The season five finale of ‘Justified’ closed the door on some current stories while opening others to the final year of the show as the ultimate battleground is set between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
‘Justified’ started out as a TV show based upon an Elmore Leonard story called ‘Fire in the Hole’ about a U.S. Marshal named Raylan Givens, who returns to his home state of Kentucky to help take down his old coal mining partner Boyd Crowder, who is now a white supremacist, bank robber and all around bad guy. In the pilot episode shot well ahead of the actual series, Boyd’s journey ends when Raylan draws down on him and puts a bullet straight through his chest. But once more people saw that first episode, there was a certain dogged magnetism about Boyd and Walton Goggins, the actor who portrayed him. So from death came life, and the producers behind the show ended up bringing Boyd back and for the past five seasons he’s run on a parallel track opposite Raylan with one operating on the side of good and the other the side of evil.
Like anything, both Raylan and Boyd have dabbled in grey areas, but together they’ve been the real driving force behind ‘Justified’. Following Tuesday night’s season five finale titled ‘Restitution’, it’s clear that the unstoppable force will finally run directly into the immovable object because after the events in this episode, there’s no more dancing in each other’s atmosphere — this is headed for a full on collision.
For the biggest part of this season, I’ve been openly critical of the Crowe family’s place in the ‘Justified’ universe. What had been billed as the big bad of season five, possibly the best antagonists on the show since Mags Bennett and her boys haunted Harlan County, ended up as a dud for the majority of the year. From one bumbling moment to the next, Darryl Crowe Jr. seemed like less of a criminal mastermind and more of a backwoods hillbilly who would rob a donut shop opened up next to a police station. Still, there were moments when actor Michael Rapaport did get to shine, and for at least the first 10 minutes of this episode he flew higher than any other point during this entire season.
With his nephew Kendal about to face 40 years to life in prison for shooting Art, Darryl finally reaches a boiling point and he’s ready to have it out with Raylan once and for all. None of this can happen inside the Marshals’ office of course, but as Darryl exited and turned back around, while threatening ‘you and me Raylan, that’s a goddamn promise’, there was that rare moment when he was able to send shivers down your spine. It may have only happened at one other point this year — when Boyd first employs the family in his vendetta against the neo-Nazis that turned on him and got Ava attacked in prison and he introduces his new friend Darryl Crowe Jr. as he proceeds to lay a beat down akin to a Rottweiler tearing apart a chicken, there was a ferocity in his eyes that made him seem like a worthy opponent.
As we found out through painful experience, however, Darryl Crowe Jr. was more like the dog that chases his own tail. He wants to catch it. He’s dying to do it. But the sad fact is he’ll never get there.
Darryl is able to ditch Tim, who was following his every move after he left the Marshals’ office, but then his own stupidity catches up to him again when he drives back to Audrey’s and encounters his sister for a final time.
At the jail, Raylan gives Kendal a good long speech about his own parental roots and how Arlo was no different than Darryl in a practical approach to how a child should be raised. They were both forced to kill an animal at an early age because that’s when men are supposed to do. It was clear that Raylan’s speech only got so far because as Kendal’s hands shook in fear as he grasped onto a paper cup filled with vending machine hot cocoa, and the gravity of the situation started to sink in. Wendy saw enough and wanted to put an end to it, but it would take some theatrics to get what Raylan wanted.
So Wendy called Darryl and pretended that Raylan’s big move to send Kendal away was a ploy and she was ready to sue, but now the plan was to pack up the entire family and head back to Florida. Wendy worked some magic by sympathizing with Darryl’s plight as the head of the family following their father’s death, and within seconds he was confessing to shooting Art out of fear following Danny’s demise. Just like that, Wendy had the confession she needed because the entire conversation was being recorded, and Darryl’s final stand was about to take place.
I think the writing was on the wall from the first day the Crowes showed up in town that they weren’t going to be around for long, but as Wendy twice pulled the trigger on her pistol, cutting her brother in half before plugging a bullet into his throat, this Florida family was destined for implosion. Even Raylan’s last words to Darryl before he died seemed like a prophetic message given how he had to go after his own sister shot him down.
