Last night’s Jusified series finale, “The Promise,” wrapped up the series both in a deeply satisfying and completely surprising way, and I honestly expected nothing else from this sadly underrated gem of a tv show.
We open this episode directly after the end of the last one; thanks to the BOLO issued for our hero by ADA Vasquez (Rick Gomez), two police officers arrest Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) after he leaves the wounded Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) at the hospital. While in the police car, Raylan overhears that the police dogs have followed the fugitives’ trail to the bridge in Harlan, where they’ve found nothing but an alligator tooth necklace. Aww, it’s like Dewey Crowe is making a cameo appearance from his slurry pit.
Art (Nick Searcy) swoops in to rescue Raylan just before he’s booked by the arresting officer, who gets the sharp edge of Art’s tongue. Raylan lets Art know about Boyd’s flight and Ava’s imminent danger from Avery Markham (Sam Elliott) — as they purportedly drive back to Lexington in Art’s SUV, knowing that Art won’t take him back once he’s explained. And sure enough, once Raylan’s laid out the FUBAR situation, Art asks where they should start looking for Ava (Joelle Carter).
Boyd (Walton Goggins) is still searching for the money that Zachariah (Jeff Fahey) and Ava hid, and gets all excited when he finds a pile of fresh dirt and a shovel, but has to laugh when he discovers the mummified corpse of Grubes instead of millions of dollars. Oh, Boyd! Avery Markham’s money was your white whale, wasn’t it? Too bad you didn’t take the $100K and leave Harlan, as Ava advised you not so long ago.
Boyd’s phone rings; it’s Ava calling to let Boyd know that Avery Markham will kill her if she doesn’t reveal where the money is. Ava pretends that she’s talking to Zachariah, and relays Boyd’s saying that Markham and his men should meet him at a local spot, where they’ll exchange Ava for the money. Markham sends skeevy Boon (Jonathan Tucker) to collect the money, and kill whoever drops it off. Poor Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) is dragged along on this little adventure by her wannabe boyfriend. Pro tip, Boon: the way to win your “lady’s” affection is not to menace and kidnap her, ok? Also, Loretta is really good at getting out of these types of situations, and her kidnappers usually end up dead. Just a reminder!
Raylan learns the whereabouts of Markham’s hideaway from the crooked cop who got the late, unlamented Carl into Boyd’s hospital room. Boyd also finds out where Markham is, and takes out both of Markham’s dirty cops before shooting Markham through the eye in an ironic callback to Markham’s first speech on the show about how he’d blind a disloyal employee just for starters. Like so many villains in the Justified canon, Markham underestimated Boyd Crowder to his own detriment.
After killing the others, Boyd points his gun at Ava, and pulls the trigger twice. Luckily for Ava, she’s the winner in this game of Harlan Roulette, because the chamber is empty. At this point, Raylan breaks down the door to find Boyd, Ava, and the dead bodies of Markham and his men. And Raylan vs. Boyd is ON.
Raylan is itching to settle this Old West style, but of course, he won’t kill Boyd in cold blood, so he kicks a gun with ammunition in it over to Boyd so they can play another game of quick draw just like the very first episode when Ava’s exemplary fried chicken witnessed a gun battle. But before Boyd will play Raylan’s game, he needs to know why Ava, whom he genuinely loves, betrayed him. “I put myself in your shoes,” Ava says. “I did what I thought you would do.” A devastating indictment if ever there was one, and one that takes the wind right out of Boyd’s sails. He won’t raise his gun to shoot Raylan and tries to goad Raylan into shooting him by saying that someday, he’ll kill Ava and then he’ll kill Raylan. “So what’s it going to be, Raylan?”
And astonishingly, Raylan Givens has grown up, because he doesn’t shoot Boyd. Instead, he arrests him. Raylan Givens has finally won that long battle, not just against Boyd Crowder, but against the part of himself that was too much like Boyd, to inclined to justify his own violence.
After Boyd is led away in handcuffs, Raylan takes Ava (and her small portion of Avery’s money) to book her for all her own crimes. Ava tries to talk him out of turning her in, but Raylan isn’t having any of it. Ava’s saved by a truck clipping Raylan’s car from the back and sending it spinning out.
Raylan emerges only to face Boon, who saw Avery’s body and Boyd’s arrest, and who’s now come to get his High Noon moment with Raylan. Boon and Raylan both draw and fire and both of them fall back. Raylan lies motionless, while Boon, with blood coming out of his mouth, is still alive. Boon reaches for his gun to finish off Raylan, but Loretta, who’s come out of the car, steps down on his hand, and kicks his gun away. (The shot of her face as she does this is really amazing!)
Loretta rushes over to Raylan, just as he sits up with blood streaming down his face from a scalp wound. Boon went for the head shot, and put a bullet right through Raylan’s hat, apparently. As a dazed Raylan realizes he’s still alive, he hears the engine of his car, and watches Ava drive off with a squeal of tires. Poor Raylan!
