It’s the end of the road for Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as Justified enters its final hour.
Let’s bitch it out…
So all’s well that ends well? For ‘The Promise’, that’s nearly true as the good guys mostly get their nice send-off and the bad guys are mostly killed or sent away.
Finales are tough to get right – it’s practically guaranteed that not everyone will be happy with the send-off engineered for characters that we’ve come to know and love over a number of years. Did Justified play it safe by offering outcomes for individuals that the audience was secretly hoping for? That’s a very subjective question, but considering how I felt during the final coda set four years in the future, I can personally attest that I found the ending very satisfying.
Before we find out who ends up where, ‘The Promise’ first has to wrap up the existing S6 story lines. That meant Avery Markham (Sam Elliott) and Boon (Jonathan Tucker) had to be put down and Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Raylan had to have their final showdown. I was happy that the Markham bits happened fairly early in the hour as I’ve felt like this story line has been dragging things down the last few hours. Considering the ease with which Boyd takes out Avery and the crooked cops, it proves to me that Avery was really more of a cipher to move the plot along to its natural conclusion. Naturally it comes down to Boyd vs Raylan and here is where the biggest unexpected event occurs: I fully expected that the pair would have a shoot-out (I mean, it was anticipated in the promo footage for this season, as well as last week’s penultimate episode). Instead Boyd elects not to pull on Raylan, even when he’s provided with a loaded gun.
At the end of the day, this makes sense. Boyd is a survivor and he’s smart. He’s seen Raylan put bullets in any number of bad men over the years, including himself. Instead of mirroring the pilot episode when Raylan nearly killed him, Boyd makes the smart move to go to prison – with the added threat that he’ll come for revenge when he gets out.
Initially my thoughts about the appearance of Boon on the highway was one of exasperation. It is almost as if because we didn’t get a shoot-out with Boyd, the writers make sure they write in another in its place. Ever since his introduction, Boon has been a poser: a wannabe cowboy who gets by on intimidation and thinks he’s in an old Western film. The iconography as the pair face off on the highway is exceptional: a modern Western tableaux to reinforce the show’s genre roots. And when the dust clears on the shoot-out, of course Boon has failed to killed Raylan. For a hot minute I wondered if Justified would be so bold as to make Raylan pay for his gunfighting hubris with an undignified death at the hands of this moron. Thankfully he ends up with nothing more than a head wound and a rationale to steal a dead man’s hat. Whew!
The goodbyes are tough, especially the silent ones around the Marshals’ office. Tim (Jacob Pitts) gets a laugh, Art (Nick Searcy) gets to be sage and Rachel (Erica Tazel)…well she shows up. And even though Raylan offers to hang around to help find Ava (Joelle Carter), it’s an empty offer because he’s already out the door.
The four year flash forward is great for bringing the series to a close. There’s a sense of melancholy in the fact that Raylan and Winona (Natalie Zea) couldn’t make their relationship work, but watching Raylan bribe his daughter because he likes the way she says the letter ‘z’ is adorably cute (Side Bar: so is the actress, who looks like a spot-on junior version of her parents).
Raylan’s journey to California to visit Ava is similarly affecting. I knew straight away that she was protecting a child by the way she refuses to let Raylan enter the house, but as a plot device it still works. For all of her ups and downs, as a character Ava needed a happy ending and she wasn’t wrong when she tells Raylan before his run-in with Boon that she won’t last in prison. We’ve seen how that story line ends (shudder – let us never speak of S5 again!). And so Ava has her freedom, and a quiet life, and a little piece of Boyd that she begs Raylan never to speak about.
That last bit nicely sets up the final scene, which was always going to be between Boyd and Raylan. Since the series began, the two men have always been presented as two sides of the same coin. And while some may argue that one or both of them should have died to make the series finale truly memorable, I much prefer this ending, which sees the levity returned to their relationship. Raylan does right by Ava when he lies about her death, which Boyd would probably approve of considering his thoughts on Ava’s escape from Harlan County.
Then comes the final line between the two men, a final shared memory of what has unified them all of these years despite their divergent paths: digging coal. It’s a perfect ending for a series that has hit no shortage of high notes over the years. Well done, Justified. You just went out at the top of your game.
Your turn: what did you think of the finale? Were you happy that both Raylan and Boyd survived? Sad that Raylan and Winona couldn’t make it work? Happy that Ava got her happy ending with son Zachariah? And did that final conversation between the childhood friends turned nemeses resonate with you and encompass the entire series? Sound off below
Justified has finished its run. Thanks for reading all of these years!