justified ghosts

“Ghosts” was a more morose and introspective installment of Justified than we’re used to, but it still made for a solid capper to what turned out to be a solid fourth season for the FX drama. For a while, I thought it might go even darker. After Raylan takes out the Tonin goons who show up at Winona’s house at the beginning of the episode, he learns that he, Winona and the baby are going to end up on Nicky Augustine’s “list,” meaning their lives would always be in danger. So Raylan sets off for a showdown with Nicky, seemingly convinced he’ll win because the other guy is always dumb enough to pull on him, giving Raylan a license to kill.

But Nicky isn’t stupid, and when the two find themselves meeting up in a limo at the airport, Nicky calls Raylan’s bluff. He’s not going to pull on him or do anything else that would give Raylan a green light to end him Givens-style, but, for a moment, I wondered if Raylan might just kill him anyway. After all, the guy blatantly threatened to kill Raylan’s unborn baby right in front of him. It’s not hard to see Raylan crossing that line, though if he did, it might irrevocably change the nature of the show in a way no one would be completely comfortable with.

Turns out, it wasn’t worth wondering about. Raylan has an ace up his sleeve in the form of Sammy Tonin, Theo’s dipshit son, who we learn this week has taken over the Detroit mob as dear old dad has, in the wake of Drew Thompson’s capture, fled the U.S. and retired to a country where there’s no extradition. There’s conveniently bad blood between Sammy and Nicky, so all it takes is one phone call from Raylan tipping off Sammy to what Nicky was up to (including planning Sammy’s murder) and all of Raylan’s problems disappear in a hail of bullets raining down on Nicky’s limo. As a method for tying up loose ends, it works well enough, even if it almost feels too neat and tidy. For example, it’s a little bizarre that, after being told all season that finding Thompson was important so he could help bring down Theo Tonin, Theo — who never once appeared this year — manages just to skip away at the end anyway. So can this still be considered a win for the Marshals? I don’t know. And the show doesn’t really address it, as “Ghosts” mostly ignores the season’s larger storylines to zero in on Raylan and Boyd instead.

Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins get some welcome scenes together this week, including one where Raylan offers up a deadly accurate analysis of Boyd’s psyche. Wondering whether Boyd truly loves Ava, he tells him, “I think you love anything that lets you put your head on a pillow at night believing you ain’t the bad guy.” That pillow gets stripped away this episode when Ava is arrested after local police retrieve Delroy’s body from the mine. Boyd concocts a plan for pulling off a cadaver switch that would clear Ava, but it falls apart when Raylan drags him away to find Nicky and Lee Paxton, the funeral-home-owning Clover Hill fatcat, turns on Boyd, showing him he’s not now, nor ever will be scared of a lowlife Crowder. After Ava’s taken into custody, Wynn Duffy turns up to offer Boyd what he’s wanted all along — oversight of all heroin distribution in Kentucky for Sammy Tonin. Boyd accepts, but in a clever bit that shows just how much he’s been affected by Ava’s arrest, the normally verbose Boyd can only nod his head to Wynn’s offer. For perhaps the first time ever, words elude Boyd Crowder.

The episode — and season — ends with two men in two houses. Boyd breaks into the home he and Ava were planning on buying, contemplating all that he’s lost and wondering if his Dairy Queen-fueled dreams of redeeming the Crowder name are forever out of reach. Meanwhile, Raylan is at Arlo’s home. First we see him spackling over the hole in the wall that launched the entire Drew Thompson mystery. Then he sits out back, gazing over the Givens family graves (including a newly dug one for Arlo) while the opening strains of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” play on the soundtrack. From a plotting perspective, the Drew Thompson mystery was the weakest season-long arc this series has yet attempted, but it did provide a framework that allowed to show to dig deeper into who Raylan and Boyd are, where they come from and just how much their lives are defined by the generations of Givenses and Crowders that came before them. At the end of season four, Raylan is clearly faring better than Boyd at making his own way in the world without letting history drag him down. But, even with Arlo gone, Raylan will never be completely free, so long as he keeps finding excuses to drive down to Harlan.

A few more thoughts on “Ghosts” …

— I was happy to see Raylan quickly get the better of the three goons at Winona’s house. They didn’t seem up to the task, and I would not have been pleased had this episode been anchored by some type of elongated hostage situation.

— Wouldn’t any half-decent coroner be able to differentiate between a body that has been decomposing more than 100 feet below ground in an abandoned mine and one that has been decomposing not six feet below ground in a cardboard casket? I’m no expert, but that seems like something they’d suss out in 10 seconds on CSI.

— What happened to the subplot about Art retiring? Just dropped, I guess. I suppose they’ll return to it next year.

— “Kings fall. Princes rise up. And here we still are — the survivors.” God bless you, Wynn Duffy, and may you always be a survivor.

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