‘Justified’ Season 3 Finale Review

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Raymond J. Barry and Timothy Olyphant Justified Slaughterhouse Justified Season 3 Finale Review

To say that this season of Justified was something of a juggling act would be a fairly accurate representation, as long as you imagine a weary Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) keeping multiple criminal organizations, a self-serving BBQ master, and one ridiculously charismatic backwoods super-villain in the air simultaneously.

Given the two previous season finales, one wouldn’t be hard pressed to think that with the title of ‘Slaughterhouse,’ Raylan would be continuing his particular search for justice by ensuring those who have strayed from his loose definition of the law are properly lead-filled. Certainly, though, the title likely has more to do with one Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) and his little shack of terror, wherein he so menacingly butchers all those pigs, as if each swing of his cleaver stood as an example for all who would think to cross him.

Surprisingly, neither scenario plays out much like one would think. Raylan doesn’t need to fire a single round, let alone fill many ne’er do wells with hot lead, and Limehouse appears positively misty-eyed when exiling his lieutenant, Errol (Demetrius Grosse), after allowing him to finish a plate of pig’s tongue. And although Limehouse doesn’t show that kind of restraint when it comes to Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), the real climax of ‘Slaughterhouse,’ and to a degree the entire third season, comes down to Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) choosing a criminal over his son.

The great thing about Justified is the way it fills itself with characters who live and die by a code that strives to keep even the most dastardly of characters from crossing some sort of ethical or moral line they have put down for themselves. Sometimes, however, lines have to be crossed. We see this every time Raylan bends the law just enough, or in the case of certain perps like Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), outright breaks it. We see it in the way Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) conducts business around Harlan County, preserving the lives of some, while crushing others underfoot. Perhaps Boyd’s code was best put earlier in the season when confronted by Robert Quarles for the first time. Boyd referred to the Detroit mobster as a carpetbagger, and warned Quarles of his fate, should he continue to coax the illegal Oxy business from the hardworking folk of Harlan.

But this notion of a code was never more eloquently put than when Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) committed suicide at the end of season 2. Not only did Mags refuse to put an end to Raylan in the same manner she chose to die, but – and this wasn’t revealed until the season’s penultimate episode ‘Coalition‘ – Mags also sought a way of making things right with Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) – or at least tried to.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens Justified Slaughterhouse Justified Season 3 Finale Review

And while that code of Mags is by and large the impetus for a key storyline in season 3, it is the apparent lack of any moral code that works to make Robert Quarles such an interesting and unpredictable villain. Throughout the course of this season, Robert Quarles has met the moral morass of Harlan County with an entertaining mix of insecurity and gross overstatement of what it means to be a criminal. The trouble that has arisen this season is oddly enough attributed more to the kind of man Quarles is, than anything he’s been able to perform. Because let’s face it, Quarles has been pretty ineffective at being a competent bad guy in Harlan.

It is interesting, however, that each character, and his or her code, is constantly brought to the forefront and examined in a will-they-or-won’t-they cross the line kind of scenario. These characters remain fresh because they aren’t immutable; circumstances and events lead them all to become different people – if only to meet certain ends.  And in the end, it’s watching Quarles debase himself by becoming horrifically addicted to Oxy, and burning every last bridge he has, that the line all characters in Justified are toeing becomes so much more apparent.

It’s seen in Limehouse’s Yojimbo-like playing of both sides, in equal parts pursuit of profit and security of Noble’s Holler. We see it in Boyd, who curiously refers to Arlo as “family” in the beginning of the episode. It’s there when cousin Johnny (David Meunier) double-crosses Boyd in regards to Devil’s death. But perhaps most shockingly, the idea that these characters can alter their beliefs based on circumstance is displayed in the physical abuse Ava (Joelle Carter) dishes out to Ellen May (Abby Miller), especially after being the victim of domestic abuse for so long. These little character flourishes and surprises help to make Justified as strong at developing character as it is in delivering a dense and satisfying storyline.

In his role, Olyphant often embodies the futility of trying to do “good.” Cut off the head of one snake and three more grow to replace it, if you will. Olyphant’s laconic, but witty lawman consistently doing battle with Goggin’s confident scoundrel with a sophistication beyond his upbringing and current means of employment, is something of an odd notion anywhere else – as most other programs wouldn’t have had the good sense to keep Boyd around – but all of this fits perfectly in the realm of an Elmore Leonard story.

