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 12 – “Collateral.” It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of Justified. Fire in the Hole!
Ever since “Alive Day,” Justified has cranked out episode after episode of incredible television. The show has been so consistently amazing that I almost feel disappointed that the series still isn’t improving every week. Of course, the truth is that there’s basically nowhere for Justified to go.
As the series’ penultimate episode, “Collateral” had the responsibility of moving things forward while still setting up for the finale. Needless to say, it delivered on both counts. Avery Markham is on the warpath and now has little left to lose. I expected him to buy the farm, figuratively this time, this week, but Sam Elliott has been so incredible this season that I’m take every Elliott scene I can get. It seems as though the endgame will now include Markham, Boon, and Loretta.
Ava and Zachariah continued to be the weakest thread in the Justified tapestry. They argued. Ava left. Zachariah died. It all had to happen, but nothing about it was particularly interesting. There was a nice thematic moment, however, when Zachariah told Raylan that both he and Boyd were just looking to use Ava for their own devices.Zachariah’s emulexplosion caught Boyd with some shrapnel, so we’ll see how that impacts the finale.
No matter what everyone else is doing, Justified is still Raylan’s show. Two weeks ago, he set aside his badge to go after Ava. This week, things got dark. Real dark. Like opened-fire-on-Boyd-without-provocation dark. All of this was beautifully set up earlier in the episode when Raylan enlisted (read: forced at gunpoint) Appalachian (pronounced like this) Mountain Man Cope to help him track Ava. Even Cope knows that Raylan wants to shoot Boyd. Unsurprisingly, Raylan is the last guy in Harlan County to figure that out.
Still, it’s pretty shocking to see Raylan finally cross that line. He’s toed it plenty throughout the run of the show, but there’s no way to justify (I’m trying to get cute this time, I (the) promise!) his actions this week. What if he had killed Boyd with his opening shot? Boyd is dead and there’s no other casings laying around. What conclusion would you draw if you are Vasquez or Art?
The writers have hinted at and played with the idea that Raylan and Boyd are the same person. This scene seemed to suggest that is indeed the case. Same person, but different results because of the different choices they have made. Justified loves subverting our expectations, but I hope they play the Boyd/Raylan showdown straight, especially after Boyd completed his transformation from “rascal” to “murderer” this week.
“Collateral” set the board up for the finale, but it didn’t remove many of the pieces. That means we get Wynn vs. Markham/Boon vs. Boyd vs. Ava vs. Raylan vs. US Marshals next week. The end is nigh. I can’t wait for the finale, but I’m also sad to see the most reliably enjoyable television show ride off into the sunset. The only question left to answer is who will be riding into the sunset with it?
What, no mention of the critically wounded Constable Bob Sweeney? I’m endlessly grateful that Justified saw fit to bring him back and give him so much to do in the penultimate episode. From pulling the ol’ Gremlin out of mothballs, to resisting Ava’s seduction, to semi-consciously referencing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bob’s a winner all around. He’s the reason Raylan gives up on chasing Boyd. Raylan’s friendship with Bob (and shame on anyone who tries to call it pity) is what pulls Raylan back from the edge, over to the hospital and into police custody. Trouble is, after that beautiful conversation on the hillside in the dark, it’s not hard for me to imagine Raylan sprinting right back to that edge pretty quick.
You mention just how dark Raylan’s firing on Boyd is. I’ll agree, but Raylan’s been building to this all season, if not over the entire series. Putting Boyd away is his last mission, but we’ve seen that there were plenty other things Raylan needed to leave in behind him as well. He reconciled with Winona. He came to terms with the ghost of his father. His feelings for Ava killed the legal case against Boyd, so he laid down his Marshal’s star. “Collateral” finds him signing over his home and his land. The only thing Raylan really has left in Kentucky is himself and of course Boyd, his mirror image. Will killing Boyd really bring Raylan the measure of closure he needs, or is it the last step in his transformation into Boyd Crowder? If Raylan does gun Boyd down in cold blood, you can be sure that even if Raylan’s heart is still beating, he won’t be leaving Harlan alive.
Shoot first attitude aside, Raylan continues to walk the line between light and darkness. Boyd, on the other hand, has gone full outlaw. His two major scenes with Shea Whigham’s Hagan are a wonderful exploration of the myth and the reality of being an outlaw. Hagan compares Boyd to Billy the Kid and calls him a hero, but at a certain point, he knows that Boyd is not going to let him live. “You know my mind?” asks Boyd. It’s clear Hagan does, but that doesn’t change his reverence. “Stories of outlaw legends, they ain’t passed down by the families that are murdered,” Hagan tells Boyd. If Boyd did let Hagan live, it’s clear he would sing Boyd’s praises to the end of his days.
