‘Justified’ Season 2 Finale Review & Discussion

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 12th, 2011 at 3:03 am,

justified season 2 finale raylan Justified Season 2 Finale Review & Discussion

FX’s Justified, hands-down one of the best dramas currently on television, concluded its second season last night. Did the finale live up to the explosive end of Season 1?

“Bloody Harlan” leads off as season antagonist Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) reconciles with her surviving sons and calls a parlay with Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan’s father Arlo (Raymond J. Barry). Arlo is still bitterly angry at Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) for his actions in his home.

Meanwhile Marshal Raylan Givens (remember him? The “good” guy?) tries to keep Winona (Natalie Zea) appeased with promises of quitting his dangerous lifestyle and taking an instructor position. But first, he has to investigate the disappearance of young Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) who was stolen away from her foster parents and looks to exact revenge on Mags.

Due to the extremely serial nature of Justified‘s narrative, you’ll likely be lost if you jump in to “Bloody Harlan” cold. In the last few episodes several long-term players have been killed off or switched allegiances. The few seconds of prologue is nowhere near enough to catch up – though the writers have helped somewhat with the questionable move of leaving some loose ends.

Perhaps the thing I like most about Justified is its honest and unapologetic depiction of the rural lifestyle. While most country folk won’t find themselves in a shootout any time soon, the show depicts some of the issues that real people face on a daily basis, while never deriding or judging its setting or characters as more mainstream depictions often want to do.

justified season 2 finale dickie Justified Season 2 Finale Review & Discussion

If you’re hoping for the pulse-pounding action of last year’s final episode, you may be somewhat disappointed. The finale starts with a bang, but spends the rest of its time building dramatic tension for the last few moments. What action is there is fleeting, especially considering some of the unrestrained chaos of Season 1.

But that isn’t a bad thing. Because in place of a storm of bullets is some of the finest acting you’ll see on television – on this or any other network. While Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins play their cat and mouse game with practiced skill, it’s the two new women of Justified‘s second season that really shine.

First is Margo Martindale’s depiction of Mags the crime matron. While she’s not exactly a sympathetic character, her motivations are always clear and understandable. Her pain and loss is laid bare, ever while she pulls strings that leave men dead and broken. Martindale deserves a Supporting Actress Emmy nomination for her work, particularly in the finale and “Brother’s Keeper.”

justified season 2 finale mags Justified Season 2 Finale Review & Discussion

But the real surprise is newcomer Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Loretta with a skill and confidence far beyond her years. With the possible exception of Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, Dever is the best child actress I’ve seen in years. Her career is one to watch.

Justified loves its flawed characters. Between the dope fiends, murderers, adulterers, thieves, gun thugs and drug mules (and those are just the ones you’re supposed to root for) there’s a lot of bad blood running through Harlan County. The players connect and intertwine well, except perhaps for Mark Atteberry, Ava Crowder,  and Joelle Carter, whose entire season boils down to a few short minutes in the episode.

Like all of Justified, the finale has some pacing issues. Characters jump from location to location with little explanation or transition, leaving the audience spinning at times. Put down the smartphone and close the laptop: you’ll need to focus to follow along. But even if you don’t, the capable story takes a backseat to the performances on display.

justified season 2 finale loretta Justified Season 2 Finale Review & Discussion

The music for the finale is a bit of a let down, given the impressive range of the soundtrack up to this point. Aside from the haunting stanza that serves as a period for the season (a repeat of last year’s Brad Paisley tune) there’s no real score or soundtrack to speak of.

Justified has largely set aside the weekly excursions of the Marshal’s office to focus on its characters. This makes for very enjoyable drama, but some promising players like Erica Tazel and Jere Burns get left in the dust. This is the Bennett’s show, and Raylan and company are playing catch-up.

While the conclusion to Justified‘s 2011 run leaves a few rounds in the magazine, especially when compared with last year’s finale, it more than makes up for it on the strength and confidence of the actors on display. There’s still plenty of questions left to answer next season, but the final moments create a satisfying symmetry that won’t soon be forgotten.