“Didn’t I tell you, you were gonna wish I killed you? Well, don’t you?” ~ Raylan
I know that the writers had bigger plans in place for family confidant Jean-Baptiste before the actor decided he no longer wanted to be in the show, and they had to write him out. He appeared to be the pragmatist of the group, and maybe his exit was just the pin in the grenade falling out, but whatever the reason, the Crowes were the least venomous of all the villains that have visited ‘Justified’, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun ride while they were in town.
The perfect analogy for the Crowes happened when Danny died — he was a vicious mad dog, ready to charge forward with a knife walking into a gunfight, but instead skewered himself before he ever really became threat. That’s probably how we’ll best remember the Crowes — the crime family that couldn’t get out of their own way.
Another common theme that I’ve brought up in several past ‘Justified’ recaps when it comes to my personal favorite character Boyd Crowder is his ineffectiveness as a heroin running drug lord. As a local crime boss dabbling in the flesh trade and some other enterprises, Boyd excelled, but when it came to drug trafficking, it was a world he just didn’t know and obviously couldn’t navigate. It all came to pass during the finale, when Boyd had to say goodbye to his faithful friend Jimmy, who served by his side even after he was blown up like a Macy’s day parade float following an encounter with deadly snakes a season ago. Jimmy’s undoing was his expendable nature in Boyd’s operation as the Mexican cartel came to America to eradicate the men who left several dead bodies south of the border. This meant Boyd and Darryl Crowe Jr. both had to go.
Boyd’s ability to move brown bricks of heroin across the U.S./Mexico border may have been poorly executed, but he certainly can circumvent his way out of trouble. Without the Mexican thugs noticing, he switches Darryl’s name onto Raylan’s phone number in his cell, so a litany of messages about the deal going down end up on the U.S. Marshal’s phone alerting him that there’s trouble in town.
Raylan sends Rachel and Tim to deal with it, and after a gun battle ensues, the entire Mexican cartel hit squad falls dead and Boyd Crowder lives to see another day. Because he alerted the authorities to the presence of these bad men, and there was no proof he did anything wrong other than end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, Boyd had to be released but before he left, Rachel shared an ominous warning with him.
“I’m going to go back to Lexington and take that file Raylan has on you and make it my sole purpose on this Earth to ensure you receive every ounce of punishment you have coming your way and then some.” ~ Rachel
Just when Boyd thought his problems were dead and buried, a whole new enemy arose, and that’s just the tip of this iceberg.
Ava’s time in prison has been a fairly lonely place outside of her friendship with Penny, and even that had to come to a violent end. Now with Penny’s murderer being outed to the guards, which points the finger right back at Ava as the snitch, she’s on an island that’s quickly sinking under the tide and she’s running out of places to swim to.
Her only plan is to attack rather than be attacked, and it results in her ending up as a prisoner in solitary confinement with a separated shoulder. It’s there she runs back into her old nursing friend Rowina, who has some sound advice for her — either live for the next five years in solitary, which is a special death of its own, or fight for her life every single day she wakes up until the prison doors finally close behind her for the last time. As it turns out, there was a third option.
The Crowes are finished and Raylan’s day seems done, so he goes to the hospital to pay Art a visit now that he’s awake. A brief chat with his old boss yields some interesting results — it seems Art followed through on Raylan’s suggestion, and he filed for a transfer to get the wildest member of the Lexington U.S. Marshals office transferred to Florida. While it comes as a shock, a Skype call with his wife Winona and a smiling face from his daughter convinces Raylan that this is where he needed to be all along. But before he goes, Rachel and U.S. assistant district attorney David Vazquez have one more piece of business to discuss with Raylan.
From Bo Crowder to Robert Quarles all the way up to the dead Mexican cartel members currently sitting in the Lexington morgue, the one common theme that they all shared was a wild haired gangster with pearly teeth named Boyd Crowder. Rachel is following through on her promise, and now that Vazquez has seen Boyd with his old friend Katherine Hale, who it turns out murdered his boss to help delay her husband’s trial, he smells blood in the water. It’s time for Boyd Crowder to answer for all of the crimes he’s committed, and they need Raylan to tie the pieces together before he shuffles off down south to be with his family.
Raylan: “You saying you’re going after Boyd Crowder?”
Vazquez: “I’m sorry, have you not been listening?
Raylan: “What are we talking about, how serious are you?”
Vazquez: “Coffin serious. We’re going after him under the RICO statute. We’re going to bury him. 50 years minimum.”
