Raylan Givens will kill all your henchmen. This is a fact that viewers fully understand but everyone in the fictional universe of Justified consistently seem to forget. Being from out-of-town, Detroit namely, is not an excuse to be ignorant of the fact that your mid-level goons are not going to be enough to carry out the foolishly ambitious task of holding Raylan’s family hostage in an attempt to extort the man. The very premise is ridiculous. Nonetheless, it seemed provocative enough to warrant opening the final episode of one of Justified‘s most satisfying seasons to date. Not as daringly exciting as a bomb strapped to an expecting mother’s rocking chair (you know you thought it), but putting the future of the Givens bloodline in danger towards the end of an arc that explored so much of the Givens history and mythos, brought a lot about who Raylan Givens truly is into perspective.
He is one bad-ass motherfucker. With all the talk about Raylan’s propensity to put bullets in people, sometimes we forget how very effective he is at doing so. When Raylan first makes eye contact with the firearm at the waist of Lex, the dimwitted Augustine thug who basically begged to be shot first, the writing appeared on the wall. In fact, one could argue that as soon as we first see tears on Winona’s face for reasons other than Raylan being a complicated lover, someone was going to die.
So as this season has painstakingly reminded us of Raylan’s relation to Arlo, Arlo’s relation to the long history of criminal activity in Harlan, and Harlan county’s relation to the very ideals people hold dear from loyalty to honor to wealth to love, the finale chooses to refocus its storytelling lens on relationships in general. More specifically we find Raylan, if not reconfiguring, recommitting to having relationships and working to protect. Likewise, we find Boyd and Ava fighting for their relationship’s survival in the wake of Ellen May squealing about their past indiscretions. There’s something truly sentimental about this being what constitutes a final battle — fighting purely for the opportunity to love and be loved. It would apparently require more than a firefight.
In the car en route to Nicky Augustine’s final stand, Boyd and Raylan have the sort of heart to heart that viewers come to expect from the two when their paths are inevitably entwined. They talk a little about what it means to be in love and what it means to wake up in morning and seeing yourself as “not the bad guy.” Raylan challenges Boyd’s affections for Ava primarily as an asshole and a frienemy, but, at least to a small extent, he seems generally interested in the question of love, like a drunken fiancé at an engagement party, unsure and needing both an out and a justification, all at once. Boyd has the certainty that Raylan undoubtedly envies. But for Raylan, in a world where he’s the hero and Boyd the villain, another relationship tirelessly fought for by both men, certainty comes in the form good guy posturing.
So the showdown between Augustine and Givens, leaves a lot to be desired. Raylan’s already resolved somewhere in the car with Boyd that he’ll sit tight on his side of the divide, on his murky moral (not-so) high ground, and let the bad guys be bad guys. Ava on the other side of town finds herself in trouble meant for Boyd, seemingly preventing the two of them from living out their happily ever after.
There’s something dissatisfying about what the finale presented viewers with this week. There’s some underlying cynicism masked in the old adage about good always trumping evil, because it doesn’t actually feel good. It forces us to think back to Shelby/Drew, Hunter Mosley, Randall, Colt, et al. Murky characters, played magnificently by some talented folk, who imbued the stories of this season with well-balanced malign. But it satisfied, at least momentarily, whether our bloodlust or soft-side. Even when Jody, the murderous, abusive crook, came back for his ex-wife (and/or her money) and went on a bit of a rampage, two dead bailbondspeople at least, there was a feeling that good or bad wasn’t as much at stake as the feeling of getting what you want from life — vengeance, loyalty, money, satisfaction. The lesson here, it seems, of the season 4 finale of Justified is either that you can never really be satisfied or it’s foolish to even want to be.