5x13 – Restitution

“Are those bullet holes?”
“It’s been a tough couple of months, Ava.”

Boyd with the understatement of the year, right there: it’s been a tough couple of months, Ava. Said to the woman with fresh bruises who’s had it tougher than anyone, tougher than Boyd will let himself imagine. But Justified doesn’t misname its finales— not Bulletville, or Bloody Harlan, or Slaughterhouse or Ghosts— and I could very well keep my promise. At the end of Restitution, I said that all I had to write this week was two short sentences: “That was beautiful. That was goddamn beautiful.”  You know you’re not going to get off that easy, you know it will take me a few hundred more words to say as much, but I could leave it at those two sentences if I had to. Those two words.

Goddamn. Beautiful.

It’s been a good week to live with this episode in the back of my mind, writing a little bit here and there in spare minutes but mostly working it over in my mind while working hard with my hands. It’s felt so tied to the change of seasons that way, the change between winter and spring. The story doesn’t depend on that, that’s for sure, and it doesn’t necessarily match the timeline of the show, but that’s the context of it for me. Spring, in full force. Season five started in the depths of a very cold, very rough January, and it’s even been obvious in what I’ve written here, occasionally, that it’s lasted through a very cold, very rough winter. But we’re ending it in the middle of April. Still such a volatile month, still heat then cold and sun then rain, but April is rich with green, and light, and things coming alive for the first time in months and months. Airing just a few days shy of Easter, even, and Boyd’s making the joke, “Maybe I took a page from the Book of Mark and have risen.” What I’ve been doing all week myself is digging in the dirt. It’s the hard work and long hours and beauty of spring, getting all that ground turned over, tilled, ready to grow something good. Cleaning up the debris, fixing the damage of winter. Boyd working on that country house, patching up the broken windows and bullet holes in the sunshine: I like it so much more than Boyd, this time last year, staring out through glass into that pristine garden that needs no work but can never be his. Give me the hard work any day. Give me the exhaustion and the muscle pain and the peace. It’s invigorating in a way few other things can be.

And the work this year for Boyd and Ava and Raylan has been hard. We’ve done some deep excavation on these characters. Usually, the changes around here are incremental at best. Fortunes may rise or fall or roads may twist and turn or Boyd may preach one thing and then its opposite, but it’s rare to see these three core characters change so markedly. Not one of them comes out of this season the way they went in. We haven’t been renovating. We’ve gutted and torn down to the foundation and now comes the sweet work of rebuilding.

It’s something when, with the strength of this cast, Timothy Olyphant can be taken for granted. I mean, he shouldn’t ever. I mean, I do it sometimes. I talk so much about Crowders and Crowes and this and that when Raylan’s right there, steady as rock. And Olyphant lets me take him for granted. He’ll step to the background the minute anyone else needs the fore. Here’s what I’d normally talk about: Ava comes out of her exile awed, shellshocked, humbled by what she’s had to do to stay alive and what might be in store for her next. Boyd comes back from the dead, enough obnoxious bravado for a moment so Rachel is sure she wants to take him down, but humbled in a way he hasn’t been even in the early part of season two. That was grief. This is knowing his limits. This is humbled not by the extent of his power but where it ends. Humbled by the failure on a scale he’s never faced failure before.

Raylan, though. This episode belongs to Raylan in a way few episodes have needed to this season. This season has changed him; this episode shows how much. From the beginning and the heart-to-heart he has with himself, disguised as the heart-to-heart he has with Kendal, to the one he has with Art at the end.

Art: Was Darryl Crowe, wasn’t it?Raylan: Yeah.Art: Did you kill him?Raylan: No. But he’s dead.Art: Act of God?Raylan: [small laugh]Art: Thank you.

It’s a handful of words that look terse on the page. On the screen, Art’s even half out of it. But it’s all Olyphant, the way Raylan says those words and takes those words in. How they’re enough, and also not near enough, and how he walks out of that room destined for Winona and Florida and his baby girl but also leaving something important behind. He knows the responsibility of it now, though. He’s felt it, and known the shape and weight of it, and he’s humbled now too. He’s grown. Raylan went into this season running away and now he’s ending it running toward. But more than that, it’s like he’s walked through all these fires he’s been setting and he’s come through the other side of them, carrying only what he knows he wants to carry forward.

What I’m as happy to see as that— as anything— is that old country house of Ava’s. I’m not even joking. We haven’t seen that house since Bloody Harlan. I’ve missed it. I love that old white house with green shutters in the shadow of a mountain, and not just because it looks enough like my own little white farmhouse with its green roof. I love it because, when we’re there, we’re keyed in on what matters. Things are imperfect. But we’re calling it home. That big house and the big dreams of season four, I can love the reason for it but it was all the wrong road. I’m ready to see that old kitchen again. That old porch, that old dining room. It’s riddled with bullet holes and it’s a patchwork quilt of damage and repairs, but so are the people under its roof.

Darryl was the outlier this season, the stubborn lack of change, of responsibility, the self-destruction on an unprecedented scale that destroyed all those around him. That’s not Raylan, leaning forward to look at his kid and saying, Goddamn, she’s beautiful. That’s not Boyd, looking straight at the man with the knife and saying, I know real pain. Shit you can’t even imagine. And the thing is, think how easy it would have been by now to write Raylan and Boyd as nasty enemies, to write Ava ready and willing and wanting to turn on Boyd for her own gain. This story could have been about self-destruction by now, about betrayals and bad blood. We could have scratched off Restitution and called this one Retribution instead. But that’s not this story. It never has been.

Something else sets it apart.

