No. Seriously. Spoilers!
I finally left Harlan County last night, seeing out the season finale of Justified. I’ll be back. The fable which rebooted the TV western is so dense and layered with meaning, so well crafted in plot and character, that it’s worth a second viewing just as much a good novel is worth a second read.
I’d been concerned the storytelling might fall away as the show passed it’s fourth season, the point at which most long form TV drama seems to peak and then fade, but as The New York Times wrote of the last chapter of Marshal Raylan Givens story, “freed of the distractions of laying the groundwork for future events, the producers of “Justified” put together a focused, intricately plotted season that fully demonstrated the show’s hallmarks: the understated sophistication of its writing and direction, and its soulfulness, an authenticity and direct communication of character and place that you rarely feel in television drama.”
I couldn’t say it better myself, so I won’t try.
There were times when Boyd Crowder, as arch a villain any, including Walter White, teetered toward caricature, but you had to let him take that on credit. It would be hard loving a woman like Ava, who was more than his match intellectually, criminally and in her murderous intention to secure herself from fates. She walked on stage in the first season and straight up killed Boyd's brother, not the last man she would put down. And yet Ava always managed to come off as the victim and men died around her because of their chivalry and their stupidity about it.
Not Raylan though. I loved that great moment when he’d captured Ava, yet again, and before she escapes him, yet again, when she ruefully recollects his ability to withstand her charms. Perhaps because they grew up in Harlan? Raylan was not a man who always thought with his head around a pretty lady, so much so that it seemed to surprise himself on those few occasions when he managed it.
And the villains. What can be said of Harlan County’s towering villains? They were magnificent, every one of them. The poor, doomed bastards. I think the treacherous Wynn Duffy was my favourite. But the last of Raylan’s nemeses, Boon, was probably the most self aware. Of all the men who tried to put him the ground, Boon seemed best to understand the mythical roles that both had to pay. Didn’t help though, did it?
There was much to love about this criminally underrated show. I started to slow down my binge watching at the end because I didn’t want it to finish. But like all cowboys, Raylan eventually had to ride off into the sunset. It says a lot about the producers' and writers' understanding of their hero that they indulged us with such a generous denouement. That final exchange between Raylan and Boyd, especially knowing that Raylan did not get the life he wanted, that was an almost perfect way to close out a story.