The series finale began with Raylan being taken into custody by a cocky local yokel police officer while everything and everyone else continued to spiral out of control. As a loyal fan, I hoped for a reasonable next step, and I was rewarded. A manhunt wouldn’t have been complete without Raylan on the job.
One of the elements I’ve always enjoyed about Justified over the years is the writers’ deft handling of ratcheting up tension in one scene while knowing that viewers are wondering what will happen from previous scenes from the week before. It’s similar to theatre-in-the-round. The revolving stage doesn’t give you whiplash as much as it creates anticipation. What has happened before will be topped by who and what’s coming.
Boyd’s a resourceful man, but even he couldn’t find the buried millions in the mountains. Uncle Zachariah died trying to protect Ava and her honor, and she will forever be grateful for his sacrifice.
Men like Avery Markham don’t know when to pull up stakes and leave town. Their ego and pride are usually their undoing. When his remaining henchman Boone, is added to the mix, we’ve a recipe for destruction. Blind rage leading an immature and arrogant boy with father issues off a jagged cliff.
No one messes with Ava Crowder except for Boyd. Markham didn’t get the memo and there was hell to pay. Boyd’s ego and wounded pride was triple the size of Avery’s, however he was unable to recognize and readjust his strategy. Had he loved and cherished Katherine above all others, he’d have understood Boyd’s unending devotion to Ava and her wellbeing. Katherine was a convenient partner in crime who wasn’t to be trusted because she had an axe to grind. There was no honor and loyalty between them. No love ballads will be written to memorialize their partnership.
Ava is a complex character. She faced death countless times on the show, but was never transported across the River Styx. Boyd loved her because of her complications and her presenting a challenge. She once loved him, if only for a fleeting moment, that he reminded her of his brother Bowman. She couldn’t fully love him as he loved her. This disconnect might have motivated him and his various criminal schemes to once and for all prove he deserved her.
Little boys and grown men dream of being half the man Raylan was. How many of us are guided by unshakeable principles? Often tempted by money, sex or power, Raylan never succumbed. He wasn’t an angel, but not too far off from being devilish. It was this contradiction that made him both popular and hated.
The series finale was filled with action and intrigue, but that’s not what made it memorable. Viewers revisited the underlying and overarching human stories and how they connected or misfired. We worried that Ava might not have survived captivity. Inasmuch as we loathed Boyd, we were reassured that he’d take care of Markham before he’d harm Ava.
The finale would’ve hit a sour note had Boyd been incapacitated in the barn. Better that he was escorted out on his own two feet, which spoke to Raylan’s sense of fair play. No need to kill Boyd and create a legend of the outlaw he fancied himself.
Loretta showed her true character when it was needed. Raylan had that effect on people even if they didn’t realize it. He never thought himself perfect, and didn’t expect others to be so. He reminded us all that each day began with a fork in the road. The choice is individual, and can sometimes be lasting.
Flash-forward four years after the dust settled in Harlan County, Boyd has returned to his former evangelist ways in prison, and Ava became a fugitive. The role reversal was refreshing and unexpected. Raylan’s still a lawman, but his life isn’t a storybook romance with Winona in Miami. Willa’s a daddy’s girl who’s not all frilly or girly. She’ll grow up to be as tough as her father.
After a momentary discomfort passed that Raylan might have made a mistake in leaving Kentucky, we’re reminded that he can’t be happy anchored to a specific place for too long. When he located Ava, I thought he’d take her into his arms and finished what they’d started a few episodes ago. He didn’t, and their unfinished love affair will remain intact. His last act was a testament to his love for her, and his respect for Boyd. Raylan and Boyd were once friends and coworkers who ended up on opposite sides of the law. No better way to end the series with a few things left unsaid and a white lie to help Boyd sleep at night.