If it didn’t, if this was that kind of story, it wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t be writing this, because Fire In The Hole wouldn’t have grabbed me by the gut the way it did five years ago. But here we are. I’m writing this now because right from the start, Raylan Givens shooting Boyd Crowder was nothing like Raylan Givens shooting Tommy Bucks. Because right from the start, the heart of this thing was Ava and Boyd and Raylan, squared off with plates of fried chicken on the table.

At odds with each other, but in a way that only the three of them could be. At odds in a way that had more layers to it than you could imagine, and what it seemed in the moment wasn’t even the half of it.

Vasquez: You don’t see it, do you? The common thread that runs through it all?Raylan: All due respect? If it doesn’t have to do with sunny skies and beaches, there’s nothing for me to see.Vasquez: The man at the center of everything.Raylan: Who? Me?Rachel: Boyd Crowder.Raylan: What?Vasquez: You familiar?

Of course Raylan thinks it’s him when Vasquez means Boyd. Of course. Who else has been at the center of this for so long? Raylan and Boyd, and you could count Ava too. Of course Raylan cracks a smile when the offer on the table is going after Boyd Crowder, the way Boyd cracks a grin when the offer on the table is his first love: getting money, blowing shit up. (Katherine Hale, ladies and gentlemen, speaking the God’s honest truth: “You were lousy at running heroin, Boyd Crowder. But from what I’m told? You are really good at robbing banks.”)

Can you hear it? I can, but then again, I’ve got the windows open. It’s the sound of crickets on the porch and a squeaky screen door. Footsteps on the stairs in a familiar, welcome tread. What this story has been about since the very beginning.

We’re coming home.

And I wouldn’t want this season to end on any other note than how it does. I mean, the literal note. Those rising humming notes of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and then the moment the banjo and the beat kick in. The way it’s almost a dirge. But the way it’s awesome and joyful. It’s closure on what we’ve been through and it’s the promise of what’s to come and it’s infectious with the excitement of it. All handclaps, all lament, ready for one last hell of a ride.

Let me count the ways I love how we’ve set up the final season. It’s genius, having Rachel lead the charge against Boyd when Raylan’s already forgotten that file. Genius, putting Ava in the impossible position between them, in love with the one and in debt to the other. You know who Vasquez really wants is Katherine. You know Raylan wanted Ava out of prison. You know all parties involved are going to have tricks up their sleeves. And you know Rachel— at least, this is the fun little story I have in my head— just wanted Raylan for one last buddy adventure before he rides off into the Florida sunset. Rachel’s no fool. She’d know the best bait she’s got for that is Boyd Crowder.
“You made sure to have him tell me it was because of you I got out,” says Ava— goddamn, it’s so good to see Ava breathing fresh air— and then Raylan muses over Boyd having somewhere to go the night she gets home. Raylan’s never been able to help himself; he loves those kinds of games. This is going to make for some fun shenanigans all the way home.
Jimmy doesn’t say a word in this episode, what precious little time he’s in it, but do yourself a favor and don’t pause on any frame with Jesse Luken’s face. Just don’t. MVP of Boyd’s crew forever, that kid. In this life or the next.
I’ve done a disservice to Rapaport and Alicia Witt and Jacob Lofland, barely rating a mention even with the way they played the Crowes’ last stand. Believe me, I know. There’s so much more to talk about. I’ll make up for that soon.
Alberto: “Screw with me, you’ll be begging for a bullet.”
Raylan: “Didn’t I tell you you were gonna wish I killed you? Well? Don’tcha?”
“Well, that’d be a real ballsy move, wouldn’t it, Darryl? How are you gonna do it without your balls?”
Where do we go from here? Ava’s got the right answer for Boyd the way Raylan’s got the right answer for Art. Raylan says, “Get some rest.” Ava says, “Now? I take a bath. I put on my pajamas, and I get some sleep.” Amen.
This time, fourth season. It was a hell of a start to these tough few months. Raylan commandeered Boyd to get to Nicky Augustine, Winona packed off for Florida, Jimmy helped Ava swap a body, but Ava got caught and we were all chasing Ghosts.

5x13 – Restitution

“Are those bullet holes?”
“It’s been a tough couple of months, Ava.”

Boyd with the understatement of the year, right there: it’s been a tough couple of months, Ava. Said to the woman with fresh bruises who’s had it tougher than anyone, tougher than Boyd will let himself imagine. But Justified doesn’t misname its finales— not Bulletville, or Bloody Harlan, or Slaughterhouse or Ghosts— and I could very well keep my promise. At the end of Restitution, I said that all I had to write this week was two short sentences: “That was beautiful. That was goddamn beautiful.” You know you’re not going to get off that easy, you know it will take me a few hundred more words to say as much, but I could leave it at those two sentences if I had to. Those two words.

Goddamn. Beautiful.

It’s been a good week to live with this episode in the back of my mind, writing a little bit here and there in spare minutes but mostly working it over in my mind while working hard with my hands. It’s felt so tied to the change of seasons that way, the change between winter and spring. The story doesn’t depend on that, that’s for sure, and it doesn’t necessarily match the timeline of the show, but that’s the context of it for me. Spring, in full force. Season five started in the depths of a very cold, very rough January, and it’s even been obvious in what I’ve written here, occasionally, that it’s lasted through a very cold, very rough winter. But we’re ending it in the middle of April. Still such a volatile month, still heat then cold and sun then rain, but April is rich with green, and light, and things coming alive for the first time in months and months. Airing just a few days shy of Easter, even, and Boyd’s making the joke, “Maybe I took a page from the Book of Mark and have risen.” What I’ve been doing all week myself is digging in the dirt. It’s the hard work and long hours and beauty of spring, getting all that ground turned over, tilled, ready to grow something good. Cleaning up the debris, fixing the damage of winter. Boyd working on that country house, patching up the broken windows and bullet holes in the sunshine: I like it so much more than Boyd, this time last year, staring out through glass into that pristine garden that needs no work but can never be his. Give me the hard work any day. Give me the exhaustion and the muscle pain and the peace. It’s invigorating in a way few other things can be.