Overall, Justified continues to be one of the most rewarding shows on TV. If you’ve enjoyed it up to now, the conclusion will not disappoint.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

TAGS: Justified
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  1. I thought it was pretty good; probably not as explosive as last season, but still good. I wish Winona would leave, though. I’ve never liked her character from the beginning; and the longer she’s around the more I’d like to see her gone.

  2. I actually really like the Raylan/Winona relationship, and I thought Natalie Zea was great in this episode in particular, but I’ll admit to being a little bummed that the cost all season seems to have been that Ava rarely had anything interesting to do. One of my favorite scenes of the season was when she and Raylan had it out on her porch at the end of the third (I think) episode about her decision to let Boyd live with her.

    I did notice one bit of distinct scoring: when Raylan tells Winona he’s going to look for Loretta, they played what seems to be that couple’s theme. Maybe they’ve been using it more than I’ve noticed, but the only other time I remember hearing it was the season one episode with the woman who had her husband killed; Winona visited Raylan at the end of it and he told her “Losing someone like you eats at a guy” and she told him “That’s the first you ever said that.”

    • Glad you said this. I love the Winona character because, without her, Raylan would have pretty easy going. LOL She works with him and against him at the same time and creates problems he has to solve. They both love each other, they just aren’t very good at it. Fans should be thankful to her because if she weren’t around, Raylan wouldn’t be either after the alternative ending to this episode.
      You go, Winona! Give our guy interesting obstacles to overcome and lotsa sack time!

  3. Not enough Boyd and Arlo. And I kept hoping that somehow they would kill off Wynonna.

    • LOL – me too!

    • I am so with you on getting rid of Wynonna. To me she has turned Raylan into a whipped man. Last season he appeared larger than life, a hero, with personality and a sharp wit. However, this season he seemed more vulnerable and passive. I found myself more attracted to Boyd than Raylan. True, he may lack morals, but he is fiercely loyal and a true man.

      • I started feeling the same way about halfway through the season (about Boyd, I mean). I’ve disliked Winona from the get-go.

  4. so did Raylan at least get sick?

    • The poisin was in the glass,not the jar.

      • She only used the poisoned glass on herself. When Mags grabs for the glasses, she takes 1 from the shelf, and 1 from inside the cupboard.

  5. Great finale — actually it made me want to drive to KY and KILL Dickie myself!! Winona needs to go or have an attitude adjustment — what are they going do with this “I’m pregnant” issue?? Unless she changes a little she isn’t the woman for him – where is her compassion and understanding for a man with dedicatation to his job, a good heart, morale fiber and just look at where he came from — he made something of himself even though he had a very hard upbringing–that says alot for the character of a person–HIS woman needs to see that –over the break give her a little less of the “ALL ABOUT ME” attitude!!

    • I hope they bring back Carol Johnson of Black Pike next season to compete with Winona for Raylin’s heart.Ava loved Raylin for what he could do for her.Winona loves Raylin for the man she wants him to be.Carol could love Raylin for the man that he is.

      • Carol? Who wanted to sell out the folk of Harlan? Not likely. All that you all have said about Winona above makes her an interesting character who makes Raylan’s life more “interesting”. The first season did almost set him up as a superhero which he’s not. When he’s a little on edge, the stories are better. At least IMHO.

    • I was surprised Dickie made it through alive, the little rat.

  6. I was actually a little disappointed in this season’s finale the title “bloody Harlan” was way off I can’t believe Dickie lived

  7. Dickie needs to die for shooting Ava. Winona needs to die for her annoying whining. REALLY … she didn’t want Raylan to go after Loretta even knowing she was in danger? Why does he even stay with that self-fish, self-absorbed woman??? Boyd and Ava NEED to have more scenes together and more screen time period! LOVE the actors that play them Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter. They have such wonderful CHEMISTRY together! Raylan needs to get over his Winona obsession and see her for the insecure, self-involved, twit that she is. Art and Rachel need more screen time and backstory since IT IS called Justified. Not a great episode for a season finale and I am upset that I will need to wait UNTIL the next season to find out how Ava will fare. UGH!