Timothy Olyphant and Neal McDonough Justified Slaughterhouse Justified Season 3 Finale Review

So when it comes down to Raylan vs. Boyd, the grudge match was pointedly settled with a bullet to the chest in season 1, and now it has come to be a battle of wits. And with two intelligent men going at one another, what’s at stake is not so much proof of which one is smarter, but which one successfully escapes without looking like a fool. In ‘Slaughterhouse,’ Arlo’s admission of guilt for the killing of Trooper Tom Bergen (Peter Murnik), as well as Devil (Kevin Rankin), certainly played to Boyd’s favor, but the realization that Arlo shot Tom thinking it was Raylan left the marshal looking the fool in this instance. For a program that highlights gunplay as much as witty barbs, the dynamic of Raylan and Boyd continues to be a driving force in the series.

Which is why the boisterous and erratic Robert Quarles proved to be such an entertaining character to watch all season. Quarles truly was an outsider, a carpetbagger. And when it came down to it, he wasn’t just up against Raylan or Boyd; he was up against the whole of Harlan County. All that slickness and psychosis managed to do was earn him the ire of those he was trying to control, while those who controlled him simply cut Quarles loose. So when he is “disarmed” and dispatched in Noble’s Holler, Quarles goes after Raylan with the only weapon left at his disposal: the truth about Arlo’s involvement in Trooper Tom’s death.

Raylan is left with his nemesis once more set free, having been dumped by Winona (Natalie Zea), the mother of his unborn child, as unprepared as ever to be a father – and considering the fatherly example he had, it’s no wonder. Somehow, the gunshot wound he received at the end of season 2 seemed like it left him better off. Still, despite the uncertainty for Raylan, this was a thrilling and satisfying climax to what was a fantastic season of Justified.

Justified returns in 2013 for season 4 on FX.

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  1. Well you knew Quarles had to go, he had burned all his bridges along with most of his brain cells. Limehouse got away clean and his man Errol proved himself even though he had been banished. Wynn-Duffy might be out of action for awhile with the gun charge, but charges don’t seem to stick on that show. Boyd still gets to play Joker to Raylan’s Batman, with Arlo sticking it to his son one last time before going to jail.

  2. So much happened at the end of “Slaughterhouse”, that I was initially left feeling unsatisfied.
    Or, maybe it was just the return of Winona- who ruins any episode she is in, along with Arlo.
    The realization of what Trooper Toms killing “really” meant could have been played against the hot new bartender just as well and left Winona where she plays best- off screen.

    But, upon further review- if it means finally getting rid of Arlo for good and we can keep Winona off camera- then it is truly another tour de force of story telling for all other characters in the show.

    JUSTIFIED continues to be the best story on TV hands down.

    • Winona ruins episodes? Why? Winona is vital to viewing Raylan as a complete, complex person rather than a one-dimensional superman. She makes him vulenable and unsure of himself, which it why, I suspect, many folks hate her. They can’t stand to see the cracks in their hero’s armour.

    • “Or, maybe it was just the return of Winona- who ruins any episode she is in”

      Agreed. She’s the worst part about that show – really crappy writing going on with their off again on again off again relationship. And a totally unlikable character. Wish she would go away forever.

      • Ill echo this same sentiment. Winona is horribly written and is the proveribal buzz kill of the entire show.

        I cannot stand any episode with her in it because it feel forced and contrite. She doesnt do anything to help the evolution of Raylans character but rather she hinders it.

        The writers do not help the situation either. The whole story arc with her and Raylan this year seemed to be just filler. One minute she is saying she is sticking with him the next minute she is moved out and never wants to see him again.. Why because he has a good job and provides for you.. its all very lame.. Raylan is better when he is badass not a home-body anyway.

        • Winona doesn’t help the volution of Raylan’s character? Are you kidding? It’s because of Winona that we see Raylan as flawed and human. He’s not Superman. I think the problem you and others have with Winona is you don’t want anyone to upset your image of Raylan as the Lone Ranger, Harlan-style.

          Winona is Raylan’s kryptonite. All stories need conflict. We need to understand how his mind works. If you just present Raylan as a one-dimensional badass, then he just becomes a cartoon.

          • No, I just think the Winona character is a self centered B^&*h and I don’t like her.

          • We don’t need a nitpicky twit to show us he’s a flawed character. His bossman does a pretty good job of pointing that out to the audience on a regular basis. No, Winona’s just there for more estrogen.