And the work this year for Boyd and Ava and Raylan has been hard. We’ve done some deep excavation on these characters. Usually, the changes around here are incremental at best. Fortunes may rise or fall or roads may twist and turn or Boyd may preach one thing and then its opposite, but it’s rare to see these three core characters change so markedly. Not one of them comes out of this season the way they went in. We haven’t been renovating. We’ve gutted and torn down to the foundation and now comes the sweet work of rebuilding.

It’s something when, with the strength of this cast, Timothy Olyphant can be taken for granted. I mean, he shouldn’t ever. I mean, I do it sometimes. I talk so much about Crowders and Crowes and this and that when Raylan’s right there, steady as rock. And Olyphant lets me take him for granted. He’ll step to the background the minute anyone else needs the fore. Here’s what I’d normally talk about: Ava comes out of her exile awed, shellshocked, humbled by what she’s had to do to stay alive and what might be in store for her next. Boyd comes back from the dead, enough obnoxious bravado for a moment so Rachel is sure she wants to take him down, but humbled in a way he hasn’t been even in the early part of season two. That was grief. This is knowing his limits. This is humbled not by the extent of his power but where it ends. Humbled by the failure on a scale he’s never faced failure before.

Raylan, though. This episode belongs to Raylan in a way few episodes have needed to this season. This season has changed him; this episode shows how much. From the beginning and the heart-to-heart he has with himself, disguised as the heart-to-heart he has with Kendal, to the one he has with Art at the end.

Art: Was Darryl Crowe, wasn’t it?
Raylan: Yeah.
Art: Did you kill him?
Raylan: No. But he’s dead.
Art: Act of God?
Raylan: [small laugh]
Art: Thank you.

It’s a handful of words that look terse on the page. On the screen, Art’s even half out of it. But it’s all Olyphant, the way Raylan says those words and takes those words in. How they’re enough, and also not near enough, and how he walks out of that room destined for Winona and Florida and his baby girl but also leaving something important behind. He knows the responsibility of it now, though. He’s felt it, and known the shape and weight of it, and he’s humbled now too. He’s grown. Raylan went into this season running away and now he’s ending it running toward. But more than that, it’s like he’s walked through all these fires he’s been setting and he’s come through the other side of them, carrying only what he knows he wants to carry forward.

What I’m as happy to see as that— as anything— is that old country house of Ava’s. I’m not even joking. We haven’t seen that house since Bloody Harlan. I’ve missed it. I love that old white house with green shutters in the shadow of a mountain, and not just because it looks enough like my own little white farmhouse with its green roof. I love it because, when we’re there, we’re keyed in on what matters. Things are imperfect. But we’re calling it home. That big house and the big dreams of season four, I can love the reason for it but it was all the wrong road. I’m ready to see that old kitchen again. That old porch, that old dining room. It’s riddled with bullet holes and it’s a patchwork quilt of damage and repairs, but so are the people under its roof.

Darryl was the outlier this season, the stubborn lack of change, of responsibility, the self-destruction on an unprecedented scale that destroyed all those around him. That’s not Raylan, leaning forward to look at his kid and saying, Goddamn, she’s beautiful. That’s not Boyd, looking straight at the man with the knife and saying, I know real pain. Shit you can’t even imagine. And the thing is, think how easy it would have been by now to write Raylan and Boyd as nasty enemies, to write Ava ready and willing and wanting to turn on Boyd for her own gain. This story could have been about self-destruction by now, about betrayals and bad blood. We could have scratched off Restitution and called this one Retribution instead. But that’s not this story. It never has been.

Something else sets it apart.

If it didn’t, if this was that kind of story, it wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t be writing this, because Fire In The Hole wouldn’t have grabbed me by the gut the way it did five years ago. But here we are. I’m writing this now because right from the start, Raylan Givens shooting Boyd Crowder was nothing like Raylan Givens shooting Tommy Bucks. Because right from the start, the heart of this thing was Ava and Boyd and Raylan, squared off with plates of fried chicken on the table.

At odds with each other, but in a way that only the three of them could be. At odds in a way that had more layers to it than you could imagine, and what it seemed in the moment wasn’t even the half of it.

Vasquez: You don’t see it, do you? The common thread that runs through it all?
Raylan: All due respect? If it doesn’t have to do with sunny skies and beaches, there’s nothing for me to see.
Vasquez: The man at the center of everything.
Raylan: Who? Me?
Rachel: Boyd Crowder.
Raylan: What?
Vasquez: You familiar?

Of course Raylan thinks it’s him when Vasquez means Boyd. Of course. Who else has been at the center of this for so long? Raylan and Boyd, and you could count Ava too. Of course Raylan cracks a smile when the offer on the table is going after Boyd Crowder, the way Boyd cracks a grin when the offer on the table is his first love: getting money, blowing shit up. (Katherine Hale, ladies and gentlemen, speaking the God’s honest truth: “You were lousy at running heroin, Boyd Crowder. But from what I’m told? You are really good at robbing banks.”)

