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 10 – “Fugitive Number One.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!
Even during its worst moments (that didn’t involve Winona stealing evidence money, at least), I’ve always enjoyed Justified. It’s made me laugh. It’s shocked me. It’s kept me perched on the edge of my seat. It has never made me cry. Yet, that’s exactly what happened about halfway through “Fugitive Number One” when Mikey (Sorry… It’s “Michael”) ate four bullets in defense of his partner Wynn Duffy.
The writers set it up perfectly. Earlier in the episode, Wynn had, sort of pathetically, tried to bargain his way out of his predicament, but to no avail. Wynn was the closest thing Mikey had to family and Wynn let him down. It was a nice little character moment were the tremendous depth of Wynn’s self-involvement became clear. Is anyone surprised that Wynn wouldn’t know his own’s bodyguard’s favorite genre of music? Or even his preferred name?
Truthfully, however, Mikey is a puppy. A giant, human puppy with everything that comes with that particular territory. Katherine Hale showed up, ready to get her vengeance on Wynn. Duffy asks her why she cared about Grady when she was schtupping Avery anyways, to which Katherine delivered a monologue on sticking by your partner. Like a puppy who only hears “treat” when you say “I’m all out of treats,” Mikey hears “partner” and thinks about what he was doing to Wynn. His code is important to him, a fact Katherine accidentally reminded him of as she prepared to kill Wynn. When Mikey stepped in front of Katherine’s gun, you could see Katherine thinking “Goddammit, Michael. Can you stop thinking so concretely for a SECOND?”
Katherine has no time for that shit, however, so she shoots Mikey twice in the chest, leading to one of the most brutal, violent, and chaotic scenes in the show’s run. Mikey says “Choo-Choo who, bitches!” and bodyslams Katherine onto the table (under which Wynn is cowering) and tries to choke the life out of her. During the struggle, he absorbed at least two more point-blank rounds to the chest, including one that gave the RV’s ceiling a coat of Mikey.
Like the big, dumb, loving canine he is, Mikey wouldn’t stop until his master was safe. Despite losing pretty much all the blood in his body, Mikey found the strength to throat-punch Katherine to death and give Wynn the handcuff key before curling up to die. Mikey asked Wynn if he would hold him. Wynn did until Mikey faded away. It was the tenderest, most beautiful moment of the series. With Wynn safe, Mikey could rest.
Like I said, I was in tears by this point, but also fighting back a smile because that scene was FUCKING PERFECT. Pachelbel’s Canon played throughout (Mikey loves classical music, thanks for never asking…), which seemed to work a lot better than a similar scene from Season 4, when Constable Bob brawled with YOLO to the The O’Jays. First, Choo-Choo. Now, Mikey. I have no idea how Justified has managed to make bit-player deaths the most poignant moments of the season, but we’re all better for it.
I don’t know what else I can say about this week’s episode. I could talk about poor Avery’s reaction to Katherine’s death (the “hand to cover the mouth” is an immensely underrated sadness move). I could say something about how poor Rachel does not deserve to have her career destroyed over this. I could mention how poor, loyal, stupid Carl was the only person on the planet surprised by Boyd shooting him in the chest.
I should probably leave Jeff with something to talk about, however. “Fugitive Number One,” to me, was another “A” episode in a season full of them. Are you with me or against me? If you’re against me, “Jenny” here might blow you a kiss…
I’ll try not to over praise the Mikey-Wynn-Katherine scene (as if that was possible) and keep my observations to a minimum. God damn, what a showcase! Not just a wonderful moment for Mikey to go out on and an unexpected ending for Katherine, but a great technical achievement as well. For shooting in such a confined space, the scene is enormously well edited and it even manages to throw in some more artistic touches (apart from the soundtrack choice). Possibly my favorite part of the scene on second watch is seeing things from Wynn’s POV. Even though Wynn is the least active character in the scene, Jere Burns’ performance might be the best of all three. I’d argue that he probably has the hardest job too, as he’s passively bearing witness to this, just like the audience.
As soon as the first bullet passes through Mikey and breaks the window behind Wynn’s head, Wynn is on the floor. A stray shot goes through the table, and later, Wynn sees Mikey’s blood pour through the hole. When Katherine finally dies, Wynn sees her fall to the ground, staring back at him lifelessly. When Mikey falls to the ground, Wynn sees the extent of the damage Katherine has done and his reaction is a perfect mix of horror and sadness (of course, we all know Wynn Duffy is the king of reactions, but still). Jere Burns plays it perfectly up to the very end of the scene. Brilliant.
Ok, with that out of the way, I want to take a little time and be nitpicky. First, despite all of the cliffhangers last week, we didn’t get a ton of “exciting conclusion”-type payoff. Sure, it’s fun to know that Raylan handcuffed Boyd to a bumper and just called the ambulance, but I want to know what happened immediately after we last saw Boon and the hipster or even more, Avery and Katherine. At least something must have been said between this pair between last episode and this one. How is it that they could part company amicably only to reunite and then finally talk about Wynn, Grady and love?
