The coolest character on television, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), returned for the final season of FX’s Justified last night. After several seasons bouncing from one villain to another, and after a season when the series expanded to its widest scope ever – ranging from Florida, to Canada, to Detroit, to Kentucky to Mexico from one episode to the next – “Fate’s Right Hand” signaled a welcome return to form and a more intimate focus on Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Raylan’s primary Season 1 nemesis.
Season 5, wherein Raylan stirred up the viper’s nest of the extended Crowe family, was for me the series’ most uneven. Alicia Witt was great as Wendy Crowe, but Michael Rappaport was mostly irritating and singularly unconvincing as a low rent Kentucky criminal mastermind Daryl Jr. The tone too felt off. The delicate balance of humor and darkness punctuated by violence that is one of (Raylan Givens’ creator) Elmore Leonard’s trademarks felt off and the tone was often more nasty than entertaining.
At the end of last season, Dewey Crowe found himself in jail. Boyd, having failed miserably as a heroin dealer, hinted at a return to the basics of bank robbery. Rachel (Erica Tazel) vowed to finally bring Boyd to Justice. Raylan offered to help, but also had plans to finally join up with wife Winona (Natalie Zea) and child in Florida. Ava, meanwhile, had been recruited by Raylan to be an uneasy confidential informant within Boyd’s camp.
This episode begins with Raylan in Mexico trying to dig up some evidence he can use against Dewey to help him nail Boyd. He gets what he needs after an amusingly cool encounter with a Federales named Aguilar. Lecturing a Mexican cop about the superiority of bourbon over tequila… on the cop’s turf… is pure Raylan.
“Raylan: Never really developed a taste for tequila. Kinda hard to understand how you make a drink outta something like that – sharp, inhospitable. Same reason I never understood the fascination with the artichoke. Now, bourbon is easy to understand. Tastes like a warm summer day.”
Raylan returns home to find out the charges aren’t going to stick to Dewey and he’s going to be let out of jail, but he threatens him with extradition to Mexico for murder anyway. With nowhere else to turn, Dewey tries to make amends with Boyd after double-crossing him last season. For his part, Boyd is planning a daring bank job and, knowing the Marshals are following his every move, decides to use Dewey as a decoy.
Boyd’s motives for robbing the bank – it’s clear from last season he’s working for Mary Steenburgen’s Katherine Hale – aren’t clear because there doesn’t appear to be anything of concrete value in the safety deposit boxes he manages to steal.
And this brings us to what happens to Dewey in the end. Huge spoiler if you haven’t seen the episode yet so don’t read any further. The cold, ruthless way Boyd shot him in the head was kind of shocking, though not at all out of character for Boyd. I was surprised (and skeptical) he took Dewey back into the fold seemingly so easily in the first place, so even though I didn’t expect him to murder him, it made sense. And, unlike some of the violence last season, it felt in keeping with the Leonard tone.
I’m wondering though what the significance was of the old photo of Boyd’s grandfather at the mine. Boyd had stared at it near the beginning of the episode and of course Dewey’s brains ended up all over it at the end. It’s as though the struggles of Boyd’s ancestors have steeled his resolve (after seemingly flirting from time to time over the seasons with going legitimate) to do whatever he has to do to leave the mining life behind. We know from the Season 6 trailers that the show is probably building toward a final confrontation between Boyd and Raylan. I’m beginning to think at this point that Boyd will be dead by the time the season is finished.
One random unanswered question is who exactly is Garrett Dillahunt’s character? I love the actor (The Assassination of Jesse James, No Country for Old Men) and I assume he’s going to be a nemesis of Raylan’s. There was something decidedly threatening in his cover story about wanting to buy Arlo’s place off Raylan. Never trust a man with a briefcase full of cash. Raylan certainly doesn’t and his instincts are usually pretty good – unless they’re clouded by hot blonde bartenders, but that’s another season entirely.