Can you hear it? I can, but then again, I’ve got the windows open. It’s the sound of crickets on the porch and a squeaky screen door. Footsteps on the stairs in a familiar, welcome tread. What this story has been about since the very beginning.

We’re coming home.

And I wouldn’t want this season to end on any other note than how it does. I mean, the literal note. Those rising humming notes of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and then the moment the banjo and the beat kick in. The way it’s almost a dirge. But the way it’s awesome and joyful. It’s closure on what we’ve been through and it’s the promise of what’s to come and it’s infectious with the excitement of it. All handclaps, all lament, ready for one last hell of a ride.

  • Let me count the ways I love how we’ve set up the final season. It’s genius, having Rachel lead the charge against Boyd when Raylan’s already forgotten that file. Genius, putting Ava in the impossible position between them, in love with the one and in debt to the other. You know who Vasquez really wants is Katherine. You know Raylan wanted Ava out of prison. You know all parties involved are going to have tricks up their sleeves. And you know Rachel— at least, this is the fun little story I have in my head— just wanted Raylan for one last buddy adventure before he rides off into the Florida sunset. Rachel’s no fool. She’d know the best bait she’s got for that is Boyd Crowder.

  • “You made sure to have him tell me it was because of you I got out,” says Ava— goddamn, it’s so good to see Ava breathing fresh air— and then Raylan muses over Boyd having somewhere to go the night she gets home. Raylan’s never been able to help himself; he loves those kinds of games. This is going to make for some fun shenanigans all the way home.

  • Jimmy doesn’t say a word in this episode, what precious little time he’s in it, but do yourself a favor and don’t pause on any frame with Jesse Luken’s face. Just don’t. MVP of Boyd’s crew forever, that kid. In this life or the next.

  • I’ve done a disservice to Rapaport and Alicia Witt and Jacob Lofland, barely rating a mention even with the way they played the Crowes’ last stand. Believe me, I know. There’s so much more to talk about. I’ll make up for that soon.

  • Alberto: “Screw with me, you’ll be begging for a bullet.”
    Raylan: “Didn’t I tell you you were gonna wish I killed you? Well? Don’tcha?”

  • “Well, that’d be a real ballsy move, wouldn’t it, Darryl? How are you gonna do it without your balls?”

  • Where do we go from here? Ava’s got the right answer for Boyd the way Raylan’s got the right answer for Art. Raylan says, “Get some rest.” Ava says, “Now? I take a bath. I put on my pajamas, and I get some sleep.” Amen.

  • This time, fourth season. It was a hell of a start to these tough few months. Raylan commandeered Boyd to get to Nicky Augustine, Winona packed off for Florida, Jimmy helped Ava swap a body, but Ava got caught and we were all chasing Ghosts.

Next season, as everything lines up perfectly against Boyd and he is poised on the edge of triumph with no idea what's coming, do you think they will finally pull the trigger and trap Raylan and Boyd down a mineshaft together, forcing them to work together to survive?

Anonymous

As long as it’s in between all his bank heists and re-wooing Ava while making house repairs? I’m down.

Are you ok? Because I am not ok.

Anonymous

About Jimmy? Nope. Not okay. Not cool. Not my Jimmy.

Wait… about the finale?

Oh, so okay. More than okay. That was fantastic in just about every way possible.

But Jimmy— God, that kid is gonna be missed.

(Don’t ask how behind on messages I am. You guys are great. Bear with me this week, I’ll get there. A few at a time.)

Dewey: This it, then, Raylan? No final words? Put Dewey Crowe in his place?
Raylan: My advice? Stop talking about yourself in the third person. Makes you sound like a fool.
Dewey: Third person? What, this guy? Man, I don’t understand you.

Dewey Crowe reunited with his gator teeth and hauled off to jail: that’s a happy ending if there ever was one. And I mean it. It does my heart good to know that, whatever goes down in the finale tonight, Dewey Crowe’s survived it.

Bourbon Watch: Starvation

“Let’s have a drink, man. Toast our goodbye.”

“Got that good Elmers T for you,” Darryl says, but Boyd’s got a rule about that: “I only drink with people I like, or I pretend to like.” He sure starts drinking, though, as soon as Dewey crashes the party. If it’s impossible to get Darryl to incriminate himself on the record, it’s more impossible to get Dewey to stop.

Dewey: Oh, I will shoot! The way I shot Wade Messer! I killed his ass good, man! Two shots! PCHEEOWW! PCHEEOWW! Me! Dewey Crowe!
Boyd: God damn it, son.
Darryl: Shit, Dewey. What the shit, Dewey?
Dewey: Yeah! That’s MY heroin! MY future! MY dream!

5x12 – Starvation

“Ain’t none of this been easy. But we came here to settle as a family. We can still do it. All this shit we done been through ain’t got to be for nothing.”

The first paragraph I wrote this season, I said there’s one thing I expect from season five of a show with Walton Goggins. If it’s season five, it’s time for shit to get real. And if it’s season five with Walton Goggins, he’s long since been the dark heart of the show. He’s the half of a whole that, torn apart, is gonna hurt like a motherfucker.

I say that because, to this day, season five, episode eleven of The Shield is my threshold for that kind of pain. Postpartum is an episode that detonates around Goggins’ Shane Vendrell in such a way that season five of Justified is still well shy of that mark. (Thank God for that.) But Starvation feels like Justified doing its version of that. The Elmore Leonard version of that, which is not quite so harsh a detonation but in a new way, emotionally wracking. What’s interesting, though, is the parallel between the two episodes. The reason Starvation cuts deep is so similar to the reason Postpartum cuts deep. In the latter, Shane, faced with an unthinkable choice, and knowing he’ll have to act alone to make it, has a line, an excuse, an appeal for forgiveness:

“It’s all about family, right?”