Raylan: “And you want me to help?”
Rachel: “Before you go, yeah”
Raylan: “Well, why didn’t you just say so.”
It’s around this time that Boyd gets the good news he’s been waiting to hear for the past few months. His beloved Ava is being released from prison after the guard and cellmate from the county lockup recanted their statements, and she’s coming home in a matter of hours. Boyd can’t forget that she ended things with him not that long ago, but deep down he still loves her and will always love her, and his place is by her side.
Before he can bask in the glory of Ava’s homecoming, Boyd has to finish his business with Wynn Duffy so he hands over the remaining kilos of heroin and bids farewell to his time as a drug kingpin, as short and unsuccessful as it may have been. Katherine Hale has other ideas because as she reveals, it was never her husband’s operation to begin with — she was always the brains behind the brawn. She knows Boyd was never going to be Pablo Escobar, but he could be what he started out as five seasons ago — a hell of a bank robber.
Just as Boyd’s head is being filled with a new business opportunity, Ava is back on the bridge in Harlan — an infamous place that has to be haunted by ghosts at this point considering all those who have died from one side to the other. She’s greeted by a man wearing a long overcoat and a cowboy hat, and from out of the shadows steps Raylan Givens.
It seems Ava’s release was all predicated on her gathering evidence on Boyd and acting as a witness for the state. She didn’t forget that when Boyd had a chance to bargain for her freedom a week ago, he instead opted to absolve himself from the judicial radar. Now after fighting with everything she has to prove she wasn’t a rat in prison, Ava is saddled up next to the U.S. Marshals in a mission to bring down the love of her life and send him away from now until the day he dies.
Ava: “I’m scared, Raylan”
Raylan: “Don’t be. Everything’s gonna be fine”
Tim cares for Darryl Crowe Jr. just about as much as Raylan does it seems
“I appreciate your concern. This here, this may as well be a slow night in the champagne room for how comfortably erect I’m going to be watching your bitch ass squirm about.” ~ Tim
Am I the only one that really wants to party with Boyd Crowder in Las Vegas?!?
“Then we got have us one hell of a weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. You ever been? Some folks say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth — well I promise those folks ain’t never partied with Boyd Crowder in Sin City.” ~ Boyd
I’m so glad the writers got to stick on one more really emphatic ‘goddamn’ for Boyd this season
“You see I know real pain. Shit you can’t even imagine. Now you want to put me out of my misery, how bout you stop running your goddamn mouth and do it whatever it is you’ve got to do.” ~ Boyd
When I spoke to ‘Justified’ show runner Graham Yost a week ago, he said something that stuck with me as I was watching the finale — it was the idea that season five of the show was really a 26-episode opus to say goodbye as opposed to two separate seasons of dramatically different ideas at work. The final year will be called season six, but in reality it’s just an extension of the story that started in season five, and as we saw in the finale, the stage is definitely set for an explosive last year in Harlan County, Kentucky. The Crowes came and went without much sizzle, but Boyd and his heroin laced exploits carried the bulk of the weight this season. Even Raylan struggled at points to find consistency, bouncing between storylines with his most dramatic turns coming against his boss and not his sworn enemies. The finale wrapped everything up perfectly, however, in a sweetly harmonized hour and 15 minutes of television.
There is a bottomless sadness knowing that we only have 13 episodes of ‘Justified’ left to go, and maybe it’s my own cynicism at work, but it feels like the floor is about to fall out from under Boyd and his ex-fiancee is going to be the one swinging the hammer. But just as the closing moments of this episode showed with a shocking turn of events, anything can and will happen, especially when there’s no tomorrow after a final episode. The song that keeps playing at the end of every season — ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’ — could just as easily be about Raylan as it is about Boyd. One is the prime target of a criminal investigation going into the final season, while the other is one arrest away from spending an idyllic life in Florida with his family.
Now you tell me, will either of them actually leave Harlan alive?
The version of ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’ that closed out tonight’s episode might be my favorite on yet. This one is by the Ruby Friedman Orchestra and you can listen to the track below:
It all comes down to next year folks as ‘Justified’ enters its final season in 2015. Make sure to keep it locked to Nerdcore Movement all year long as we bring you more breaking news, casting updates, trailers and premiere dates for the last year with Raylan, Boyd, Ava and the rest of the cast of ‘Justified’.