Justified season 5 episode 6 review: Kill The Messenger

Justified channels The Searchers this week in an episode that probes the identity of Raylan Givens...

This review contains spoilers.

5.6 Kill The Messenger

One of the most iconic images in film history that comes from the great John Ford western The Searchers is put before us in this week’s episode of Justified. The movie begins and ends with shots of doorways and in particular the famous closing shot from the film has Ethan played by John Wayne standing outside of this doorway which is the entrance to his brother’s home and he is unable to pass through it. Metaphorically it has been argued that Ethan cannot enter the doorway because he is caught between two different worlds and that his own dual nature is always engaged in a constant conflict. Like most of the great mythic cowboy heroes, Ethan much like Raylan, will always be an outsider.

In a brilliant piece of camera work Raylan enters a saloon to meet with Art after he shared a very important revelation with him last week and Raylan passes through this very door but not before we see Raylan struggle for a moment with the idea of entering. He then proceeds to walk out of the rain, which in itself is usually symbolic in fiction, and Raylan proceeds to enter through this doorway which is positioned directly in the purview of the viewer. He then confronts Art who has not only been a father figure to Raylan but Art has “bailed” Raylan out of more compromising situations then any one man should have to do.

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Upon being confronted with the guilty Raylan, Art is unable to express any words to capture the emotional state that he is in and instead punches Raylan in the face. This is a very powerful moment and a decisive act from the usual genial and avuncular Art who has been pushed way too far. Raylan has always looked to Art for his moral salvation and in many ways Raylan looks to repent his sins to Art who like a priest will then absolve Raylan of his sins. This is where the rain becomes worthy of our attention as symbolically rain and water in most major religions is thought to help cleanse one’s soul. However, this time the moral line that Raylan crossed has significant moral consequences and Art cannot absolve Raylan this time and Raylan must endure this mistake on his own.

Psychologically speaking, Raylan based on his own upbringing has subconsciously destroyed his relationship with a positive “father” figure. Arguably, all of Raylan’s problems seem to go back to his relationship with Arlo and this is the underlying tragedy of Raylan’s mythic journey.

This season, despite allowing for some brilliant moments of humour has also gone to great lengths to show us that our beloved cowboy Raylan much like John Wayne from The Searchers is tired, worn out, and unsure of exactly who he is. In fact Allison, Raylan’s girlfriend, played by Amy Smart, not so coincidentally in the episode asks Rayalan that very same question. Who is Raylan Givens? Is a hero or is he an outlaw pretending to be a hero? Allison says to Raylan that you are a hero because you are the type of guy who would run into a burning building to save someone but I also think that you’re the one setting the fires.

Once agai, Allison may be the only character who truly has Raylan pretty much completely figured out. Raylan is a deeply troubled and conflicted person who has not really opened up emotionally to anyone. Even Rachel tries to keep an eye on Raylan and in trying to get him to open up he at first accuses her of trying to show the boss (Art) that she can keep him in line. Rachel proceeds to tell Raylan exactly what she thinks about that response and then makes it clear that she went along with Raylan to make sure that he would be alright. Raylan arguably thanks to his upbringing trusts no one. Then again one can reasonably ask the age-old question about a person’s fate being predetermined or shaped by the forces around them? I would argue that it is a combination of both.

In regards to Boyd, his criminal empire strikes a potentially lucrative deal with a Mexican cartel. Quite literally Boyd is making a deal with the devil but this deal has unlimited profit earning potential. As Boyd says he believes in capitalism above all else and he in many ways has even forsaken his belief in God to pursue capitalist goals. Granted Boyd wants to embrace capitalist principles but he seems completely uninterested in using any of the plethora of legal ways that a capitalist society allows for an entrepreneur to create a successful business. Boyd also ever being the opportunist manages to turn a potential problem with the Crowe family into a mutually beneficial business agreement in which the Crowe family becomes the muscle to Boyd’s new criminal empire. Daryl, played by Michael Rapport, also proves that he is no ordinary dumb “hick” criminal as he accepts this offer because it is profitable from a business stand point.

Lastly, Ava has found herself in a terribly frightening new situation and is in desperate need of protection. However, the protection that Boyd arranged for her turned out to only further complicate things for Ava as Gretchen has decided that any former white supremacist who is a “race traitor” deserves to have his girlfriend made an example of. Gretchen and her crew proceed to attack Ava and leave her in a state of disarray. As much as Boyd tries to protect Ava he is always confronted with new sets of unforeseen circumstances. As such these setbacks with Ava seem to be sending Boyd down an even more violent and destructive path.

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Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, Shot All To Hell, here.

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