It’s all about family, and I’ll go back to that over and over for as long as the show goes back to that over and over. Which, I hope, is always. No other story has so much power. No other story could cause half so much wreckage. Doubt that and all you’d have to do is look around.

How else did it ever come to this?

What Starvation does though, so beautifully, so effectively, is starve everyone of the means that have sustained them until now. All season we’ve had Raylan isolated, and Boyd and Ava isolated, but this is different. This is taken to a new level. Raylan, who looks to Art as a guidepost, even when Art’s angriest at him, now has Art out of commission entirely. Boyd, whose purpose and aim in everything is Ava, is utterly untethered from her and adrift. Ava, who’s never preached a word she doesn’t believe heart and soul, says no more of this bullshit every-woman-for-herself, just to have that slapped right back in her face and left more alone than ever.

And riding around in that panel van, Raylan and Boyd hear Wendy Crowe say something out loud that, while not the whole picture, has more truth in it than either would care to admit. It’s what Darryl’s fed her as part of his bullshit, a master of psychological war games, but he wouldn’t get away with it half so well if it was only a lie.

Wendy: I shouldn’t have taken those pills you gave me. I shouldn’t have left him.Darryl: You ain’t no use if you all nerves. For sure ain’t no use to little Kendal.Wendy: I’m still all nerves. So just drop it, all right.Darryl: I’m just trying to help, sister.Wendy: Why did I come back here? I should’ve gotten a room up in Lexington, stayed close. I just want him to know I’ll be right by his side.Darryl: Pfft. You ain’t never been by his side. That’s why all this happened, after all. I ain’t laying blame. Just putting words to truth. Don’t wanna dwell on it no more either, girl. Got to move forward, you know. Dust yourself off.

“The part I played in all this,” says Wendy to Raylan, “was bad mother. I failed Kendal and now he’s got to pay the price.” Raylan has been trying to get her to admit it, that she played a part in all this, “a dark heart like the rest.” But the part Wendy owns up to is the part where you could swap out the word mother, and then replace the name Kendal with Ava or Art and the pot and kettle and the other pot would all have to call themselves black.

The scene doesn’t need to even linger to underscore the point. We cut right to: Ava receiving her own death sentence, framed as a snitch by Gretchen Swift, retaliation at least in part for Boyd putting her brother in intensive— which was Boyd lashing out over failing to protect Ava at all. (“This is bad, Ava,” says Nikki, and Ava’s “No shit,” is only one of the many, many ways Joelle is killing it this year.) We could rewind too, if we wanted to, through everything this season between Raylan and Art. Art is paying that price for Raylan, and no other reason could have Raylan so driven right now, so desperate to set this right and more effective than he’s been all season. I think Wendy hits home with that line, and I think you can tell when Raylan, for once, doesn’t get the last word. When Boyd, for once, keeps to the background, all body language and silence, no words at all.

In Starvation, it all accrues. It takes shape and weight so innocently. Raylan and Boyd and Ava— nobody’s telling each other lies. Just the truth, the way they see it. Boyd, desperate to get the marshals on a collision course with Darryl and the cartel before the deadline Duffy gave him— sundown— goes to Raylan with no other goal in mind. What he asks for in exchange is what Raylan’s usually giving him anyway: a free pass, a look the other way. Raylan, desperate to get to Darryl on his own deadline, knows there’s got to be an angle Boyd’s playing but misses all the signs that point to what it is. In Boyd’s willingness to help without demanding Ava’s release, he sees the old Boyd, cavalierly ready to leave the past behind.

And Ava, desperate to save her own life, so isolated that she’s never even heard the name Darryl Crowe Jr, is given just enough pieces of the puzzle to mistake it for the whole picture. They all do— they all have insufficient information, which really, is all we ever have. Boyd doesn’t know Raylan’s so desperate for Darryl that clemency for Ava is possible; he doesn’t know Ava, set up as the prison snitch, now has the same death sentence on her head as he’s got on his. Raylan doesn’t know the cartel deadline; Ava doesn’t know what Boyd’s meant by what he said. All she has is what they all have. An image that isn’t the truth, but isn’t all that far from the truth, or it wouldn’t be so possible to believe it.

Raylan: Bullshit? There it is. Thick with the names of the suffering and the dead, many felled by your own hands. The trail of human wreckage you’ve left rotting in jail cells, cold graves throughout this state. And why? Because they had the poor judgement to believe your lies and follow your tune. Well, it’s high time that tune reach a shattering crescendo.Boyd: Well, what about the file on Raylan Givens? [Raylan laughs.] It must be just as thick.

There it is. The same bullet Raylan’s usually firing at Boyd; the same mirror Boyd’s usually holding and Raylan ends up reflected back in the shards of glass. Not a true picture, but plenty of truth in it. More than enough. What’s funny, though, is how long they act out the exhausted version of their cat-and-mouse and old-coal-buddy antics, using each other without compunction, and where it finally takes the sharp turn. Raylan, in simmering frustration, plays the card he’s had up his sleeve— the file on Boyd— and Boyd takes more of an affront to that than anything.

That’s not how this story goes, and that’s not how this story ends. Raylan knows it, and Boyd knows Raylan knows it, and Boyd knows it himself. This isn’t some bullshit to be settled with files and grand juries. This is bigger than that and greater than the two of them. There is unfinished business. There’s more to this story yet.

