‘Justified’ Season 5 Finale Review

Published 8 months ago by

Jacob Lofland and Timothy Olyphant in Justified Season 5 Episode 13 Justified Season 5 Finale Review

[This is a review of Justified season 5, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]

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After an overly busy, uneven season of Justified, it’s not altogether surprising that the finale, ‘Restitution,’ would also wind up being something of a disjointed affair. As it has been all season, there are a great many threads at work in this final hour that offer several gratifying examples of just how well the show’s writers know their characters and can successfully build tension and excitement in practically any situation imaginable. But even with these entertaining, and sometimes profound elements, the finale, like the season as a whole, came away without as strong a sense of narrative unity as the series has in the past.

In particular, after the dark, introspective weightiness of season 4, and all the ghosts of Harlan past that storyline managed to literally and figuratively dig up with the mystery of Drew Thompson, the Crowes, for what they were worth, wound up feeling like a bargain basement rendition of the sort of Harlan crime families that seem to pop up with alarming regularity. For all the quality material given to the characters, and terrific performances by Michael Rapaport and Alicia Witt, the Crowes simply didn’t offer the kind of emotional resonance Justified is normally capable of generating with its deep-rooted, backwoods villainy. Sure, there were some interesting hints of how the Crowes fit into the perceptible theme of Harlan’s toxic criminality and even more toxic class divisions, as well as the inexorable pull the place has on entire generations of families, but in the end, nothing truly essential came from the unruly clan.

This is evident in the way ‘Restitution’ ultimately deals with Darryl, as both a character and in terms of his effect on the narrative. After Raylan and Vasquez find a way to put the squeeze on him by charging Kendal (Jacob Lofland) as an adult, gambling with the young boy’s life as a way to convince his mother Wendy to work with the marshals, the emotional stakes are driven further from any of the core characters. To its credit the finale combats this with a terrific scene between Raylan and Kendal wherein they discuss the gravity of taking the life of any living creature, and Olyphant delivers a subtle, effective read of the dialogue by continually drawing attention to the boy’s beverage – his “cocoa” – enunciating the word in such a way it underlines both his age and his un-Crowe-like temperament. It’s a remarkable and very necessary scene, but in the end, the story’s culmination hinges entirely on Wendy taping Darryl confessing to shooting Art.

Alicia Witt and Michael Rapaport in Justified Season 5 Episode 13 Justified Season 5 Finale Review

There’s nothing wrong with this as far as climaxes go, but in terms of what Justified is capable of delivering – when it comes to finishing off a nemesis – it felt somewhat perfunctory and dramatically inert. Wendy’s decision to present Darryl with proof of the recording read less like it was to the benefit of either character, and more to keep the audience abreast of the situation. Meanwhile, Darryl’s demise – which also comes at the hands of his sister – works in terms of settling the Crowe family saga, but it, too, conspicuously left Raylan where he’d been for a good amount of the season: on the sidelines.

While Boyd played a more central role by directly (and indirectly, in a very Crowder-like manner) dealing with the cartel members determined to kill him, the tidiness of his arc, and hints of a renewed allegiance with Wynn Duffy and Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) underlined how, as charismatic a presence as Walton Goggins is, the importance of Boyd Crowder’s narratives are often times directly proportional to their proximity to Raylan Givens. Last week’s truly outstanding episode, ‘Starvation,’ demonstrated this by pulling their two threads together with characteristically invigorating results. The downside of this was, again, the way it underlined the superfluity of some of the characters (many of whom were more plot devices than character) and storylines introduced this season.

For instance, Raylan dealt with the Crowes, a short-lived romance with Allison (Amy Smart) Loretta McCready’s pot-smoking social worker, a brief team-up with Eric Roberts, and a falling out with Art – that almost tangentially led to Marshal Mullen’s death. At the same time, Boyd found himself briefly consorting with Canadian drug dealers, Mexican cartels, and an ill-fated partnership with Hot Rod Dunham. That’s in addition to squashing cousin Johnny’s attempt to usurp what little of Harlan’s underworld still fell under Boyd’s control, as well as a hastily discarded storyline involving the villainous Lee Paxton and his seductive mail order bride, Mara (Karolina Wydra).

Jacob Pitts and Erica Tazel in Justified Season 5 Episode 13 Justified Season 5 Finale Review

Meanwhile, Ava was handed her own season-long arc that first read as though it might highlight a different side of the character by dramatically altering her environment. Sadly, Ava’s arc wound up becoming so cyclical, strong performances by Joelle Carter, Danielle Panabaker, and Dale Dickey couldn’t mask the impression Ava had been tucked away until the needs of the upcoming narrative saw her plucked from the clutches of assured doom, to become an agent of her would-be husband’s downfall.

