While wise men will tell you that it is the journey, not the destination that matters, the ending of a story casts an outsized shadow over the whole. A strong one can redeem a lot of rough spots on the way there, while a weak one pretty much kills the potential for it to be better than “pretty good”. The idea here is that I’ll do a look back at a season of a show I’ve been following but I haven’t been covering week-to-week one episode before the finale. I’ll give a brief(ish) take on how it’s been so far, and then engage in some speculation on what the finale will do or what it needs to do to salvage the season. Then I’ll check in the following week with a look at how the finale met, exceeded or subverted my expectations. Next up: FX’s Elmore Leonard-based crime drama, JUSTIFIED, wrapping up its fourth season. And as a special bonus, this week he will be joined by the inimitable Justin Wadell!
JUSTIN WADELL: Well, that was a good finale, which is no surprise, right? They decided to focus on the shake-up of the Detroit organization, so that sadly didn’t leave any room for Drew Thompson/Shelby, Limehouse, Ellen May, Constable Bob or Johnny to pop up. Guess we’ll catch up with them next season. What were are left with is an enraged Boyd who looks to embrace the badder side of his bad self next season. You have to wonder how much of a grudge he’ll hold against Raylan for separating him from Ava at exactly the wrong time. Probably a big one.
AL SCHWARTZ: Surprise, surprise, I loved “Ghosts” despite the absence of some of the show’s strongest characters. Heck, in addition to the ones you mentioned, we only got a passing glance at Rachel and Tim. Though in fairness, I loved the little bit with Tim finishing Raylan’s “you need someone to talk to, you got-“/”-I got Rachel.”
It’s appropriate, though, that the finale narrows the focus down to our main characters in Raylan, Boyd, and Ava. The men were particularly well served, as the show’s restraint in parceling out Raylan/Boyd scenes pays off every time they give them a lengthy scene to jaw at each other, of which we got a couple this week.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How about that hostage standoff?
Justin: The hostage standoff was, of course, great. In the previews, it looked like the threat to the pregnant Winona was going to last throughout the episode. However, Raylan neutralized it before the beginning credits started rolling. I guess there was some confusion that the talkative baddie at the beginning was the great Peter Stormare. I think not. Stormare is too busy terrorizing Wonder Women in fanfilms. He has no time for Justified! I like that Art is pretty well convinced that Raylan is mass murderer. Because, well, he is.
Al: Hold up a second, Peter Stormare has been relegated to doing Wonder Woman fan films? No wonder the Chinese are kicking our ass.
If I have one complaint about the episode, it’s that the Ava storyline takes the long route to circle back to basically the point it was at when the opening credits started (or uses 40 words where 4 would do, to quote the departed Mr. Augustine). Which stands in stark contrast to the kick-ass little action short that was the hostage stand off. I think we were a little worried that this was something that would play out over the entire episode, but instead we got a short, sweet reminder of why I love Natalie Zea so much as Winona. She’s nobody’s hostage, and Raylan is no one’s patsy, but I again marvel at how much character they pack into these disposable baddies with only a minute or two of dialogue. Beardo the Elf and his hot-headed friend seemed, much like YOLO or Picker, to be villains who could carry an entire middling episode on their own, but this show just runs through them like TP at a truck stop.
If I had two complaints, it would be that I hate Max Perlich. But at least casting him as Sammy plays to his weaknesses as an actor.
Justin: I was excited to see old Max Perlich show up on Justified. After years and years of solid character acting, he seemed to slide of the radar. I think he’s always good for an interesting performance and for delivering a totally weird look. Why do you hate him? Because he snowboarded to death in Cliffhanger?
Ava’s outcome did seem inevitable. How was there going to be a happy ever after with Boyd? Still, they are great together, so it’s hard to imagine they are going to stick her behind bars for the entirety of season 5. Maybe they will still be able to off Ellen May and the case against her will fall apart.
You’re totally right that this show is able to craft interesting and detailed characters in a matter of moments. They get a splash of personality before Raylan puts holes in them. Remember that lawyer character that worked out of bar way back in season 1? Played by one of the dudes from Sex and the City. I think I speak for all of us when I wonder, WHERE HAS HE BEEN!!? They intro, retire/kill interesting characters left and right on this show. Is there any other show that does that?
Al: Honestly, the one show Justified most reminds me of in how it burns through interesting villains is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I would get actively frustrated with that show in the early going when they would introduce some terrific monster and slay it in the same episode; took me a couple seasons to realize that wow, they really could come up with new, good villains at that accelerated clip. I don’t know how Buffy is viewed by the kiddies today, but it’s definitely a complimentary comparison.
I think my hate for Perlich has its roots in Homicide, but only because I can’t remember whether 9 year-old me hated his part of Maverick (he loved the rest of it, that I know). I don’t mind him being the one to take out Augustine here, though, as the character is just well established enough not to feel like a deus ex machina. Not that he really would be anyway, as it’s clear that it was Raylan who orchestrated the execution – it would be a different story if Sammy was going to do it anyway, but it’s clear from one line about “thanks for reaching out” and Perlich’s weaselly performance that he wouldn’t have had the brains or initiative to act this proactively on his own.
Justin: Perlich was in Buffy! Bit part, but has a touching bit of voiceover early in its run. I think a lot of shows can be pretty well linked to the Buffy model, honestly. Maybe not Rules of Engagement or Duck Dynasty, but others. You need to get over the Perlich hate, my man. That’s Theo Tonin’s son! He’s like the Tyrion of Justified. Disrespected, impish, daddy issues, carries a sword…. Sammy does carry a sword, right?
So, who do you think is worse off at the end of the episode: Boyd or Raylan? Or Nicky Augustine?
Al: Buffy is great for a lot of reasons, but also significant as a sort of missing-link between the traditional episodic format of the 20th Century/network TV model and the new serialized cable drama format that dominates the blogosphere and awards circuits these days. So there’s a bit of it’s DNA in pretty much all the best shows of the last decade and change. But Justified in particular seems to have similar rhythms, particularly in how it beats out its seasonal arcs alongside the case/monster-of-the-week, because it is not as intensely serialized as something like Sons Of Anarchy or especially Game Of Thrones (which has less in the way of single-episode plots than anything I can think of). Speaking of Thrones, don’t you dare compare the swaggering Tyrion to that little capybara. And he prefers an axe anyway.
But we digress. I would say Nicky took the worst of it, but then he seemed to be more than a bit suicidal in the finale. Which I guess was sort of necessary to stop him from just having Raylan murdered in the limo, but still felt a bit sudden. Boyd definitely had it worse between him and Raylan, unless you want to take the stance that having your woman sent to death row is preferable to having her sent to act on The Following, which…actually, yeah. It should be great to see Boyd, flush with drug cash and Duffysupport exact vengeance on old Sam Anderson (hey, there’s another Buffyverse connection) next year.
How he gets her off is another story. Offing Ellen May shouldn’t even help at this point, as the cops have had time to get her story on the record and Ava would still have to explain why, if she didn’t pump Delroy full of buckshot and drop his body down a mineshaft, they found his body full of buckshot down that mineshaft and then she was caught stealing that body from the morgue. But I took the shot of Cassie when Ava was getting carted off as an indication that the preacher’s sister just reported what she had confessed to her last episode. Having Ellen May refuse to give her up (Raylan claims she did, but only as part of a bluff Boyd calls) despite her numerous attempts to kill her lends an even more tragic sheen to the whole situation, and I don’t know why else you keep Cassie around all year.
Justin: I wonder if they will keep Cassie around. Seems like they should, as Gutterson seems sweet on her. And Boyd might want to talk to her. You brought up Wynn Duffy. He’s the best. So happy to see his fresh-from-plastic-surgery face grace Boyd’s bar at the very end of the episode. He has certainly smirked his way into our collective hearts. His deal with a re-unstable Boyd has me worried, though. I want Duffy protected. At the very least, he needs to install a security system in the motor home. Can we please get a show where Duffy always wins?
Oh, right. We have that show. It’s called Justified.
1) Johnny will go to jail – Maybe? He’s conspicuously absent after being left in Rachel’s custody, which I assume is because they aren’t ready to commit to anything they can’t take back for next year)
2) Drew Thompson will be taken out by none other than Wynn Duffy, redeeming himself with Detroit and allowing him to return to his Wynnebago and underreact to violence for another year – Miss, though thankfully Wynn landed in the same place anyway.
3) Nick Augustine and Picker will become intimately acquainted with the contents of Constable Bob’s Go Bag – No Bob whatsoever, although Nicky did meet some automatic weapons.
4) Winona will live, but move far from Kentucky and Raylan, relieving us of trying to care about our favorite’s cowboy’s spawn – Dead center
5) Tim will find, or try to find, Jesus and help his new ladyfriend Cassie build a new church – Not applicable, though I suspect this was tabled for next year.
6) Boyd’s hair will openly mock all that men know of both physics and biology – A gimme, but I’m taking it
Total: 2 for 6
1) Ava will go to jail – Nailed it.
2) Boyd will lose his shit, blame Raylan – Probably, but he’s got other people to blame. Plus Ava’s capture directly relates to his poison snake dare that end the young preacher’s life, so he’s got to beat himself up a little too.
3) Johnny will find himself somehow getting what he wants, in Boyd’s top spot – Incorrect. Boyd ended up not being dethroned. Johnny was nowhere to be found in this episode. He ran for the hills, looks like.
4) Winona will live but has to put an even bigger wedge between her and Raylan. A Kevin Bacon-sized wedge. – Nailed it. Raylan certainly had a sad face about it at the end of the episode. But that was mixed in with sadness over Arlo’s demise and his 30 day suspension (on the plus side, he has time to make a dent in his apparently expansive Netflix queue).
5) Raylan will sacrifice Drew Thompson. Like, human sacrifice – Sadly, no. Raylan did not negotiate with Detroit, even under the worst circumstances. Of course, he circumvented that threat pretty handily and quickly.
6) Lots of Detroit dudes will dead. Will super dead. – Well, four goners, including the uber-cocky Nicky Augustine. RIP.
7) Tim will rock Colt’s shades “Dream a Little Dream 2″ style – Guess we’ll have to wait until season five to see what he does with those purloined shades. Ebay?
8) Rachel will say one line – Nailed it. But, I mean, this was an easy one. Feels like a gimmie, but I guess we’re counting them.
Total: 5 for 8
LOSERS: AL, Nicky Augustine, Natalie Zea’s career
WINNERS: JUSTIN, Denim lovers, Jere Burns’ surgeon