That very same moment, not even close to coincidental, the family that Raylan’s been estranged from all season starts to band back together. Boyd plays his trump card of Nicky Augustine and all Rachel says is, “That’s yesterday’s news. This is today.” She and Tim are a united front with Raylan and Boyd can only land a glancing blow. That’s what sets family apart from any other kind of thing. It survives more than any other kind of thing. It outlasts and it can do more good or it can cause more harm, even when stressed or fractured or broken. That’s still where all the power lies.

To stress and fracture and break up the Crowes, Raylan throws down one more big bet with the highest of stakes— Kendal’s life. “Jesus Christ on a lunchbox, that’s a big bet,” Judge Reardon says. “Once you fire this bullet? It don’t go back in the barrel.” But that’s the case of every bullet fired so far. It’s Boyd’s warning to Jimmy that’s all the more ominous:

“Storm clouds are gathering, son. And I think this flood is gonna be epic.”

“Yeah,” says Jimmy. Ominous, but already too late. Jimmy, never one to shed a tear, with tears rolling down his face. “Yeah, Boyd. I hear that.”

“Oh, you motherfuckers.” I don’t know who I’m even saying it to— Alberto’s guns, the writers, the universe at large— but I’ve said it all week, every time I watch that ending with Jimmy. I mean, it could be said about so much more, but I know Boyd’s going to survive the season and Raylan, et. al. Goddamn, I don’t want to see Jimmy go.
Caleb, though. Boyd’s unlucky bartender quits with a fury the way I was sure he had after Wrong Roads. “Baby Jesus! This is the worst! job! ever!” shouts the only man in Harlan who uses more exclamation points than Dewey Crowe. But it’s his monologue to Carl just before then that really highlights the indignity, which is something I hope he did a lot, trailing Carl around with monologues of indignity: “Did some backyard fighting. Took my lumps. Got hurt bad working the kill floor when I was out in Greeley, but shit fire. I didn’t get this knocked around even in the mines and I was in the Huff Creek collapse.”
“A funny story,” Boyd says, and Tim: “A funny short story.” Tim keeps channeling Elmore: “Why don’t you leave out the parts we’d like to skip.”
Parts I don’t want to skip: Rachel, Tim, and Raylan reviewing Oscar nominations. (Tim: “Needs more Jason Statham.” Raylan: “What doesn’t?”) And, suggesting again that we’re living in some kind of Kentucky time warp. By my calculations, we’re just shy of a year since the events of the pilot, and yet we’ve gone from 2009 to the year of American Hustle.
Writer Chris Provenzano pulls off the hat-trick with this one, three episodes in one season. Previously: Whistle Past The Graveyard and Shot All To Hell, so I’m glad he got to give us the fallout on Kendal and Wendy and the closure on Dewey Crowe’s turtle-dog.
It’s the little things I enjoy in this one. Darryl’s falsetto “housekeeping!” Wynn Duffy shouting to the heavens as his Winnebago’s being towed. One last car, that shitheap Gremlin, Dewey can’t remember how to park. Boyd, peeking through the blinds as they’re getting towed, messing with Raylan’s nameplate on the desk.
“Well, you got your fish in the boat. Think you gonna have to put him back?” asks Boyd, and Raylan: “We do, he’ll likely want to kill you.” But Boyd remembers season 4: “Well, I don’t know. You’re pretty good. I figure you’ll get to him first.”
“If it’s an apology for sending me to hell, I’ll take the kindness. It’s been one of the more frustrating days in recent memory.”
This time, fourth season. Raylan and Tim and Rachel ran all over Harlan trying to mess up some bad guy’s day— in this case, anyone hampering Shelby’s deal by hiding Ellen May. Boyd and Colt and Augustine were all in search of the same thing, until Ava put a stop to it. All Ava wanted was some Peace of Mind.

5x12 – Starvation

“Ain’t none of this been easy. But we came here to settle as a family. We can still do it. All this shit we done been through ain’t got to be for nothing.”

The first paragraph I wrote this season, I said there’s one thing I expect from season five of a show with Walton Goggins. If it’s season five, it’s time for shit to get real. And if it’s season five with Walton Goggins, he’s long since been the dark heart of the show. He’s the half of a whole that, torn apart, is gonna hurt like a motherfucker.

I say that because, to this day, season five, episode eleven of The Shield is my threshold for that kind of pain. Postpartum is an episode that detonates around Goggins’ Shane Vendrell in such a way that season five of Justified is still well shy of that mark. (Thank God for that.) But Starvation feels like Justified doing its version of that. The Elmore Leonard version of that, which is not quite so harsh a detonation but in a new way, emotionally wracking. What’s interesting, though, is the parallel between the two episodes. The reason Starvation cuts deep is so similar to the reason Postpartum cuts deep. In the latter, Shane, faced with an unthinkable choice, and knowing he’ll have to act alone to make it, has a line, an excuse, an appeal for forgiveness:

“It’s all about family, right?”

It’s all about family, and I’ll go back to that over and over for as long as the show goes back to that over and over. Which, I hope, is always. No other story has so much power. No other story could cause half so much wreckage. Doubt that and all you’d have to do is look around.

How else did it ever come to this?

What Starvation does though, so beautifully, so effectively, is starve everyone of the means that have sustained them until now. All season we’ve had Raylan isolated, and Boyd and Ava isolated, but this is different. This is taken to a new level. Raylan, who looks to Art as a guidepost, even when Art’s angriest at him, now has Art out of commission entirely. Boyd, whose purpose and aim in everything is Ava, is utterly untethered from her and adrift. Ava, who’s never preached a word she doesn’t believe heart and soul, says no more of this bullshit every-woman-for-herself, just to have that slapped right back in her face and left more alone than ever.