    • THANK YOU!! Your comments about Winona are exactly the reasons I don’t like her – and the way they hooked back up last season has always left me with a bitter taste (didn’t like her even before then, however). In the episode where Winona and Raylan were in that shootout together, I was expecting she’d be shot and killed … kinda disappointed that she wasn’t. Really, she can’t leave that show soon enough – or at least get them away from each other.

    • Come on….You don’t think finding out she’s knocked up had something to do with that? I doubt many women would have felt much different….Then again you have the fact that he probably could locate her better than anyone else, but then there was that little situation that there were people who wanted to see him dead…So I cut her some slack because I think that would be natural. As for self centered…..Who isn’t in the show?

      • Yea! Thank you. For any of you who have just told your loved one that you’re pregnant and then hear him say he’s going to run off and save some dang kid who stole a gun and money from her foster parents and hopes to kill some one who many would say needed killing, I think Winona’s response was right on. I believe she redeems herself by not keeping the info to herself but tells Art and, apparently, plays the “pregnant” card when he won’t listen to reason. She had to do this almost immediately upon being dropped off because it’s not a quick trip from Lexington to Harlan.

  8. I like Winona just fine, and I love the relationship she has with Raylan. You know who whines more than Winona? The people who are constantly complaining that she is whiny.

    • You’re absolutely right.

    • That’s fine and dandy if you like her. We complain about her because she *is* whiny, demanding, bitchy, uppity, and unfaithful. Raylan’s a better person and deserves a better partner. Hopefully next season the writers will figure that out. :-p

      • Well, no matter what kind of emphasis you put on the word, is, what you say *is* factually objective.

        • …. kinda like your declaration about who whines more than Winona.

  9. I only started watching this around the end of last seasons reruns. Even though they go a bit over board on the back woods folksy angle this is a damn good production. I hope during the time of that they will rerun last season so I can get up to date on everything. Really a fun ride watching this….

  10. Good finale – enough unresolved to seque into next season. I thought it was out of character for Mags not to poison Raylin as well as herself – after all, he did kill Coover and was at least indirectly responsible for Doyle’s death. Possible compensation for Dickie killing Helen? Wouldn’t think so.

    • I agree, but not that she didn’t take Raylin with….That it was out of character for that tough old broad to do herself in like that. I souldn’t be surprised if that was some drug to simulate being dead and that she has it lined up to fake her death so she could come back and take revenge without anyone knowing who was doing it. After all…Why would she have a glass set up with poison just to use if everything went to hell? I wouldn’t be surprised to find both her and Dicky raising all kinds of trouble some time next season…Doyle wont be back though…Unless some of that shine turns him zombie…..

  11. Loved the episode, but I’m really sick of Winona. Didn’t like her in season 1 and hate her in season 2 she’s even worse now.

  12. Great finale to a great second season. I was very surprised, however, that Dickie did not bite the dust at the hand of either Raylan or Boyd. That is definitely a loose end that I guess will be taken care of next season, and I’ll also guess that Boyd will be the one to do it. I’d love to see Raylan avenge Aunt Helen’s murder, but that ship sailed when our hero spared Dickie in the woods that night. Boyd’s more the desperado, anyway, so it should be fitting that he’s the one to send Dickie on his way to rejoin his mama and bros. I’m just wondering, though, if Dickie will be around for another full season or will the show address his fate in the first episode, much like how the Miami storyline was put to bed in the first episode this season, with the series moving on to new ground. Whatever the case, I’m already looking forward to season three.

  13. C’mon all of you folks who complain about Winona’s whining — this is a TV show. Her character must be at odds from Raylan’s to set up another tension in the show, and to show that Raylan, strong, moral, centered person that he is, has a fatal flaw. His approach/avoidance to committing to Winona underlies and causes much of the movement in the drama.

