Justified: The Complete Fifth Season begins a chunk of time after The Complete Fourth Season leaves off. Raylan has an infant daughter, though she and his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) live down in Florida. He’s long overdue for a visit, but duty is always calling, even when it’s not supposed to. Things get more complicated when he busts mob accountant and total slimeball Charles Monroe (Xander Berkeley), takes up temporary residence in the empty house, and starts a fling with social worker and pot aficionado Alison Brander (Amy Smart). Under her care are two delinquents: Loretta McCready (Kaitlyn Dever) and Kendal Crowe (Jacob Lofland). Hell of a coincidence.
Raylan’s moral compass was drawn severely into question in last season’s finale. The treacherous Tonin henchman Nicky Augustine (Mike O’Malley) found and pushed the deadly Marshal’s red button by threatening his family, so Raylan responded in kind by ratting him out to Sammy Tonin, whose henchman promptly shot Nicky and his limo to pieces. Not exactly lawman behavior. So when Deputy Chief Art Mullen (the superlative Nick Searcy) finds a stray thread to that case, he gives it a good yank. The ensuing drama is damn good television.
Meanwhile, all is not well in the Crowder camp. With Ava (Joelle Carter) put away for the murder of the former owner of Harlan bar and brothel Audrey’s, both her and Boyd’s (Walton Goggins) lives are in shambles. Making matters worse, a snafu with the Detroit mob effectively dries up Boyd’s pipeline, leaving him with substantially less income and power. But bit player and world class doofus Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) has recently come into an impressive settlement – on account of Raylan beating the hell out of him. So naturally, the entire Crowe clan comes to lend their support. The Crowes play a huge role in The Complete Fifth Season, and though they fall into some stereotypes, they’re a lot of fun to watch. Daryl Jr. (Michael Rapaport) is the brains of the operation, Danny (A.J. Buckley) isn’t much more than an animal, and Wendy (Alicia Witt) is a paralegal who is at once protective of and distant from her troublesome family. The Crowes are part of a story that is often predictable, but it's Alicia Witt who turns out to be this season's jewel. She's wonderful, and I'd love to see more of her -- and it's not just because I'm crushing on her.
Ava’s misadventures in prison are one of the areas in which Justified: the Complete Fifth Season stumbles. I can count the number of good decisions she’s made on one hand, but it’s still hard not to feel pity for the poor girl. There are some exquisitely awful moments in this subplot, particularly when Boyd’s attempt to get her some protection backfires. But the prison story has been seen time and again; while most of them go for the profound ugliness of being on the inside (Sons of Anarchy) or the quirky humor of it (Orange is the New Black), Justified’s prison yarn is mostly been-there-done-that.
But all of that is obviously in service to the goal of forcing Boyd to drop the sinister but loquacious businessman façade and unleash the ruthless killer beneath to help deliver a particularly deadly final season. And to that extent, it succeeds. Boyd’s arc this season concludes in a way that has me hopeful.
There are a few guest stars this season. Alan Tudyk (Firefly) takes a turn as a menacing hitman with a very, very big gun. Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), normally known for playing slimy villains, portrays a washed-up drunk loser of a DEA agent who happens to be every bit the crack shot that Raylan is. Even legendary drummer Mickey Jones is here, playing a weed dealer stuck between a rock and a hard place. And perhaps my favorite is the darkly hilarious duo of Jay (Wood Harris, The Wire’s Avon Barksdale) and Roscoe (his brother Steve Harris).
It seems everyone saves the really good special features for the Blu-ray releases, and as opposed to the DVD versions of the last two seasons, Justified: The Complete Fifth Season doesn't disappoint.
The non-exclusive stuff is good, but expected. Commentaries and deleted scenes provide more insight into the action and drama, and the essential "Making of" featurette is kind of ubiquitous. It's in the Blu-ray exclusives that you'll find the best stuff.
Ava's storyline may be the weak link in Justified: The Complete Fifth Season, but there's no way they could have gotten away with not spending some time explaining the multiple sets that went into the making of the three prisons seen over the course of the season. The Big House: Prison Set Tour is for the artsy folks who really want to see what went into the composition of these sequences, and for those who don't really dabble in this stuff, it can be quite eye-opening.
The Onion Eulogizes Elmore Leonard is about as delightful a special feature you're likely to come across all year. When the New Orleans-born scribe passed away late last year, the Web's premier satirical website decided to pen a eulogy to the influential writer: the end result being one that flagrantly violates his well-known 10 Rules of Writing. And the cherry on top is that they got Patton Oswalt (a Justified veteran himself) to read it.
Getting the Shot continues the look into the amazing process of how the team is able to give us an authentic Kentucky aesthetic -- despite shooting almost exclusively in California. Director of Photography Francis Kenny has a lot to share, and his colleagues think incredibly highly of him. For good reason.
The Coolest Guy in the Room is the cast and crew's way of celebrating Elmore Leonard, and if this isn't a good way of getting people to go out and grab the guy's books, I don't know what is. From a biographical look to brief snippets of the cast and crew reading bits and pieces of his legendary prose, it's a worthwhile and surprisingly lengthy feature.
One of the best scenes in The Complete Fifth Season gets a quick featurette of its own in King Lear. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say the entire rogues gallery is caught red-handed in a single room. The dialogue crackles and the acting is hysterically on-point. The writers knew it, too.
Over the course of five seasons, Raylan has developed a kind of anti-hero vibe to him. He's made some awful decisions, and there have been repercussions. The Complete Fifth Season brings this truth into painful relief, and that is explored in Raylan Givens: Two Roads Diverge. Two characters are introduced over the course of the season to show us (and hopefully, Raylan) where his life could ultimately end up if he doesn't straighten out and fly right.
Writer's Diary: A Week of Starvation is the requisite "Behind the Episode" that delves into everything that makes a particular episode work. Thankfully, they chose the single best episode of the season to explore. For such a high stakes endgame episode, it's nice to see that they were willing to give the audience an in-depth look.
The Wall of Death: Season Five Body Count... is exactly what it sounds like. Don't watch it until you've finished the season.
Justified: The Complete Fifth Season isn't consistently good; some of its ideas are tired and run contrary to the flow of the overarching plot. But it eventually finds its way and concludes with a mostly confident transition into the endgame for the series. I don't know about you, but I'm excited.