And riding around in that panel van, Raylan and Boyd hear Wendy Crowe say something out loud that, while not the whole picture, has more truth in it than either would care to admit. It’s what Darryl’s fed her as part of his bullshit, a master of psychological war games, but he wouldn’t get away with it half so well if it was only a lie.

Wendy: I shouldn’t have taken those pills you gave me. I shouldn’t have left him.
Darryl: You ain’t no use if you all nerves. For sure ain’t no use to little Kendal.
Wendy: I’m still all nerves. So just drop it, all right.
Darryl: I’m just trying to help, sister.
Wendy: Why did I come back here? I should’ve gotten a room up in Lexington, stayed close. I just want him to know I’ll be right by his side.
Darryl: Pfft. You ain’t never been by his side. That’s why all this happened, after all. I ain’t laying blame. Just putting words to truth. Don’t wanna dwell on it no more either, girl. Got to move forward, you know. Dust yourself off.

“The part I played in all this,” says Wendy to Raylan, “was bad mother. I failed Kendal and now he’s got to pay the price.” Raylan has been trying to get her to admit it, that she played a part in all this, “a dark heart like the rest.” But the part Wendy owns up to is the part where you could swap out the word mother, and then replace the name Kendal with Ava or Art and the pot and kettle and the other pot would all have to call themselves black.

The scene doesn’t need to even linger to underscore the point. We cut right to: Ava receiving her own death sentence, framed as a snitch by Gretchen Swift, retaliation at least in part for Boyd putting her brother in intensive— which was Boyd lashing out over failing to protect Ava at all. (“This is bad, Ava,” says Nikki, and Ava’s “No shit,” is only one of the many, many ways Joelle is killing it this year.) We could rewind too, if we wanted to, through everything this season between Raylan and Art. Art is paying that price for Raylan, and no other reason could have Raylan so driven right now, so desperate to set this right and more effective than he’s been all season. I think Wendy hits home with that line, and I think you can tell when Raylan, for once, doesn’t get the last word. When Boyd, for once, keeps to the background, all body language and silence, no words at all.

In Starvation, it all accrues. It takes shape and weight so innocently. Raylan and Boyd and Ava— nobody’s telling each other lies. Just the truth, the way they see it. Boyd, desperate to get the marshals on a collision course with Darryl and the cartel before the deadline Duffy gave him— sundown— goes to Raylan with no other goal in mind. What he asks for in exchange is what Raylan’s usually giving him anyway: a free pass, a look the other way. Raylan, desperate to get to Darryl on his own deadline, knows there’s got to be an angle Boyd’s playing but misses all the signs that point to what it is. In Boyd’s willingness to help without demanding Ava’s release, he sees the old Boyd, cavalierly ready to leave the past behind.

And Ava, desperate to save her own life, so isolated that she’s never even heard the name Darryl Crowe Jr, is given just enough pieces of the puzzle to mistake it for the whole picture. They all do— they all have insufficient information, which really, is all we ever have. Boyd doesn’t know Raylan’s so desperate for Darryl that clemency for Ava is possible; he doesn’t know Ava, set up as the prison snitch, now has the same death sentence on her head as he’s got on his. Raylan doesn’t know the cartel deadline; Ava doesn’t know what Boyd’s meant by what he said. All she has is what they all have. An image that isn’t the truth, but isn’t all that far from the truth, or it wouldn’t be so possible to believe it.

Raylan: Bullshit? There it is. Thick with the names of the suffering and the dead, many felled by your own hands. The trail of human wreckage you’ve left rotting in jail cells, cold graves throughout this state. And why? Because they had the poor judgement to believe your lies and follow your tune. Well, it’s high time that tune reach a shattering crescendo.
Boyd: Well, what about the file on Raylan Givens? [Raylan laughs.] It must be just as thick.

There it is. The same bullet Raylan’s usually firing at Boyd; the same mirror Boyd’s usually holding and Raylan ends up reflected back in the shards of glass. Not a true picture, but plenty of truth in it. More than enough. What’s funny, though, is how long they act out the exhausted version of their cat-and-mouse and old-coal-buddy antics, using each other without compunction, and where it finally takes the sharp turn. Raylan, in simmering frustration, plays the card he’s had up his sleeve— the file on Boyd— and Boyd takes more of an affront to that than anything.

That’s not how this story goes, and that’s not how this story ends. Raylan knows it, and Boyd knows Raylan knows it, and Boyd knows it himself. This isn’t some bullshit to be settled with files and grand juries. This is bigger than that and greater than the two of them. There is unfinished business. There’s more to this story yet.

That very same moment, not even close to coincidental, the family that Raylan’s been estranged from all season starts to band back together. Boyd plays his trump card of Nicky Augustine and all Rachel says is, “That’s yesterday’s news. This is today.” She and Tim are a united front with Raylan and Boyd can only land a glancing blow. That’s what sets family apart from any other kind of thing. It survives more than any other kind of thing. It outlasts and it can do more good or it can cause more harm, even when stressed or fractured or broken. That’s still where all the power lies.

To stress and fracture and break up the Crowes, Raylan throws down one more big bet with the highest of stakes— Kendal’s life. “Jesus Christ on a lunchbox, that’s a big bet,” Judge Reardon says. “Once you fire this bullet? It don’t go back in the barrel.” But that’s the case of every bullet fired so far. It’s Boyd’s warning to Jimmy that’s all the more ominous:

“Storm clouds are gathering, son. And I think this flood is gonna be epic.”