‘Restitution,’ like the last five or so episodes, hurriedly worked to burn off its many threads in a largely successful undertaking to find a stronger sense of narrative cohesion. This led to many fine examples of characterization, dialogue, and action (things the show consistently excels at) in episodes like ‘Weight,’ ‘The Toll,’ and the aforementioned ‘Starvation.’ And yet, seeing the episode work to conclude season 5 so swiftly, so that the last few minutes could be spent setting up the plot that will bring the series to a close, gave the impression much of what transpired over the last 12 episodes will be regarded as the time Justified was, in essence, spinning its wheels.

On the bright side, the series is free to jump headlong into its final season (because it pretty much already has), and in doing so, endeavor to utilize its far less cluttered setting to affording Justified the praise-worthy send-off it so richly deserves.  

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Justified will likely begin its final season in the early part of 2015.

Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX

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  1. I think the final season is gonna come full circle and repeat the pilot’s dinner table scene between Ava, Boyd and Raylan. Love this show. Love Raylan’s line to Daryl. Love Tim in general. Can’t wait for next season.

  2. I think the final season is gonna come full circle and repeat the pilot’s dinner table scene between Ava, Boyd, and Raylan. I love this show. I love Raylan’s last words to Daryl. I love Tim in general. Can’t wait for next season.

  3. Wow, just wow. This season may have been very disjointed but the end game, that was worth every minute of the road. The fact the final season will literally be all Raylan vs Boyd was obvious from the start that that was the only way this show could end properly, but to be confirmed and set up so well as it was will hopefully turn out gratifying. I don’t believe any season of a tv show has had me as excited as I am for this final one even if this seasons short comings seem to have been to set this up all along.

  4. Yeah, I’ve always admired and praised the writers for creating such a fleshed out world but I can’t shake the feeling that there was too much going on at times.
    I’m not saying this was a bad season by any means. As always there were fantastic episodes, great characters and moments but when we were at episode 12 of a 13 episode season and still setting things up the finale ended up feeling a bit rushed.

    I love the idea of the next and final season being Raylan vs Boyd. I’d even go so far and say that I hope they don’t introduce another “big bad” next year. We don’t need it.
    After 5 seasons this is what it should come down to.

    • I totally agree, honestly I think we’ve been introduced to all the players for the final season. The best part is that being the finale season no ones safe, there isn’t any worrying about repercussions anymore and that’s just exciting as it gets for a show like this. With all these chips stacked against Boyd before the season even starts we have to know the Marshall’s are gonna get messed up along the way to taking down Boyd.

  5. Say it ain’t so, only 13 more episodes left. Definitely can’t wait to see what kind of baddazzz sendoff they have in store. Much as I would love to see Boyd go out in a blaze of glory, I could also see him extemporaneously engineering a plot to set up the bigger fish(the widow Hale?) & stay his own execution. In my mind it would be just as fitting a wrap for a character of his wit & charm. But clearly I’m getting ahead of myself, trying to come to grips with the inevitable end what is currently my favorite show on TV…);

  6. Although still very watchable ( how can it not be with Olyphant and Goggins leading the way ? ), this season also felt like a disappointment and yes, it sure did seem like Raylan was mere window dressing at times which should NEVER have been the case. The last couple of episodes salvaged things a lot, at least for myself, and now we can all look forward to the final season and what should come down to some type of “High Noon” moment between Raylan and Boyd. I agree that there’s no need for a new desperado, or family of desperados, to be introduced next season as all things Harlan County should be entirely focused upon the two leads. Perhaps we’ll also finally see in season six what has been sorely lacking for most of the previous seasons, namely more of Rachel and Tim; moments with them in this season finale display the potential for some interesting story lines that could leave fans saying, “well, better late than never.”

  7. I liked this season because it wasn’t trying to outdo what came before, a la 24. It had a “stayed too long” feel to it, a restlessness that agitated events without a resounding end and embodied how Raylan felt about being in Kentucky. There were characters, like Xander Berkeley’s character, the social worker or the undertaker’s wife, that were given more airtime than reason, but there was never a shortage of odd ducks. How Dewey Crowe keeps going has been entertaining, and Rachel was finally given the screen time that so many naysayers demanded in previous years. I’m mostly surprised by the fact that none of the main characters were lost, with the exception of the talented & watchable Cousin Johnny.