When next we see Raylan, he has two hours until his flight to Florida. Art tells Raylan he got Boyd Crowder which is what he came to Kentucky to do (even if it took a little longer than anticipated) and shares some of his Pappy van Winkle bourbon with Raylan. It’s as close to a declaration of everlasting affection as Art gets, I guess! Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Raylan share one final moment when Tim gives Raylan one of his cloth bags to pack the stuff from Raylan’s desk, and Raylan gives him The Friends of Eddie Coyle (an Elmore Leonard favorite.) And lastly, on the way out, Raylan sees Rachel (Erica Tazel), who compliments him on his new hat (it was Boon’s and apparently the hat that Elmore Leonard actually intended for Raylan to wear all along.) “I tried it on,”Raylan says. “And it fit.”
And that’s it for our Kentucky Marshals, but we do get one final brilliant little epilogue.
Four years later, Raylan is sharing an ice-cream with the adorable Willa (Eden Henderson), who has clearly recovered from that pesky heart problem. I guess with all the best will (and Willa) in the world, Raylan and Winona (Natalie Zea) didn’t work out (again) because she’s apparently married to another guy, but she and Raylan seem to be totally amicable and both devoted to their daughter, so that’s about as good an ending as one might hope.
Raylan is still a US Marshal in the Miami office, where he gets a newspaper clipping with a note from Rachel in the Seattle Marshals’office — it’s a picture of a pumpkin festival in California which shows someone who might be Ava in the background. And sure enough, that means Raylan follows up on that lead.
Raylan turns up at Ava’s front door on the isolated ranch in California where she now lives. She tries to tell Raylan about her good works, about how she’s made a life for herself outside Harlan, and Raylan scoffs that every long-term fugitive he’s ever pursued has made the argument that Raylan shouldn’t take them in because they’re no longer doing any of the criminal activities they did to make them fugitives in the first place. He runs down the list of people who might have helped Ava; Ella Mae and Limehouse were ruled out, but Wynn Duffy’s a strong contender, and Raylan posits that he got Ava out of Harlan in his dog-grooming van in exchange for the location of Avery’s money. Ava won’t comment, but I think she tacitly says this is what happened, and this is one of my official favorite things about the finale. I was always worried that Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) wouldn’t make it out alive, but it seems there are rumors of him surfing in Fiji, which is basically the most apposite ending for that leathery suntanned human cockroach.
Ava plays her final card in the sympathy sweepstakes, taking him up behind her house to show him her little boy Zachariah, her son by Boyd Crowder. Because Ava actually cares about her kid, she doesn’t want him to grow up in the toxic environment of criminality that Boyd (and Raylan) grew up in, and this is the singlemost compelling argument she could possibly have made to Raylan, given how much he struggled with his own family’s heritage. Ava doesn’t really even have to ask at this point: there is no way that Raylan will drag this little boy into the same unholy mess from which it took him a lifetime to escape. He promises Ava that he won’t turn her in and that Boyd will never find out about Zachariah’s existence, let alone where to find the boy and Ava.
Meanwhile, Boyd is at his silver-tongued “emperor of lies” best, preaching to a rapt audience of convicted felons, telling them that it takes a real man to walk away from temptation. I think Boyd sincerely believes the garbage he’s spouting whenever he’s actually saying it, because from where I’m sitting, Boyd didn’t walk away from the temptation of Avery’s money and that’s why he’s in prison. His sermon is interrupted by a visit from Raylan, who smilingly chides Boyd for his religious hypocrisy, which reminds him of the last time Boyd seemingly found God, after Raylan shot him back in Season 1.
Raylan’s here to tell some whopping lies of his own, selling Boyd on the idea that Ava is dead so he’ll never try to find her. Raylan shows Boyd an Oklahoma driver’s license issued to Caroline Dean with Ava’s picture and a death certificate purporting to show that Caroline Dean died three years earlier in a road accident. According to Raylan, the real Caroline Dean just contacted the authorities and that’s how they found Ava. Boyd surprises Raylan (and me) with genuine tears for her, despite the fact that he was willing to kill her four years earlier. I guess that insofar as Boyd was capable of genuinely loving anyone not named Boyd Crowder or Large Pile of Cash, he genuinely did love Ava. That’s not to say he wouldn’t ruin her life again given the chance, so Raylan’s lie was a good thing!
Boyd asks Raylan why he came to deliver the news in person, because he’s obviously not there to gloat over Boyd. Raylan says that if he allows himself to be sentimental, he keeps coming back to one thing. Boyd knows exactly what he means.
“We dug coal together,” Boyd says.
“That’s right,” Raylan says, in the final line of this great show.
Goodbye, Justified, and thanks so much for your six glorious seasons of cops, robbers, con artists, creeps, drug dealers, and characters! We all left Harlan alive, but we’ll miss it!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.