            She’s unlikable because she’s bitchy, whiny, dissatisfied with pretty much everything he does (no matter how much he has stuck his neck out for her by cleaning up stupid stuff she’s done), and too flighty to be considered good woman material.

            She’d already left Raylan before the show even started, then she cheats on her 2nd husband by hopping back into the sack with Raylan, then she appears to accept Raylan for what he is and everything his job entails, and then the next episode she’s gone again because she just ‘can’t take it’ anymore.

            She’s idiotic and selfish and it’s really a shame the writers didn’t treat her in the show like they did in the book(s) – as nothing more than an ex, a non-entity.

    • Oh my gosh, you share my feelings! The show would be better without whiny Winona and the character of Arlo has overstayed his welcome. I absolutley love Justified and have been a loyal viewer since season one. I, however, expected more from last night’s season finale in content and context. It should have been 90 minutes long.

  3. Great Finale!
    I’m happy Limehouse made it through and hopefully he will be back next season. The character is great and I’d love to see more of him.
    Raylan’s reaction to the sleeve gun was classic.
    “That’s cute.”

    • Raylan playing keep-away with the arm was hilarious…..

  4. Great Review. To follow up on your analysis of moral code in the show, it is present in the relationships between Arlo and Boyd and Raylan. Our society, not just tv, depicts individuals as either a criminal or citizen. So it is typical to see a story with an ideological father with a screwed up son and the “classic your the son I never had” line delivered to the would be hero. However, in Justified, those stereotypical images are flipped. Arlo being the “criminal” and to him, Raylan the screwed up son with Boyd taking his place in the eyes of Arlo. So when he thought he shot Raylan instead of the trooper it showed Arlo’s code to kill the son to save the “son he never had”. And in turn I believe that this code reflects the environment of Harlan County which also shows the strength of Raylan’s character even though he was originally forced back into this setting.

  5. I liked the way Raylan went crazy on Wynn Duffy with the whole Russian roulette thing and I couldn’t believe that Arlo was the one who shot the trooper, what a twist.

  6. “It’s in a piggy bank” Had to be one of the funniest situation lines the whole season….Thagt was some clever writing or directing there…

    I am very much a deeply commited to the show fan….So I have one big complaint…..The seasons are too damn short…..Every season jusgt when it’s really at a good stride…Whap!!! It’s done…..I wiosh they’d extend it by a couple months….But I suppose less is more….If it went longer it might start to show in quality…

    • Damn my big fingers…guess I need to proof

  7. I’m still a little unclear of who shot Trooper Tom. Didn’t they say in the board room that ballistics matched one of Quarles guns? If so, how did Arlo become the killer? Then I assumed he was just covering for Boyd to make sure he wouldn’t go to jail and was willing to say anything but Quarles also said Arlo shot Tom and then the last scene where Raylan said Arlo shot Tom because he was “a man in a hat” and assumed it was Raylan……did I just mishear the ballistics scene?

    • No they said that one of the guns (the one Raylan told Quarles he could “keep”) was the gun that killed ex-husband Gary.

      Arlo shot Trooper Tom thinking it was Raylan he was shooting.

      • That makes sense now. Thanks for the clarification.

      • Ah … I totally missed the significance of that! Wow.

    • I think Arlo shot the trooper. I am not sure if he thought he was shooting Rayland. Art said the balestics of one of the guns found on Quarles matches the bullet that killed Gary (Winona’s ex). That was the gun Quarles took from Rayland’s waistband that Rayland said he could keep. Quarles had planted it in Winona’s house to frame Rayland but Winona found it and gave it to Rayland. He had it hidden in his motel room.

  8. I love this show! So some questions, First, I loved how Errol was eating while Limehouse was talking to him, that was hilarious and the look on Errol’s face when he was banished, priceless..I guess he didn’t see it coming? But is Errol dead or was he just shot?? It would be cool and just like the show if Errol went against Limehouse and they became enemies.. but, I’m not sure if the shot was fatal? Thoughts?

    • After watching the show again I have to actually wonder if Errol was there to help Limehouse or actually kill him. If he isn’t dead it would be interesting to see if Limehouse takes him back in, and if he is indeed loyal. Another thing that kind of got glossed over is how weak Boyd’s crew is now considering his cousin turned rat and Eva is off on some pimp trip now.

      What I am wondering is will the Detroit factor come back up next season since Duffy is still floating around and they did half introduce that character during this season.

