Justified: The Season Finale was a “Slaughterhouse”

Timothy Olyphant at Raylan Givens
Things are getting darker.
“Slaughterhouse,” the season finale of Justified, tied up a number of loose ends, including the noticeably frayed Robert Quarles, who learned what Raylan has known for a long time: you can’t go home again.

After escaping a car bomb designed by Boyd and detonated by Wynn Duffy, Quarles became a hunted fugitive for the murder of a Kentucky state trooper, the subject of a massive manhunt, at once dangerous (carjacking a mother and her two sons and then taking Raylan hostage) and pathetic (begging his adoptive father Theo Tonin for the chance to return to Detroit).

Tonin consented to let Quarles see his own son one more time if he paid back the money Tonin had loaned him for the failed Oxy business as well as another $250,000 for Sammy Tonin’s pain and suffering when Quarles stuck a gun in his face. And so we ended up back in Limehouse’s slaugherhouse (where Quarles was delighted to learn that Limehouse literally kept his funds in a piggy bank.) Alas for Robert Quarles, he didn’t count on the loyalty of Limehouse’s disgraced henchman Errol or on Limehouse’s accurate aim with a cleaver. Quarles was “dis-armed” (the image of Raylan holding Quarles’s severed arm just out of reach was both disturbing and hilarious) and dismissed from relevance.

Timothy Olyphant and Neal McDonough on Justified

Meanwhile, Limehouse’s plans to take out Boyd looked like they’d bear fruit. Thanks to Johnny Crowder, who blamed Boyd for his wheelchair-bound existence (though it was actually Boyd’s father Bo who shot him in the gut), Limehouse was able to let the police know about Devil’s murder and where to find the body. Things looked desperate for Boyd by the time “his” Sheriff Shelby called to let him know there was a warrant out on him for Devil’s murder. Despite Ava’s urging him to flee, Boyd stood his ground because he and Ava both knew that he’d never be able to stay away from her.

Speaking of Ava, I think she’s continuing her descent into Crime Bossdom quite steadily, what with smacking Ellen Mae around in this episode. Not that Ellen Mae isn’t sometimes rather annoying, but still, Ava knows what it’s like to be beaten by an abusive person in a position of power. Plus, she “rescued” Ellen Mae from the abusive Delroy only to apparently resort to the same kind of violence as needed. Ava, I think we need to talk about this!!

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder
Earnest is a good look on Boyd.
And speaking of talking … Boyd’s unlikely savior turned out to be Arlo Givens, who talked and talked. Last week I speculated that Arlo would do something to screw Raylan over, but I had no idea just how bad things were going to be. In the finale of Season 1, Boyd killed his own father Bo (for his own reasons, to be sure) and saved Raylan’s life. Things came full circle in Season 3, with Raylan’s father taking the fall for the murders of State Trooper Tom (of which Arlo was guilty) and Devil (of which he was innocent), thus setting Boyd free.

And that’s when I realized I’d been looking at things backwards for the better part of thirteen episodes. Too many bad guys!, I’d said to myself at various points during the season. As interesting as they were, I wanted less of them and more focus on Raylan Givens.

On Tuesday night, I finally realized that this season was all about Raylan; the bad guys were, in a sense, various aspects of Raylan. Robert Quarles was the funhouse nightmare version, another man incandescent with anger. Boyd Crowder is Raylan as he might have been without the saving grace of Aunt Helen, smart, driven, eloquent and with his own peculiar sense of honor. Dickie Bennett was Raylan as he never was, stupid, self-righteous and entitled. And Limehouse was the keeper of Raylan’s childhood secrets, who knew Raylan as a boy who peed his pants when his daddy got a beating from Limehouse, and who knew things about Raylan’s family that Raylan himself didn’t.

And nearly all of these men reflected aspects of Raylan’s relationship with Arlo: Quarles, the most obvious, with the horrifically abusive father who pimped him out for drug money, rescued by Theo Tonin, who became a surrogate father just as Art is turning into Raylan’s laconic, sardonic and hilarious surrogate dad. (I loved Art for seeing just how devastating the whole incident with Arlo was for Raylan.) Boyd took over Raylan’s “position” as Arlo’s son, living together with the old man as an extended family and even being confused with Raylan by the addled Arlo. Although Limehouse is more a witness and cause of Arlo’s humiliation than a reflection of his personality, in this episode, he too played the stern surrogate father, exiling Erroll from Noble’s Holler for breaking the rules Limehouse instituted (even though Erroll’s loyalty to Limehouse led him back into the slaughterhouse.) 

In season 1, Arlo was willing to sell out Raylan to Bo Crowder and the Miami mob, which would have surely ended in Raylan’s painful death. Somehow that betrayal didn’t cut so deep, either because Aunt Helen was still around to mitigate the sting or because it was so clear Arlo was acting out of pure self-interest; it wasn’t specifically Raylan whom Arlo was willing to betray to save his own life. If Bo and the Miami crowd had wanted some other unfortunate soul, Arlo would certainly have served him or her up instead of Raylan. In contrast, in “Slaughterhouse,” Arlo’s hatred of Raylan was the malevolent beacon in his fog of unmedicated confusion, as though with his true nature stripped away, this one aspect of his personality remained true.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens
Poor Raylan, only just realizing how little he means to his own father.
Did Arlo hate his son because Raylan had witnessed his own humiliation at Limehouse’s hands? Because Raylan reminded him of the mother Arlo had abused, or because dead Aunt Helen had always loved Raylan and taken his part against Arlo? Or was it because Raylan chose a path diametrically opposed to Arlo’s and in doing so rejected everything of his father in him?

At the beginning of this season of Justified, I wondered how Raylan’s troubled history with his father Arlo would influence his feelings about his own impending fatherhood. The thought that the Givens men’s legacy of resentment, betrayal and inability to talk it out might poison another generation is so disturbing that I’m now I’m sincerely hoping that Raylan and Winona’s offspring is a girl.

Still reeling after the finale? Need some hair of the dog? See our entire season’s worth of Justified posts.

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.

See all posts by Regina Thorne on Criminal Element.


  1. Casey L Clark

    Raylan said he “dis-armed the assalant!” LOL!

  2. Carmen Pinzon

    Great summary. I’ve always thought of Boyd and Raylan as two faces of the same coin. Your points about all the various aspects of Raylan represented by the characters in this season was illuminating. Thank you.

  3. bitsy08

    Geez. I just thought it was a good show.

  4. bitsy08

    Get an e-mail from author Vince Flynn and one of the questions asked of him was what do you watch and he answered – YES – YOU GOT IT! JUSTIFIED. He says his wife has even fallen in love with it.

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