kills Avery because she thinks he’s the rat or vice-versa. The Marshals are ambushed by Boyd and his surviving gang. Carl and Earl are killed protecting Boyd. Loretta’s death would be cruel, but might prompt Raylan to take down Avery with extreme prejudice.
The four remaining episodes could do just about anything and not suck. That’s a great position to be in for the show and even better for viewers.
Boon: Name’s Boon. Pleased to meet you.
Raylan: I wouldn’t rush to judgment on that.
Patches: Why did Ava tell Raylan the truth? Is she trying to play both sides or does she just know that Raylan sees through her deceptions?
Jeff: What, exactly, is Hale’s play now? Does she back Markham in his dangerous obsession with grabbing land for pot farming, or does she try to get back on the Boyd bandwagon in hopes that she can get some Markham money more quickly?
Jeff: Ava’s love for Boyd doesn’t stop her from lying to him and talking to Raylan. Does she have an end game? Is she the one who’s going to somehow come out on top of everyone?
Patches: I could totally see, and would totally support, that ending. Her endgame has to be simple survival at this point.
Jeff: Why does Katherine Hale hate pizza?
Patches: Pizza by Alfredo was the only place to eat in her hometown.
Patches: Is there a way Zachariah could have tried to kill Boyd in a manner more like a Bond Villain?
Jeff: As our resident Bond expert, I will say yes. I imagine him chaining Boyd up, but then taking time to explain that he’s going to set the dynamite to blow up and bury Boyd in rock as revenge for everything the Crowders have done to his poor little niece Ava. Then, not only will he light the fuse, but he’ll also set a gigantic digital timer and have another gentleman with a vaguely Austrian accent give “T-minus” updates every minute or so. Lastly, he’ll make sure to refer to the walkie talkie and the rock hammer, both just out of Boyd’s reach. Before leaving, he’ll say something like “not even Carl can save you now, the walls of this cave are made of sound-absorbing polymers!” They aren’t, of course. Then the episode will continue as normal. Next week, Boyd catches up to Zachariah and this happens (only with Zachariah instead of Lt. Giardello. Jane Seymour is the same though…damn girl.)
Jeff: Will Boon have a chance to prove himself to be as dangerous as he seems, or will he be quickly dispatched by Raylan?
Patches: Well, given he was introduced five episodes before the show ends, so I don’t think there’s anyone on the show he can actually kill and have it not seem stupid. Maybe several snakes will wander by before Raylan shoots him or his quick-draw is somehow subverted?
Patches: ADA never has any good news to deliver the Marshals. What do you think will happen the next time he drops by?
Jeff: “Guys, I’ve got some bad news: we’ve been canceled.”