  9. I would like to add that the way Ava and Boyd took care of Arlo all season long was touching. I get why Raylan kept his distance from his father even as Arlo slipped slowly into dementia. But I also liked that both Boyd and Arlo basically got a “father-son” do over with each other.

    I also like the Errol got a chance to redeem himself.

  10. The arm scene was so awesome and there were so many great lines this season. One of my favorites was “At the end they pull the curtain back, turns out the guy’s kind of a p****. (Raylan on the “Wizard of Oz”)”. The reveal about the “guy in the hat” with Winona was ind of heart breaking that Arlo thinks of Boyd more of a son then he does of Raylan. I can not wait for next season!

  11. Justified is, without a doubt, the best show on TV. But that’s where my agreement with the review and other comments ends. I did not think this was a fitting finale to the 3rd Season. It was a great season, but it lost its continuity with the first two seasons and I think the writers lost their way toward the end of the season.

    This show is primarily about the different world view of Harlan and the rest of the world. The established theme throughout the season was not Raylan’s “daddy issues” nor was it the idea of “family.” The theme was “home” in the same way that the theme of Season One was Boyd’s and Raylan’s friendship and the theme of Season Two was Mag’s vision of “mountain justice.” Dickie Bennett started this season when he attacked the oxy bus belonging to the Dixie Mafia last season. Now home is being threatened by outsiders as a result and it is time to pull together and protect your home. Boyd’s whole thing about Quarles being a “carpet bagger” and his attempt to explain “this is our home, Raylan” defined the theme for the season. A better ending would have been for Raylan and Boyd to team up as they did at the end of season one, along with Limehouse to battle Quarles, Duffy and some of the Detroit toughs in a major battle to save Harlan. It should probably have taken place in Nobles Holler. It should have ended with the strains of “You will never Leave Harlan Alive” sounding over Quarles’ dead body. Instead, both sides degenerated into in-fighting. There was no victory, it was just sad. I don’t get into a lot of TV shows. But this show was different. Now it’s just going the way they all do sooner or later once the creators have lost their sense of it. I had hoped it would last longer.

    What I did like about Season 3 was the way they concentrated on a single storyline with multiple twists and turns rather than multiple minor sub-stories nearly every week that just scattered the energy of the main storyline. Justified isn’t necessarily finished. It’s definitely salvageable if Graham Yost can recapture his vision for it.

  12. Winona haters (tho I’m not among them)rejoice! My understanding is Natalie Zea’s going to be a regular in some new show so she’ll be in just a few Justified episodes next season. This was a good wrapup to another great season, but again it’s a shame that Rachel and Tim are so under used, you’d think they were regs on another show as well. Tim Olyphant was again outstanding and deserves another Emmy nom if not the award itself. Curious what the writers will do with next season, and if the episodes will branch out of Harlan County to some degree. Sooner or later you’d figure Raylan would go back to hunting down at least a few fugitives, no?

    • Her contract was supposed to be up at the end of Season 2; they should have let it go ahead and expire. She adds nothing to the overall show.

  13. I think shes really nice to look at. I loved the scene between Raylan and the ice pick killer in his hotel room. Stand out moment of the season for me. Wish they would have kept that villain around longer.

  14. My favorite season was last season. Max Bennett and her boys brought both humor and terror to Harlan County. This season was a little confusing at times as if the writers were not sure what direction they were going. However, the season finale made up for it all. They wrapped it up quite nicely. I am glad it did not end with Rayland getting shot again. My favorite scene was Rayland getting off on Duffy, I thought, ‘this is the Marshall I like to see’. I have to say Limehouse’s piggy bank was priceless. I am glad we will see him again next season. I did not realize how much people hate Winona. I was a big Winona fan, I thought she showed that Rayland was not just the best Deputy US Marshall but he was also a passionate vulnerable man. I did not like her in-ability to commit, I was tired of the on again off again. I liked the exchanges with her and Rayland but I am now over her, she can go. Rayaland is a good man. Too bad if she can’t see that. I cannot wait for next season! Timothy Olyphant is such a good actor!!

  15. Question: why did Limehouse get rid of Errol? Maybe because he seemed to side with Dickie Bennett and the whole bank robbery thing? But I thought that was all a rouse to snare Boyd, wasn’t it?? So why’d Errol have to leave Nobles Holla?

  16. I don’t get why Limehouse sent Errol away? Maybe because he seemed to side with Dickie Bennett and the whole bank robbery thing? But I thought that was all a rouse to snare Boyd, wasn’t it?? So why’d Errol have to leave Nobles Holla?