Justified has always shown us the similarities between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, the marshal and the outlaw, each understanding of the other’s psyche in a way that no one else in their lives approaches. Last night’s season 4 finale “Ghosts” made the parallels even more explicit. Like Boyd earlier this season, Raylan set out to kill a man indirectly (though Nicky Augustine was a far worthier candidate for mortality than the poor preacher) and like Raylan last year, Boyd has lost the woman he undoubtedly loves at least in part because of his career choices.
We open with Raylan finishing his paperwork before Art suspends him for thirty days. Raylan’s and Art’s banter is interrupted by a phone call from Winona about why she has two rocking chairs.
At Winona’s sister’s house, the front door is ominously open; Raylan discovers three Detroit mafia guys holding poor Winona hostage. At least she’s seated in the comfy rocker Picker delivered last week, so her back is OK. The bearded thug who heads this crew of killers tells Raylan that if he takes two of the gunmen to the safe house where Drew is being held, Winona will live. If anything goes wrong, Winona and the baby and will die slowly and painfully.
Raylan may not be great at showing up for pre-natal visits or remembering to sign papers, but he is amazingly good at taking care of sadistic criminals. He taunts one of the Detroit thugs who gut punches Raylan, giving Raylan the opportunity to grab the guy’s gun and shoot him in the stomach. A second thug points his gun at Winona and Raylan drills him through the head. Winona makes a grab for his weapon, but the bearded thug grabs her instead, and points his gun at her stomach. He warns Raylan that even if Raylan kills him, the Givens clan will be marked for death by Nicky Augustine. The bearded thug raises his gun towards Raylan and Winona shoots him in the crotch. Go Winona! He falls and Winona and Raylan finish the job Winona started.
Outside the house, Raylan discusses the newest turn of affairs with Art and ADA Vasquez, telling them that he and his family are now on Nicky Augustine’s death list. Theo Tonin has apparently fled to Tunisia (which has no extradition treaty with the US) so the Detroit mafia is going to be controlled either by Nicky Augustine or by Theo’s feckless son Sammy. After Raylan peremptorily dismisses Vasquez, Art warns Raylan that, as much as he sympathizes with Raylan, if Raylan goes after Nicky, his suspension from the Marshals’ Service will be permanent.
In Harlan, Boyd and Ava and their lone henchman Jimmy plan to recover Delroy’s body from the mineshaft, even though Ava reminds Boyd that he once told her moving a body is the best way to get caught. We cut to a scene of someone who’s clearly not Jimmy rappelling down the side of a mineshaft and requesting a coroner’s bag. Uh oh! Boyd’s van pulls up only to see all the cop cars; Sheriff Mooney informs Boyd that the Kentucky State police have found Delroy’s body.
Boyd decides to play his last, wild card, calling on Lee Paxton, one of the Rich Bastard Cabal that runs things in Harlan, for his assistance. Luckily, Paxton owns funeral homes that he loans to the police for the storage of mystery cadavers. A pathologist is due in from Lexington the next morning to examine Delroy’s body, so Boyd figures that if he can switch bodies before then, Ava will be safe. Boyd promises Paxton not to collect on the $100K he owes Boyd if he’ll help with the body switch.
Boyd and Jimmy dig up the body of an oxy addict who was buried in a cardboard box. Alas, poor Henry Willis, Boyd knew him! “We all end up where he is, sooner or later,” Boyd tells Jimmy, though I think Colton would probably have been more appreciative of Boyd’s philosophizing.
At the Crowder bar, Henry’s body is wrapped up in plastic and resting on one of the tables in Boyd’s office. Boyd makes me laugh out loud by telling Ava to think of the corpse as the uncle who shows up drunk to Thanksgiving dinner and sits in front of the TV the whole time so you barely know he’s there. As Boyd reassures Ava that nothing can possibly go wrong with their bodysnatcher plan, they hear Raylan’s voice from the main bar.
Raylan wants Boyd to take him to Nicky Augustine. When Boyd demurs, Raylan threatens to arrest him for any one of a number of crimes. Boyd is unmoved, pointing out that Raylan isn’t even wearing a badge, so Raylan moves on to mention that he ought to arrest Ava as well, since Ellen May’s been talking out of school. The threat to Ava gets Boyd’s attention (and Ava’s, as her hand hovers over the shotgun behind the bar.) Shooting Raylan isn’t going to solve your problems, Boyd and Lady MacBoyd!
Ultimately, Raylan backs down, apologizing for his threats, but reiterates that Boyd must take him to Nicky, and Boyd agrees, though he insists that Raylan doesn’t have anything on either Ava or Boyd. Dream on, Boyd, dream on! Raylan agrees, saying Boyd’s going to take him to Nicky “because you’re my buddy.” Although Raylan’s being sarcastic, on some weird level, that’s actually true.
Ava and Jimmy are forced to deal with the body-swapping on their own. With Colton dead, Johnny a traitor, and Jimmy somewhat lacking in the initiative department, the bench of Team Crowder is very thin! After the funeral parlor switch, Ava tells Johnny she’ll deal with Delroy’s body on her own despite Jimmy’s protests. Clearly, Ava has learned from the entire Ellen May debacle: the fewer people know where the bodies are, the better.
In Boyd’s truck, Raylan and Boyd have a heart to heart; Raylan doesn’t believe Boyd loves Ava any more than he loved religion or white supremacy. All Boyd really loves is what lets him sleep at night, “believing you ain’t the bad guy.” Boyd doesn’t take this slur on his love for Ava lying down; he wonders if Raylan plans the same fate for Nicky Augustine as he delivered to the Miami gun thug in the first episode of the series. He asks Raylan what he has to do to pretend that he’s not the bad guy. Raylan doesn’t answer, but allow me to answer for him: While I certainly see and appreciate the parallels between Boyd and Raylan, everything I’ve seen places Boyd several rungs below Raylan on the morality ladder (just this season we’ve seen him put a hit out on a (relatively) innocent young woman, not to mention his drug-dealing, extortion etc.) In short, Boyd can keep saying Raylan is just like him, but that just ain’t so.
Boyd and Raylan pull up to the airport, and Boyd says the odds against Raylan are four to one. If Raylan returns Boyd’s gun, he’ll even them up a little. “Which way?” Raylan asks Boyd, before he hands Boyd’s gun back. He even thanks Boyd for the ride, which makes it clear he believes Boyd didn’t set Winona up for Nicky Augustine.
On the tarmac, Picker frisks Raylan for a wire, and then lets Raylan into Nicky’s limo. Raylan offers Nicky a “deal”—surrender to the law, confess his many crimes, and promise to leave Raylan, Winona and their baby alone, or die in the limousine. Nicky says he’s not even armed, and he doesn’t believe Raylan’s threat, because in his experience cops like Raylan are always making empty threats. Nicky’s threats are anything but empty, he tells Raylan. He only has his word to keep his thugs in line, “so if I say I’m gonna kill your family, I’m gonna kill your family.” Raylan is getting a stay of execution because Nicky has to kill Sammy Tonin first, but Nicky will definitely be back and there’s nothing Raylan can do, short of murdering an unarmed man. “Well, now we know each other,” Raylan tells Nicky as he exits the car.
After Raylan leaves, Nicky gets on the phone talking someone in Detroit about how he’s about to get on the plane and turn Sammy into an ex-Tonin. Not so fast, Nasty Nicky! Because Sammy Tonin, complete with ill-fitting suit and too-large tie, has come to town on a tip from Raylan. Raylan lets Sammy know that Sammy is top of the charts on Nicky’s Hit List (with Raylan in second place); Sammy asks Raylan whether his Marshal’s badge will cause Raylan to interfere in Sammy’s plans for Nicky. Boyd delivered a snake in a box to poor innocent Billy St. Cyr earlier this season; now it’s Raylan’s turn to deliver a vicious snake in a limo to Sammy Tonin. “I’m suspended,” Raylan tells Sammy, before walking away from the shootup of the limo.
Ava drags Delroy’s body through a convenient hole in the fence surrounding a slurry pond. As she struggles with the body, a car pulls up, and Sheriff Mooney and his partner arrest her. They were hoping to catch Boyd (so Raylan unwittingly saved Boyd from arrest, I guess!) but Ava will “do.”
Boyd heads back to the bar where he is distraught to find that Ava’s gone. He arrives at the slurry pond at dawn (which means poor Ava’s been sitting in that car for a while!) and punches out Sheriff Mooney for double-crossing him. Mooney wants to arrest him, but Lee Paxton says he should let “that piece of white trash go.” Paxton is wearing his bad idea jeans, because if there’s one thing Boyd Crowder is good at, it’s taking revenge on those who wrong Ava. Boyd, prostrate on the ground, looks up and sees Cassie St. Cyr, who’s avenged her brother by taking away what Boyd loves most, which maybe even be more satisfying than having Sheriff Tim shoot Boyd, as she wished last week. There could be a fortune-cookie aphorism in there somewhere: he who delivers rattlesnakes in boxes could have that come back to bite girlfriend in the ass?
Boyd promises Ava that he’ll fix the whole thing; Ava stops him, realizing that in the real world, she’s sunk. Unlike Raylan’s promise to Winona that he’d take care of Nicky, Boyd can’t deliver on his promise to Ava, however much he loves her. They kiss passionately before Sheriff Mooney orders his underlings to drive Ava away.
At his bar, Boyd is trying to muffle the pain with bourbon when Wynn Duffy arrives. YAY! Wynn Duffy’s back from Canada, still with his perpetual tan and his rock-like henchman. Now that Nicky Augustine is dead and Theo Tonin is in Tunisia, Wynn has been promoted by Sammy Tonin to head of Eastern US operations. Wynn gives Boyd what he asked for earlier in the season: Boyd will handle all of the Kentucky heroin trade for Wynn. Victory for Boyd is meaningless without Ava; he barely reacts to Wynn’s offer, though in the end he does accept.
Winona, having spent the night in a hotel, is packing to stay with her mother in some hopefully unnamed location that no one will be able to find. Raylan apologizes for what she went through, and she tells him that at least nobody died. (Well, nobody but the bad guys!) She tells Raylan she loves him and they kiss.
Boyd’s story closes with his breaking into the house he and Ava had viewed. I’m delighted to see that Boyd remembered the alarm code from his brief visit! In a touching scene, Boyd looks out at the manicured lawn on which no Crowder children and grandchildren will ever play.
In a very different house, Raylan patches the hole in Arlo’s wall that created this season’s entire storyline. Art calls him to let him know of Nicky Augustine’s demise, and Raylan feigns ignorance of what happened. Raylan brings his beer out by the family graveyard, as the camera pans over the graves of Raylan’s family and we hear the strains of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”
That’s it for another fantastic season of Justified. I’ve already started the countdown to Season 5: Will Raylan finally find peace within himself? Will Boyd find better henchmen to execute the plans for revenge that we know he’s already hatching? Will Wynn Duffy and Art Mullen continue to be the elder statesmen of awesome, in their vastly different ways? Will Marshal Tim find romance and will Marshal Rachel get some backstory? I can’t wait to find out!