Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Walton Goggins, Patton Oswalt | Created by Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost
Last week’s penultimate episode of Justified seemingly tied everything in a nice little bow, for the most part. Everything was swiftly and cleanly dealt with. Drew Thompson was in police custody and Ellen May was rescued from a death at the hands of Boyd and Ava and the Detroit mob lost out to the wit and brain power of our gunslinger. But, because all of season four has been chess pieces moving up and down the board in the background of the Shelby/Drew mystery, it all had to come to a head. And it blew over big time because ‘Ghosts’ is one of the most intense hours of Justified in a long line of intense hours that the show has logged under it’s belt.
The great thing is, it zips back and forth effortlessly between the two main focal points of the hour: Raylan and Boyd and the messes they’re both trying to clean up and take care of. Most of the hour still lies in Boyd’s lap and again, more Walton Goggins is never, ever a bad thing. It seemed like it would be a simple task to dispose of Delroy’s body but in the world of crime, nothing is ever simple. It was handled so moodily throughout it was more reminiscent of a Coen brothers film like Blood Simple or Fargo. Most of the half of the episode was darkly comic like the scene digging up the corpse in the graveyard (and is there a more unlucky henchman than Boyd’s?) to replace Delroy’s own. There was the twist of having the police show up first to the mine shaft to remove the body, when the scenes prior had anyone all but convinced that Boyd and Ava would have gotten there first. But, sometimes as smart as the criminals in this world think they are, sometimes dumb luck takes them out just as easily. Because a lot of the hour is all about twisting the perspective.
A lot of the resolution in Boyd and Ava’s storyline this week is really predicated on what happened in week’s prior – The Clover Hill mess, the engagement, and the house on the hill. Those three things as tenuous as they seem are so interconnected they all cause the sad, devastating crash as the episode comes to a close. When Boyd held Lee Paxton, one of the Clover Hill boys in blackmail, you knew something had to come back as a result of that, and boy did it ever. Paxton has funeral homes and Delroy’s body got delivered to one of them, and Boyd uses that to try and get the body switched out with another corpse. But, the tragic thing of it is, Ava decided to dump Delroy’s body in the slurry alone and that leads her to getting arrested by Boyd’s former in the pocket deputy. It was either going to be Boyd or Ava, and having her get arrested isn’t really the biggest piece in the puzzle, although it’s a damn big turn for how the character will be affected, no it’s how it affects Boyd.
Because Walton Goggins sells the hell out of his love to that woman in the end and we can believe it too. Because when he beats the hell out of that cop and sees the frustration at being betrayed, you can see in his eyes that he understands this is what happens when you try to be first in line, the top of the mountain. There’s always someone trying to knock you down. It was a great arc for Boyd Crowder overall in the last four seasons from neo-Nazi coal digger to criminal empire along the way losing himself and finding love in the strangest of places. And really tragically he gets what he wants after losing it all, Wynn’s heroin cut in Harlan but loses his fiancée and love of his life. It makes the final shot of him standing in that dream house of his all the more heart wrenching.
The other half of the episode brings some more of the focus back on Raylan, who seemed to have taken a side step this season to allow for some of the other characters to move up and forward like Tim and Rachel. But, because it’s a) the finale and b0 the gunslinger’s show, Raylan Givens gets a hell of a showcase in the finale and effectively tying up the Theo Tonin/Drew Thompson storyline. It would’ve been easy for the finale to be Raylan being coerced into kidnapping Drew Thompson to give him up to death to save Winona and their unborn child. But, nope again skewing expectations all that hostage business is pushed aside in one rather badass scene with Raylan one upping the captors and even late stage pregnant Winona shooting them as well.
But, the hour is about stopping Nicky in his tracks from making good on his promise to kill Raylan’s family, and how Raylan is ultimately neutered in his attempt to give him his chance to kill him. But, this is a whole new side of Raylan and one that leads to some amazing work by Tim Olyphant. His swagger is still there but it’s filled with a more brutishness and bluntness. He’s done screwing around with everyone. He even goes so far as to menace Boyd and Ava in trying to vet out the location of Nicky and while there’s usually a amicable tension between them, it feels as if it could go farther than that. But, it doesn’t cause as Nicky reminds Raylan in their last showdown in the limousine, he’s still got a badge to wear. But, he still plays everything with an uneasy edge as if we can’t predict the predictable Marshal; we’ve known all these years. And as the season comes to a close, we find a different Marshal in our midst.
The Tonin portion comes to a close with an ease befitting its buildup. We knew that Sammy was going to take over last season, but here he stands walking in and cleaning up Theo’s and Nicky’s mess. And it’s all the more powerful that Raylan hands Nicky over to be executed by a hit squad, because right up until the end, it seemed as if Raylan were going to kill him. But, that couldn’t happen because Art said he would be done for good. So, Raylan lets an execution happen under his watch and its a great move for the character, a change for someone who does good and stops bad. It clicked strongly and resonates just as well.
The final scene is such a nice coda to all the events in the season thus far: Raylan patches up the hole in the wall from the beginning of the season and sits back in a chair with a call from Art about the death of Nicky Augustine, he looks at the graves now complete with Arlo’s interment and relaxes in his suspension. It wraps up all the long running arcs and puts our characters in a place of stasis. There’s no telling what’ll happen next. And that’s why it felt like the end of a book truly, and the end to a strong, strong season of Justified.