Last seasonís finale set the table for the home stretch, and it is what everyone suspected it would be. Itís been inevitable from the start: we all knew that Justified would come down to the big showdown. Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) versus Harlanís most wanted, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). These two have been at it since the very first episode; their paths have been latticed together so tightly that something needed to give. And The Complete Final Season is the result of that tension.
Ava (Joelle Carter) has been sprung from prison, but conditionally: her closeness to Boyd makes her an ideal confidential informant for Raylan and the Marshals Service. But the tension begins to build almost immediately, as new players enter the fold to complicate things. First and foremost is Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), an entrepreneur who comes to Harlan with his considerable fortune to build upon it exponentially by buying up viable property. Markham is not on the level, however; his hired muscle made up of black ops and military veterans is more than willing to do some bloodletting to get his way. But when Boyd Crowder is contracted by cougar fatale Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) to steal the ten million dollars in Markhamís vault, the new heist brings with it several megatons of intense intrigue.
A sideplot involving Haleís deceased husband comes heavily into play, as sheís romantically attached to Markham, but only because she suspects the bolo-wearing smooth talker of ratting out her husband. Itís an interesting puzzle that brings several key players back into the fold, most notably the ubiquitous Dixie Mafia shark Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns). As far as sideplots go, this is one of Justifiedís better ones, thanks to its incredibly intense and surprisingly touching denouement.
Itís kind of inevitable that crowd favorites (the ones that are still alive) reappear for this final season, and the ones that are worked in are delightful. Most notably, Patton Oswaltís Constable Bob, who is easily one of the showís funniest and most endearing characters. And of course, youíll see the likes of Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), the Nobles Holler banker and the incarcerated invalid hillbilly Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies), both of whom have excellent farewell scenes. Even Art Mullen (the wonderful Nick Searcy), who was severely wounded last season, has an extremely important role to play.
Justified: The Complete Final Season takes a few rough steps, particularly in the first half of the season; there are quite a few one-and-done arcs that seem developed for the sole purpose of keeping the season at its requisite thirteen episodes. The most important stories are always there, but the show stumbles when it pushes it under the rug to smolder in the shadows. But the home stretch of episodes delivers a masterful payoff for six seasons of television drama. This stretch, including the incredible series finale "The Promise," makes a series of extremely bold and risky storytelling gambits, and amazingly, all of them work.
These risks pay off because of the care and attention that is paid to the seriesí main characters. Raylanís been walking a fine line between lawman and outlaw for six seasons; there have to be consequences. In addition, heís now a daddy and is planning to move to Florida, away from the hell that Harlan has become. Boydís relationship with Ava is put through the wringer, as it should. Perhaps my favorite character this season is Ava, who has perhaps suffered the most through this series. Her prison stories from the last season had me bored and frustrated, but I found it hard not to sympathize with her desperation and despair.
As mentioned above, guest stars abound in Justified: The Complete Final Season. Sam Elliott was born to be in this series, even if his role is completely unexpected. They got him to shave his legendary mustache, and in doing so, transformed him from a kindly western grandfatherly sort into a terrifying presence. Mary Steenburgen is also a joy to watch; she balances her softness with a fiery seductiveness and caps it off with a vengeful streak that is frightening not because of how violent she is, but because of how sweet she is about it. Garret Dillahunt has always nailed the creep factor; see the second season of Deadwood for evidence. His Ty Walker is a resourceful and intelligent man, but also an unsettling one. Even Jeff Fahey (Lost) takes a turn as Avaís old coot of an uncle, who is contracted in Boydís heist, which involves going back into those coal mines...
Five minutes. Thatís the extent of Justified: The Complete Final Seasonís special features. Itís an unimpressive look at the process by which the writers get their inspiration for each season. Every season, theyíd take a trip to Harlan to breathe in the local color and enflame their muses. It could have been interesting if it was more in-depth, but thereís so much you can do in five minutes. For a final season, this is kind of shameful.
Thanks to this final season, Justified should be remembered as the television equivalent of a fine bourbon whiskey. Sure, there are some rough spots, and the burn can get intense, but the finish is magical.