Boyd has no time for reveling in his infamy as a modern day Jesse James. Notoriety beyond his lifetime can wait when there’s $10 million to be had. Today, Jesse James and Billy the Kid are larger-than-life figures. Their ballads are still sung long after their early deaths at ages 34 and 21, respectively. But you know what? In their time, they were rebels, thieves, rustlers, gunmen, murderers. It was their legends that got printed. As romantic as they may have appeared in newspapers, dime novels and movies, these were bad men. Boyd Crowder is just another one of them. “I’m an outlaw,” he declares, before putting a bullet in Hagan’s head.
Will Boyd be remembered as a romantic hero of Harlan County? Will the Hagans of the world remain un-eulogized in the “all killer, no filler” greatest hits double-album of Boyd’s exploits? “I don’t give a shit about the ballad of Boyd Crowder,” Boyd tells Hagan, “I’ll be dead and gone when that song gets sung.” Yes, Boyd, you probably will.
We have only one episode of Justified left, and there are so many pieces in play that it’s going to be amazing to see what happens. I’m not even going to bother making predictions here, because I’ll probably be wrong and I’ll probably love what actually happens more than whatever I could come up with. I will say this. Throughout its six season run, this show has brought me more joy than its premise and body count might suggest. I’ve aurally basked in the glow of the beautiful dialogue that effortlessly rolls off the tongues of its accomplished ensemble. I’ve reacted in fits of laughter at the subversive levity and surprise bloodshed that has peppered the Kentucky countryside. I’ve been guilty of excitedly shouting out the names of amazing guest stars as they appear in the opening credits. Justified makes me happy, and I expect it will right up to the end.
LINE OF THE NIGHT
Boyd: You shot unprovoked. How am I supposed to take that?
Raylan: As me aiming to kill you.
Raylan: You want to kill her, Boyd. You want to kill the woman who stole your money, shot you, and left you for dead.
Boyd: You don’t know what’s in my heart.
Raylan: What heart?
Boyd: You don’t know what’s in your own heart. You’ve given up everything you are so that you could murder me.
Raylan: I cross the line with my eyes wide open.
Boyd: Your baby girl’s? Imagine the look on her face the day she realizes, “my daddy spent his whole life trying to walk the line and failed.”
Raylan: She’ll live her life the way everybody does. On her own.
Boyd: Are you sure you don’t want me to kill you, Raylan, keep you a hero? That makes for a hell of a bedtime story.
Patches: Next week’s series finale is entitled “The Promise.” Someone’s promise is not going to be kept. Who lives and who dies?
Jeff: Where’s the rest of the $10 million? Who did Ava call? Who did she leave Dewey’s necklace for? Who winds up with the money? Oh, is that too many questions?
Patches: How angry/upset would you have been if they had killed off Constable Bob?
Jeff: I’d be pretty upset, though I suspect I’d get over it knowing that this series is coming to a close. Still, I don’t think this show would do that to us.
Jeff: Is there a previous guest star you’ve been itching to see this final season? Last chance!
Patches: Raylan and Boyd are standing 15 yards apart, staring each other down and delivering sweet-sounding, Bourbon-dripped dialogue I’m incapable of writing. The tension mounts. Beads of sweat roll down Raylan’s forehead. Boyd’s lip curls. Suddenly, Karl Hanselman leaps between the two. “WAIT!” he shouts, “Have the two of you seen my collection of Hitlers?” On a serious note, it would make no sense whatsoever, but I’d have loved for a Robert Quarles cameo.
Patches: How will Raylan get out of his arrest at the end of the episode?
Jeff: He won’t. He’ll spend the next episode in the back of a squad car.
Patches: Prediction time! How do you think the show ends?
Jeff: If my response above is any indication, I’d say mostly happily. Boyd’s dead for sure, as are Markham and Boon. Ava probably has to die, or somehow get away or get free (or partner with Loretta). I think all of the “good guys” live though.
Jeff: Who finally gets the best of Boon, and does Boon get the best of anyone (anyone more important than Derek, anyway)?
Patches: Boon does not kill anyone important because Raylan subverts his ass, putting Boon down because.