After six seasons, Justified finally came to an end … was it a fitting end to this series?
Although I wasn’t sure I’d be back to watch this show’s final season after last year’s miserable dive, I did return. I wanted to see a final effort to bring back the quirky, sly, intelligent spirit that infused the early seasons of this once so-fun show.
Well, they tried.
Unsurprisingly, the show in the final season came down to a showdown between protagonist Raylan, outlaw Boyd, and the women who has loved them both, Ava.
Who knows what was going on behind the scenes, but somehow, up to this season, the spirit of the Elmore Leonard short story upon which the story was based seemed to leach further away with each passing week. By the end of last season, the show had almost turned into a procedural in which all the characters were bored.
This season seemed to get off to a better start, as the focus unsurprisingly was on Raylan, Boyd and Ava — the odd triangle that brings us back around to Season 1 and its
As previously noted, the show is produced by Graham Yost, who also produces the excellent The Americans. And so, after Justified lost its way so badly last season, they decided to use what works so well on that show in Harlan County this season: Ava became a pawn in the machinations of powers greater than herself, and grew into the center of a series of double- and triple-crosses and more. (This mirrored Soviet agent Nina’s predicament on The Americans.) For a while, this set-up served its purpose.
The mystery for me was the almost total emotional absence of Raylan, the emotional center of the show, in this final season. What a missed opportunity. It could have been powerful, with Raylan coming to terms with who he is and which pieces of his identity he chose to keep — and how that might culminate in his ultimate face-off against Boyd, the uber-frenemy bad guy with whom he once escaped a coal mine disaster. Sadly, there was exactly one episode this season that tried to scratch that surface, and the story then reverted to the soap opera aspects between Boyd and Ava.
The tension around how much Ava really loved Boyd and how far she was willing to go on his behalf could only last so long.
We were asked to care and wonder if Raylan would shoot Boyd dead (in the ultimate confrontation, he didn’t) and whether he might hook up with Ava and forsake his daughter and daughter’s mother, Winona, in Miami. Frankly, I never did care.
Boyd turned into a monster in the last episodes, killing off his loyal henchman Carl, as well as an innocent dad whose car he steals. “I’m an outlaw,” he says before he blows the guys brains out. I thought for sure this was setting up Boyd’s ultimate murder via Raylan’s famous quick draw, but it did not. It didn’t seem as if that decision sprang from some thought-out moral strategy on the writers’ part that would have given it some depth. As with so much, it seemed ad hoc, at best.
The entire last episode was filled with truly regrettable writing, poor directing choices, and what seemed like an effort to simply fill time (like: “I’m sorry I can’t drive you to the airport”; or Q: “Where’s Rachel?” A: “She’ll be back in a minute.”) There was absolutely no tension.
Even more regrettably, though, there was no edgy Elmore Leonard-esque grit and humor.
I hope that all the fine actors of the show will find new and compelling projects. Perhaps, like Margo Martinadale (who played Mags so well in Season 2), a few might even end up over at The Americans.
For anyone whose been reading along … thank you!
“Ad hoc, at best” sums up the last seasons beautifully. Way too much pointless jeopardy that gets insta-resolved by some gunman ex machina, resetting the show back to square one for next week’s episode. Compare this to The Wire, a show that was ostensibly about how nothing changes, and see how a few brilliant writers can wring endlessly rewatchable TV out of the most mundane stuff.
Justified also became self-aware in an annoying way, bringing back fan favourites Constable Bob and Limehouse for no good reason at all, in what can only be described as fan-service cameos. Loretta is another character that could have been great, but she was relegated to some kind of permanent damselette-in-distress status this season.
It’s a lot easier to watch Justified if you see it as “The Misadventures of Wynn Duffy, Winnebago Warrior”, interspersed with fast-forwardable olde-timey be-Stetsoned nonsense about manning up manfully like a man. I wanted to scream every time someone brought out a bottle of Bourbon and put their feet up on something.
That the comic relief characters are much more interesting than the main storyline says a lot about the sub-par writing these last seasons.
Again, thank you for turning me on to The Americans. It’s FANTASTIC. I’d say it’s one of the best shows EVER.
(I’m convinced that the entire church is a KGB thing, and the pastor is a KGB officer who’s been assigned to recruit Paige. I’m suspicious of that relatable teenage girl who just happened to chat to Paige when she was sad on the bus on her way to her fake-aunt. Then again, I might be paranoid.)
Great to hear from my most erudite of commenters! (OK, my only commenter.) I totally agree about the fan-service cameos — though I was so happy to see Dickie Bennett — and the way they were just killing time before the final face-off with Boyd. Which was such a dud. I thought the last episode was terribly directed. Loretta just gets tossed to the side with no wrap up. They had a handful of great characters, but they didn’t know what to do with them anymore. Or care. I wish we had spent more time with Raylan’s world and his internal tensions this season.
Anyway, glad that you found The Americas! I’m trying to do a post-season warp-up on that show, which I recently rewatched from the beginning. As for Pastor Bob being one of THEM … it could be. I had the same suspicions about the girl who just happened to be sitting next to Paige on the bus. Also, CND was a big Soviet-funded propaganda effort (which his church is advocating, perhaps innocently, but perhaps …), and there was a specific shot of fliers with the CND logo when they were stuffing them at the church in the first episode. Pastor Bob will have to be dealt with next season, for sure.
Maybe you’ll find your way over to one of out GoT discussions sometime …