Justified – Season 6, Episode 13 – Harlan ← FREE KRAUT!

Justified – Season 6, Episode 13 – Harlan 3

One of the main thoughts I had while watching the series finale of Justified was this: They’re pulling it off.

This show was less dependent on having a fantastic finish than other TV dramas because Elmore Leonard novels, this adaptation included, are less about the destination than the journey. That said, I did wonder how they were going to manage everything in less than an hour. The fact that the writers did it, with plenty of time to spare for a time jump, without the whole thing seeming rushed, was pretty impressive.

One of the tricks was a simple and obvious one. Don’t try to answer all the questions or address what happens to everyone. They even left out the question that drove much of this year’s plot: the money. Does Ava have it somewhere? Does anyone have it? Any of it? Ah, never mind. That wasn’t just a cheat. The money was Hitchcock’s McGuffin, and a very Elmore Leonard way to push even the smarter criminals into taking reckless actions.

I can quibble with this development or that one, and Avery Markham was, in the end, kind of a lame villain redeemed only by his excellent portrayal by Sam Elliott, who made us believe in Markham despite all the evidence otherwise. Likewise, I probably wouldn’t have had Boyd pull the trigger, albeit with no bullets in the chamber, while pointing his gun at Ava. Boyd had his own reasons to kill her at that point, but given the partial redemption route they chose at the end, that last act before Raylan’s arrival undermined it. Likewise, the bit with Boyd’s son having his shirt buttoned up in California was too cute. Ava wouldn’t have allowed that, given her desire to cut all ties with him. She wouldn’t want that sort of reminder.

But like I said, I am quibbling. I was OK with Boyd surviving, and Ava escaping (with or without any money). The writers tried to tie a bow around things by calling back incidents in first season (Boyd’s using dynamite again) and the pilot episode, and even meta moments like Raylan’s hat getting shot off – a nod to Leonard’s dislike of that hat style. Boon died in part because he went for a head shot, because his ego demanded that. He had discussed this particular preference in a previous episode, so that was a clue hidden in plain sight. Loretta, the survivor, got to foil Boon’s last chance.

Boyd’s actions at the end, save his would-be shooting of Ava, were in character. He desperately searched for the money, found a body instead, took all sorts of crazy chances to kill Markham, but then he wouldn’t draw with Raylan. Boyd concluded that was a death sentence, just what Raylan wanted, and given Boon’s fate a bit later (and his own experience with Raylan), it was the right call. It also left the show with a quiet, understated conclusion. Raylan leaves quietly, and only Art seems to express any emotion about his departure. That’s fitting, given what a pain-in-the-neck colleague and underling he has been, and the nature of Raylan.

Then it’s four years later. Fittingly, Raylan doesn’t end up with Winona, who is dating another guy. But he’s with his daughter, and he’s just happy as can be about that. He gets a tip about Ava’s whereabouts and tracks her down. He doesn’t take her into custody, and she shows him her secret: Boyd’s child. The series concludes with Raylan visiting Boyd in prison, interrupting one of his usual funny sermons. He spins a yarn about Ava being dead, which Boyd seems to believe, but Boyd is curious about why Raylan made a personal visit. “We dug coal together,” Boyd surmises.

It was a clever ending, a way to keep all the main characters alive (that song lied!) and opportunities better than they probably deserved. Raylan should have been dead on the highway, or in other serious trouble, not goofing off with his daughter. Boyd should have been dead, but he was living behind bars in a song to which he already knew the words. And Ava, who was more lucky than good, survives to raise her son – even if she’s always looking over her shoulder, or dodging future pumpkin patch outings.

Justified simply was not a show that required a tragic ending. It was a show that thrived on its dialogue, and so it was fitting that the final 20 minutes or so was a whole lot of talking and no bullets. At its best, and even in weaker seasons, the show made storytelling seem effortless. Its greatness lied in its words. The show did make a few political points along the way, but it wasn’t a political show, and it certainly didn’t treat its characters – or the place they call home – with disrespect. There was something genuinely Southern about the show that made it unique. I’ll miss it.


3 thoughts on “Justified – Season 6, Episode 13 – Harlan

  1. vignette17 Apr 17,2015 8:54 am

    I will admit that I had never heard of Harlan county, Kentucky before this show. Though I have since seen references to it and feel stupid for not recognizing it before. And the character I will miss more than any other isn’t Raylan, Tim, Wynn, or even Loretta, but it’s Harlan itself. I don’t recall the last movie or TV show that used its setting so well and to such success.

    Justified may not ever have been the best show on television, but it was a show I looked forward to every Tuesday since the second season without fail. And that, is a feat in of itself.

    • bear88 Apr 21,2015 12:09 am || Up

      That was the great thing about the show. Even in its weaker seasons, except for parts of Season 5, it was consistently entertaining and stayed true to itself. Justified had one fantastic season (the second one), several good ones (including this one), and a clunker. That’s a pretty good track record. And the show was so consistently funny, but in a unique way. It didn’t aim for the pantheon of greatest TV shows ever, but it was awfully good.

  2. batgirl batgirl Apr 17,2015 11:57 am

    I thought it was a good last episode. I would have been very disappointed if Raylan had been killed, particularly at the hands of that weasley Boon. I loved that Loretta stopped him from taking another shot, but I sort of wish she’d been the one to kill Boon.

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