This review contains spoilers.
Overall, I have been less than impressed with this season of Justified. However, the very last scene of the season finale helped to remind me that often there is always a calm before the storm and that the ending of this series was always going to be circular in its nature. Having Raylan secure Ava’s release from prison to ensure that he can use her as an informant to bring down Boyd Crowder was an excellent way to end the season because it ensures that a final confrontation between Ava, Boyd and Raylan will take place. I was also impressed that Raylan and Ava reveal their secret ploy to us on the infamous Harlan County bridge. As so many pivotal moments have taken place on this bridge it seems only fitting that this scene should take place here as it is also one of the first places that we were made fully aware of how violent Boyd Crowder really is when he brutally murdered a supposed police informant in the pilot episode on this very same bridge.
It was also a great storytelling move to bring back the song You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive by Ruby Friedman for this scene as it not only references its use in past episodes but lyrically it also lets us know that there is a good chance that Ava, Boyd and Raylan may all not walk out of Harlan alive. Additionally, one can argue that Raylan, thanks to his abusive upbringing, has always been afraid of getting killed in Harlan County and in many ways his return there has always been shrouded in death. Freud believed in what is known as “The Death Drive”, essentially the idea that all human beings have a propensity to seek out death in one form or another even though at a conscious level in order to stay alive we try to suppress all of these feelings.
Under this line of thinking one can argue that the real reason Raylan returned to Kentucky in the first place was because he could not escape his own desire to jump into a pit of chaos and seek out his own death. This was also one of the driving psychological themes behind the recent hit True Detective. Furthermore, the fact that Raylan keeps passing up opportunities to move to Florida, to be with his daughter and ex-wife Winona whom he clearly still loves also suggests that he still has a fascination with his own death that he cannot escape. Essentially Winona and his baby daughter represent the promise of happiness and life while Harlan represents only death and destruction. So to me, the ultimate ending of the series will involve Raylan having to make a not-so metaphorical choice between life and death. The fact that he has decided to stay in town so that he can finally bring down Boyd Crowder may help to prove that he has chosen to embrace death and in Freudian terms, has already embraced the Death Drive.
In regards to Boyd, he was able to outsmart several henchmen sent on behalf of Mr. Yoon by using his cell phone to alert the US Marshall service as to his whereabouts and survives an impressive shootout between these henchmen and Tim and Rachel. In the midst of all this chaos Boyd pulls off the most unbelievable trick-shot of all time as he guns down one of his assailants from behind his back while he was handcuffed. A bit unrealistic but somehow seems somewhat believable coming from Boyd. As Mr Crowder has once again escaped the law he meets with Wynn and Katherine who once again, against their better judgment, decide that they want to be in business with Boyd. They have reconciled with the fact that Boyd may be a lousy drug dealer but they also know that Boyd is a legendary bank robber and it seems that they want to empower Boyd to embrace his true calling.
As for the Crowe family, Wendy agreed to help Raylan get a confession out of Daryl for attempting to murder Art, but she refused to wear a wire. Instead she records the conversation that she has with Daryl on her cell phone. After tricking Daryl into confessing to the shooting and thus alleviating Kendall of his burden, she proceeds to shoot Daryl twice after he attempts to attack her. Of course, Raylan witnessed this whole event and let Wendy shoot Daryl twice knowing full well that she was going to kill him. Raylan then in his official report states that Wendy acted in self defense and as such we are free to assume that she and Kendall can start a new life together somewhere else.
Metaphorically speaking I think it can be argued that the Crowe family served as a narrative reminder that Harlan County has the power to corrupt families and in particular it can corrupt families who sin against each other. As such it is another reminder that Raylan needs to leave Kentucky to be reunited with his family or else arguably a similar fate will befall him as well. I may be off with this analysis but narratively speaking Harlan County has brought families nothing but heartache and pain. As we have seen so many instances of Harlan County ruining the lives of so many families it only seems fitting that Raylan needs to leave Kentucky behind to start a new life with his family. One of the truly tragic aspects of the show is that because Raylan’s abusive past is so strongly connected to the otherwise great state of Kentucky he has to leave it behind in order to embrace a positive and meaningful future.
Overall, this was my least favorite season of Justified but it had a strong narrative finish and ultimately I respect the fact that the creators knew that it was time to wrap up the story and they were meticulous in setting up all of the key pieces for us this season in order to make that happen. I think that we are in for a truly great circular ending that will involve a final moment between Raylan, Ava and Boyd and that is something that I am truly excited for.
Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, here.
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