One of the main themes running through Justified has always been the notion of the characters’ relationship with their past, and whether or not they’ve reconciled with it and at a place where it’s possible to move on and discover what the next phase of life has to offer.
But with a series as rich in supporting characters as Justified is, pondering what’s next isn’t simply a job for Boyd or Raylan.
It says a lot about the way this series is so convincingly written that, in order for these characters to move on, they need to be in a place they’re comfortable with, and for many of them – even a consummate lawbreaker like Drew Thompson – that means doing the right thing.
But Drew’s not the only one. Regardless of their past actions, these individuals are not mindless psychopaths; there’s reason behind what they do, and some still have a little voice buried deep inside telling them when something is really not right, even if it will grant them exactly what it is they want. As the title suggests, and as much as some characters seem willing to do anything to get ahead, ideally, they’d all like to have a little peace of mind to go along with it.
After last week’s fantastic episode, ‘Decoy,’ Drew seems to be far removed from the clutches of Theo Tonin – insomuch as he’s aware – but despite the risk of grievous bodily harm, he’s willing to miss out on the continuing protection of the U.S. government to ensure his new friend Ellen May doesn’t come to any harm while in the hands of Ellstin Limehouse (or “Lemonhead,” as Nicky Augustine might think he’s called).
So, in spite of the fact that Art has just suspended him (even though he closed the biggest case of his career), Raylan sees fit to gather up Tim and Rachel, make a trip down to Noble’s Holler and bring Ellen May back, so Drew will follow through and testify against the bad man in Detroit. It’s a sound plan, but, as per usual, things in Harlan don’t stay secret for very long, and soon everyone is figuring out how to get to Ellen May first.
After her brief flirtation with salvation was cut short by the fear that she’d spill the beans on Delroy’s fate and the location of his eternal resting place, Ellen May has, for whatever reason, earned nearly everyone’s kindness in ‘Peace of Mind.’ First Limehouse cuts her loose, although he stood to make $300k for delivering her to Boyd and Nicky, and then Ava, the person who potentially stood to lose more than anyone if Ellen May talked, can’t find it in her heart to kill her once put-upon employee.
In fact, the job comes down to the guy who bungled Ellen May’s murder in the first place. But even then, Colton is stymied by the sudden appearance of Tim Gutterson. And rather than get into a big shootout, the tired, heroin-addicted Colton Rhodes decides he’ll enjoy one last cigarette and play the only card he has left – which is to ensure he dies by Tim’s hand.
In many ways, ‘Peace of Mind’ follows the same path as ‘Decoy,’ but it does so with a different kind of examination of the characters. ‘Decoy’ delved deep into the complex histories and inexorable links between those in Harlan County, while ‘Peace of Mind’ is more interested in examining the cause-and-effect of the character’s actions as they relate to their future goals. Both episodes seem to come up with something as dark as Kentucky coal.
And naturally, as usually happens in the world of fiction, the semblance of serenity typically opens the door for something awful to happen. Raylan’s refusal to enjoy the suspension Art placed him on winds up searing his name into Nicky Augustine’s mind. The cause-and-effect of his needing to see this case to a close puts Picker in the nursery of Raylan’s as-yet unborn child and Winona in harm’s way.
The final scene puts an unsettling and unexpected twist on the penultimate episode of a season that’s been an intricate and winding journey through the pasts of these characters and a glimpse of where the future might take them.
Season 4 of Justified ends next Tuesday with ‘Ghosts’ @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below: