HELLO! (: Just started following you, needed some awesome Justified on my blog (; I just finished Season4 on bluray and man oh man my fav character Ava went to jail and I just lost it, cried like a baby. Can you offer me any relief on what to expect for season5 whenever I get to see it?? My baby bein in the big house is gonna be too much for me! And it aint fair anyways, she killed ONE no good asswipe and she has to get punished for makin the world a better place! Pfffft

  1. I wouldn’t pack away the Kleenex just yet, but
  2. take it from someone who can make a whole blog out of caring what happens to Ava,* and
  3. if you had told me before it started that the season where Ava is bound for jail and possibly prison would turn out to be my second favorite season so far,
  4. I would have said you were crazy, but
  5. here we are.

And hey, your mileage may vary. Not everyone may be as sold on what went down as I turned out to be, but they cover some great ground in season five and if you’ve seen the four seasons before it, there’s not any kind of spoiler in saying that Ava Crowder can take something that’s meant to break her and come through it more Ava than ever.

I’m glad you’re here! You’re in amongst friends if you’re rooting for our girl.

*Weirdly, even with the heartbreak of Ghosts, I think the worst Ava got to me is still the end of season two. I swear, Dickie Bennett fired that bullet and it was like the gun had gone off by my ear, that underwater high ringing pitch of a sound where for twenty minutes you can’t hear anything else. Me and Boyd, charter members of the Do Not Fuck With Ava Crowder club, founded on the spot.

Okay, this one is for all you guys who like to poke around in the corners of the sets as much as I do. Dave Blass and his production crew have an annual tradition of posting a booklet of their work, and it’s time for The Design of Justified Season 5. If you want a little more commentary with that, though, here’s the one you don’t want to miss: the “For Your Consideration” Season 5 Emmy packet.

“An amazing amount of detail for a set to be used in only one scene,” is the caption for the Everglades diner, but show me one of these sets where that doesn’t apply. Miami, Detroit, Memphis, Lexington, even Mexico— especially Harlan. These guys do their homework, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as appreciating that too much.

(If you want to see more— do you not?— here’s The Art of Justified Season 2, Season 3, and Season 4, and some extra tidbits in Dave Blass’s portfolio.)

Last night, I started rewatching the season, because that’s what I do. It was a long, hot day of hard, satisfying work and Justified at the end of it is like a shot of Wild Turkey with comfort food. There’s that first scene with the Crowes, though, and Kendal jumping over those firecrackers reminded me of why it was so great to see Jacob Lofland before I even knew who Kendal Crowe would be. He played a kid called Neckbone in a movie called Mud, and that’s what I sat down to write about, to recommend Mud again as a movie well worth checking out.

But before I knew it, I had this whole list. Here are some movies that are worth checking out, here are some movies that I call my favorites. Each and every one, they’re comfort food with a shot of Wild Turkey.

Mud (2012)
Mud, Neckbone, and Ellis. A little Ray McKinnon, a little Sam Shepard, and the mighty Mississippi. Save for McConaughey and one or two pitched gun battles, this is my childhood— or the closest thing I’ve seen to it, especially the summers. It should be a simple and sweet coming-of-age story. It becomes something much more than that, one of those rarest of things where I love the story for where it doesn’t go as much as for where it does. Maroon me on an island, and if I didn’t have Mud’s pistol and a boat in a tree, this is the movie I’d bring along to watch a dozen times.

That Evening Sun (2009)
Let me put this the best way I know how. If there’s a list of my top five favorite writers, William Gay might earn a spot on there twice. This is one of his short stories, “I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down,” and who brings it to life? Ray McKinnon; Walton Goggins. It’s set and filmed in Tennessee and the soundtrack is Patterson Hood of The Drive-By Truckers. If any more of my favorite things went into this movie, my heart or my brain one couldn’t take it. I have to watch this every couple of months as it is, just to convince myself it does exist, it’s not some crazy fever dream.

The Accountant (2001)
Well, we’re three-for-three so far on Ray McKinnon, so let’s make it two-for-three on Walton Goggins. Call it “a farm comedy,” already you’re speaking my language. Put these two behind and in front of the camera and you’ve got a short film with the heart of a champ that does more in its forty minutes than most could do in ninety. It won them an Oscar and got Goggins an audition on a little show called The Shield, and that’s not even in the top ten reasons why you should watch it or why I adore it.

Passenger Pigeons (2010) / Pilgrim Song (2012)
If you’ve never set foot in eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, or western North Carolina, here you go. If you have, or better yet, if you call it home, then you could watch these two films by Martha Stephens— especially the lovely Passenger Pigeons— and know how true she gets it. There’s no set decoration here. This is all the real thing, these are all the real people. And if the hills of Justified ever feel too much like California, this is why I don’t even notice. These are the hills I can see in my mind.

The Apostle (1997)
This one has earned a mention here before, back when Billy had his tent and his snakes and I wrote about growing up in a Pentecostal Holiness church. And let me tell you, The Apostle means the world to me. It’s faithful to that one impossible thing: the complicated, inescapable, misconstrued, fundamental, cathartic heaven and hell of the South. I swear too that I didn’t mean for every other one of these to star Walton Goggins, but that’s what’s happened when he’s made too many good movies. Keep an eye out for where a very young Crowder picks up some preaching skills, and while you’re at it, see if you can spot a very young Devil— as in our own Kevin Rankin— make his debut too.

Harlan County USA (1976)
The second one in a row I’ve written about before, but Barbara Kopple’s masterpiece documentary deserves every mention I can give it. Moving, eloquent, complicated, timeless. If you want a history of Harlan County, KY, and a history of its coal and coal miners, look no further than the true story.

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
The first Elmore Leonard I ever watched was the same as the first Elmore Leonard I ever read, and I came by it honest. I got the color of my eyes from my dad, and I got his curly hair and his fondness for this one: the outlaw and the lawman and the 3:10 train to Yuma. (Start humming the first few bars of the song; one of us will finish it for you, that’s how many times we’ve seen this movie since I was a kid.) Forget the Russell Crowe remake. It botches what made the story so great in the first place, which is exactly what this one remembers. Quiet, rich with tension, and keen on the two best lines Elmore wrote in his story, the outlaw and the lawman:

“I don’t understand you. You risk your neck to save my life, now you’ll risk it again to send me to prison.”
Scallen looked at Kidd and suddenly felt closer to him than any man he knew. “Don’t ask me, Jim,” he said, and sat down again.

(Honorable mentions, off the top of my head: Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, Chrystal, Joe, Hombre, Sling Blade.)

Things have got to get a lot worse before they’re going to get better. That’s just basic dramatic construction. So, yes, there is a darkness [in season five]. If we have any shot at finding any light at the end of the series, we had to go there now.

Justified producer Graham Yost on the ‘darkness’ of season five and the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not saying we’re looking at a happily-ever-after here, and I don’t doubt for a second that next season will have its heavy moments (and be the better for them), but man. Season six is going to be such a joy.

It’s that time of the year.

I’ve just about answered all the messages, here and there and everywhere, and the one thing left to wrap up the season is to say a big, huge thank you to every one of you guys. Everybody who’s watched and read and reblogged and commented— a big, huge thank you, because it’s been a blast. A pleasure and a joy to write here each week.

I won’t be shuttering this place up for the off-season, either. There’s some season five stuff stockpiled in the drafts folder and I may have a few other things up my sleeve too. Including how, once I rest up, I’m going to re-watch and write about season one before we ride off into the sunset of season six.

Stick around. We’ve got a long way to go yet!