    • Absolutely on the money. Aside from her looks, I’m not real fond of Winona either, but her behavior this season has established a foundation that could make for a lot of interesting possibilities going into season 3, especially how it affects Raylan. Is she really pregnant, maybe she just said that to see Raylan’s reaction? If she is, could Raylan not be the father? With this nutjob, who really knows for sure, including Raylan?

    • It’s not that I dislike her character being at odds with Raylan in general – many of the other characters interact with him that way (his coworkers, superiors, etc.). It’s her, specifically, with a personality that just grates like fingers down a chalkboard. And the more she’s around the more irritating she becomes. She’s just not a likable person, given everything she has done over the seasons. It’s disappointing to see Raylan have such a continued infatuation with someone so undeserving of his affection. It has ultimately diminished his character, imo.

    • I like Winona and I really like she and Raylan together. They are both conflicted and Winona’s character has a lot of room to grow. She keeps walking that fine line where she cannot decide whether to give up the ghost and love him unconditionally or cut and run and the signals she sends are really conflicting. She tells Raylan she might not be there when he gets back from but runs right to Art and tells him he has to intervene. She must have finally convinced him he needed to go to Harlan to help Raylan.

      • In the Elmore Leonard books Raylan has 2 boys with Winona but she is married to Gary. Normal relationships: mom, dad and kiddies don’t lend to exciting drama on tv and think they’ll limit Raylan’s plot opportunities. My prediction us that she will leave him (again) and he’ll be free to pursue his” dangerous” lifestyle. Did anyone REALLY think he’d go to Glyncoe?

  14. And by the way, it was not out of character for Mags to kill herself. She had lost everything, her way of life, her mountain, two of her very beloved sons, and her surrogate daughter, but by god, she did not lose control of her self. She was going to be the one to decide when she left the stage and she did it in the Roman fashion, by falling on her own sword. It was a totally suitable ending for a very strong and complex woman.

  15. Wha Wha What … Only 13 episodes … I’m bummed … The best show on cable !

  16. I have to agree with everyone about Winona. I just can’t stand her. And I’m also surprised that Dickie was left standing. The actors on this show are wonderful and I can’t wait until next season. One question though. Who was the woman on the next to last episode that told the police that Jed Berwind killed Helen? I figured it was just someone Mags paid to say that but when they’re leading him through the jail he recognizes her. I thought maybe it was his mother and they had forced her to claim that he did it but it was never brought up in the last episode.

  17. Is there such a thing as a backhanded criticism? The review essentially says that one of the flaws of the episode is that you have to pay attention. That’s not a bad thing at all. If anything, that’s the markings of a good show that doesn’t waste time or go through the motions.

  18. Loved the finale! This season was fantastic. It’s been discussed to death over at the FX community. I, for one, think the Winona character helps make Raylan more “real”. Time for Characters to evolve. Keep the character and start picking out Baby names.

  19. [SPOILER ALERT] I really agree with the post about Winona turning Raylan into a weaker, whuss-type character. In his relationships, with the other characters, Boyd, etc., there is always a great conflict between what he knows he has to do and his feelings for them because of his having history with them, and his moral compass always wins out. Not with Winona. I was so disappointed in him when he helped her sneak the money back into evidence and I, too, was hoping she would get knocked off the show. Very disappointed, also, that they killed Mags off. What a complex, pivotal character she was, and I really believe she should get an Emmy for her performance.


  20. my parents both are from harlan, my whole family is still there, and from living in and out of there all my life, justified and the cast is not at all far from how these folks actually are..feriously loyal, yet will protect their own regardless of the backlash.. its always been that way. so when i make my way into the area dont think im not looking for raylan, and boyd… or catch a glimpse of mags walking across the rd…ITS THAT GOOD!… BRING IT ON.. WERE ARENT FINISHED YET!…COME ON SEASON 3!..

  21. Great show looking forward to season 2 already pick up the DVD an have all 3 DVD enjoyed it very much Marshall Raylan does a very good job also can wait till season 2 is over an I can get the DVD for season 3

  22. i want to see Tommy Lee Jones and Raylin showdown with some Gun Hands ……and i want to see William Shatner in a episode too