Though not a nitpick, I do want to mention that I’m far less excited about Ava and her adventures with Uncle Zachariah than I am about almost everything else on this show. Maybe it’s because this season has been so amazing. Maybe it’s because of my knee-jerk aversion to “surprise family members.” It’s probably because the plots on this show, though almost always complicated and often fun, have never been as interesting as the cast of characters. Also, I think the conflict in Ava this season, though great for Joelle Carter to play, and often exciting to watch, has ultimately muddied whatever motivation she might have, or whatever sense we might have of her motivations.
Criticisms aside, this episode was definitely A-level. It would be for the motorhome scene alone. But that was only about 5 minutes out of the whole episode. Give or take a Loretta/Boon confrontation, the ballad of Carl Lennon, or some scenes back at the office, Raylan was in almost every other scene of this episode. He was all over the place too. That makes sense since he’s our hero, but this one let him shine even brighter, bouncing off of his co-stars and building momentum to the episode’s end.
We’re treated to an always-welcome Raylan/Boyd scene, where the two men discuss what is most important to them about the problem of Ava and the money. We get Raylan and Tim continuing to be awesome partners doing actual Marshal work, referencing Lord of the Rings and genuinely making us wish they had been paired up more often throughout the series. Raylan gets another scene with Boon, to tease us even more about a confrontation that may well never come, knowing this show. Raylan also gets to drop the bombshell on Avery that Katherine has been killed in Wynn Duffy’s rolling home office. Lucky for Avery he didn’t have Boon try to shoot the messenger.
Possibly the best verbal confrontation of the episode comes when Raylan dresses down a dirty cop who is about to deliver Earl to Avery. It’s awesome not only because Raylan totally calls the guy out on his BS, but also because of our knowledge of Raylan’s own “unorthodox” type of police work. Yes, Raylan is dedicated to justice and would never be a shitheel like this dude, but as Vasquez reminds us, he’s never been entirely on the straight and narrow. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Raylan one of recent TV’s anti-heroes, but this episode finds him toeing that line more than usual.
Which brings us to the last scene of the episode. After disobeying Art’s orders and Tim’s hilarious reminders for Raylan to come back to Lexington, Raylan puts aside his ID and Marshal’s star. He tells Art that he has no choice but to go after Boyd, Ava, the money or all three. Based on six seasons of history, and multiple years before that, it’s hard to argue with him. As expected, Art doesn’t argue, really. Instead, he gives Raylan 48 hours and says that he’ll be the one coming after Raylan when that time is up. Now, I honestly don’t expect the series to give us a real Art/Raylan showdown, at least not one that won’t be subverted by some third party. Even so, it seems like Raylan has crossed a line in this episode, to the point where we might be wise to ask who is really “Fugitive Number One”?
LINE OF THE NIGHT
Patches: Agent Dunlop, doing this best audience member impression…
Nelson: Heard she pulled Boyd’s gun on you.
Raylan: She did.
Nelson: Man, I did not see that coming.
Dispatcher: 911, what is your emergency?
Wynn: I’m not sure where to start?
Patches: Is has to come down to Raylan, Boyd, and Ava in the finale. We can assume Avery and Boon are going down next week. Who do they take down with them?
Jeff: Accepting your assumption, just what is Avery Markham’s next play? Is it worth it to go after Wynn, or does he just lay all of the blame on Boyd’s shoulders? There’s also the little matter of what he does with the person who actually has his money…
Patches: What would have been the worst possible song to have blasting from the radio during Katherine and Mikey’s struggle?
Jeff: There are a lot of choices here, but I’ll go with “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex.
Jeff: What would it take for Loretta to agree to go on a date with Boon? Follow-up: What would Boon plan for said date?
Patches: For Loretta to agree to the date, it would probably have to be chaparoned by Jenny. I don’t know much about the date, but I know Boon would insist on two things. First, authentic Mexican food, none of this fake TexMex crap. Second, good service. There’s nothing worse than seeing the bottom of your coffee cup.
Patches: Grube’s seems like a missed opportunity for a little stunt-casting. Who would you have cast to portray the long-dead mountain man for several seconds?
Jeff: As soon as I heard Ava and Zachariah were going to see Grubes, I immediately began hoping against hope that it would somehow be Ian McShane (and that his appearance would be more awesome than distracting). I’ll stick to that, I guess, because I guy can dream.
Jeff: I know it’s useless for me to ask you if Wynn might wind up managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, but what might Wynn wind up doing in witness protection?
Patches: Not much. Just being the best tanned tennis pro in the Greater Los Angeles Area.
Patches: What’s the name of your personalized revolver?
Jeff: Tough one. Probably something weird like Greg.
Jeff: Which imposter rocks a police uniform better: Boyd, Colin Sullivan, Magic Mike, The Joker, Raoul Silva or T-1000?
Patches: Gotta give it to Matt Damon. Sorry, C-Tates! Try wearing the full uniform next time!
BONUS SCREENS: THE BALLAD OF MIKEY COSMATOPOLIS