I love Justified. It’s a great show, Elmore Leonard to the core, with some of the best dialogue television has ever had. The best season was #2, with its pilot “The Moonshine Wars” introducing us to Mags Bennett, probably television’s strongest female character ever. The last couple seasons, however, have been driven by the conflict between Timothy Olyphant’s (Deadwood) character U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and long-time criminal, Boyd Crowder, played expertly by Walton Goggins (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy).
When the two meet in the pilot, they smile and hug, and seem to be genuinely glad to be reunited. Raylan has just been kicked to the Marshal’s district of Eastern Kentucky, where he was born and raised, after shooting a Miami “gun thug,” who absolutely had it coming, but for some reason the action pissed off Raylan’s bosses. As Raylan says later, “I don’t know why they give us guns,” he clearly has a view of his duties that differs from the Marshal’s service. Boyd is set up in the pilot as the clear bad guy, blowing up a church and then shooting one of his men, who he suspects of being an informant, in the head. The pilot is based on Elmore Leonard’s short story Fire in the Hole, and ends with Raylan shooting Boyd in the chest. Leonard had Boyd dying, but Justified showrunner Graham Yost saw the chemistry between the two characters, and had him survive the shooting. Instead of a game of cat-and-mouse, Raylan and Boyd have been engaged ever since, in a game of cat-and-cat, sometimes on different sides of a fight, often on the same side. They save each other’s lives, and seem to be tied together by their shared pasts.
What tonight’s finale supposedly comes down to is the final squaring off of the two men, but honestly, this battle has seemed to me to be a MacGuffin, a plot device that to me, just doesn’t feel right. I am confident that Yost will end the show in the right way, and I’m hoping for this season’s creepshow character “Boone,” a young gunslinger who desperately wants to add a notch with Raylan’s name on it will meet his end by way of Boyd’s gun, saving Raylan. Yes, there’s a certain symmetry to beginning and ending the show with Raylan shooting gun-thugs, but that doesn’t really resolve the Raylan/Boyd situation, so I’m hoping for a more creative finale.
The Loretta McReady storyline coming around full-circle, with the young girl becoming Eastern Kentucky’s new Mags Bennett, is quite satisfying. I hope both Raylan and Boyd are able to leave Harlan alive, but don’t.