“Yeah,” says Jimmy. Ominous, but already too late. Jimmy, never one to shed a tear, with tears rolling down his face. “Yeah, Boyd. I hear that.”

  • “Oh, you motherfuckers.” I don’t know who I’m even saying it to— Alberto’s guns, the writers, the universe at large— but I’ve said it all week, every time I watch that ending with Jimmy. I mean, it could be said about so much more, but I know Boyd’s going to survive the season and Raylan, et. al. Goddamn, I don’t want to see Jimmy go.

  • Caleb, though. Boyd’s unlucky bartender quits with a fury the way I was sure he had after Wrong Roads. “Baby Jesus! This is the worst! job! ever!” shouts the only man in Harlan who uses more exclamation points than Dewey Crowe. But it’s his monologue to Carl just before then that really highlights the indignity, which is something I hope he did a lot, trailing Carl around with monologues of indignity: “Did some backyard fighting. Took my lumps. Got hurt bad working the kill floor when I was out in Greeley, but shit fire. I didn’t get this knocked around even in the mines and I was in the Huff Creek collapse.”

  • “A funny story,” Boyd says, and Tim: “A funny short story.” Tim keeps channeling Elmore: “Why don’t you leave out the parts we’d like to skip.”

  • Parts I don’t want to skip: Rachel, Tim, and Raylan reviewing Oscar nominations. (Tim: “Needs more Jason Statham.” Raylan: “What doesn’t?”) And, suggesting again that we’re living in some kind of Kentucky time warp. By my calculations, we’re just shy of a year since the events of the pilot, and yet we’ve gone from 2009 to the year of American Hustle.

  • Writer Chris Provenzano pulls off the hat-trick with this one, three episodes in one season. Previously: Whistle Past The Graveyard and Shot All To Hell, so I’m glad he got to give us the fallout on Kendal and Wendy and the closure on Dewey Crowe’s turtle-dog.

  • It’s the little things I enjoy in this one. Darryl’s falsetto “housekeeping!” Wynn Duffy shouting to the heavens as his Winnebago’s being towed. One last car, that shitheap Gremlin, Dewey can’t remember how to park. Boyd, peeking through the blinds as they’re getting towed, messing with Raylan’s nameplate on the desk.

  • “Well, you got your fish in the boat. Think you gonna have to put him back?” asks Boyd, and Raylan: “We do, he’ll likely want to kill you.” But Boyd remembers season 4: “Well, I don’t know. You’re pretty good. I figure you’ll get to him first.”

  • “If it’s an apology for sending me to hell, I’ll take the kindness. It’s been one of the more frustrating days in recent memory.”

  • This time, fourth season. Raylan and Tim and Rachel ran all over Harlan trying to mess up some bad guy’s day— in this case, anyone hampering Shelby’s deal by hiding Ellen May. Boyd and Colt and Augustine were all in search of the same thing, until Ava put a stop to it. All Ava wanted was some Peace of Mind.

Tim and I talked about this at length on the last day we worked together. For me, I’m asking myself, what do I want to say— what do we as a company want to say— about love? What do I want to say about friendship? What do I want to say about the person that I’ve become over the course of six years in this show? I feel like it would be doing a disservice to the audience without really thinking about those larger tent pole issues.

Walton Goggins on how the show will address bigger issues than good guys versus bad guys for its final turn. (via ‘Justified’ spoilers: Season 6 themes and Ava’s fate - National TV | Examiner.com)

This is why I’ve trusted the show with my heart since day one.

“Darryl Crowe? I know him. I don’t like him. You want him? I’ll find him.”

Like every other antagonist on every other season of Justified, the season’s winding down and I realize, I’m going to miss them. Whether I want them to meet whatever glorious end they’ve got coming (Quarles, Augustine, Darryl), or whether I’m irrationally hoping they don’t (Mags), the chaos and personality they’ve brought to the show will leave a vacuum to fill just the same.

Darryl has turned into one crafty son of a bitch with a Florida cracker accent and however shit goes down next week, I’m gonna miss the hell out of Rapaport. The whole Crowe clan, really, but he in particular has brought Darryl to life in a way that Elmore would love, and a way I’m going to treasure myself for a long time. Now, whenever I’m reading Elmore and I come across a Crowe, I’ll get to laugh and remember the Crowes we had for a while.

“Darryl Crowe? I know him. I don’t like him. You want him? I’ll find him.”

Like every other antagonist on every other season of Justified, the season’s winding down and I realize, I’m going to miss them. Whether I want them to meet whatever glorious end they’ve got coming (Quarles, Augustine, Darryl), or whether I’m irrationally hoping they don’t (Mags), the chaos and personality they’ve brought to the show will leave a vacuum to fill just the same.

Darryl has turned into one crafty son of a bitch with a Florida cracker accent and however shit goes down next week, I’m gonna miss the hell out of Rapaport. The whole Crowe clan, really, but he in particular has brought Darryl to life in a way that Elmore would love, and a way I’m going to treasure myself for a long time. Now, whenever I’m reading Elmore and I come across a Crowe, I’ll get to laugh and remember the Crowes we had for a while.

I feel like Boyd and Raylan are actually, actively angry at each other in an "I can't even enjoy this banter because of how badly I want to not be looking at you right now" kind of way and it is surprisingly distressing to me. The state of Boyd and Ava, on the other hand, is entirely *unsurprisingly* distressing to me, even if I did see it coming. Next season is going to involve lots of pausing to listen to the drive by truckers and think about Dairy Queen.

Anonymous

It’s funny, I’ve been having a variation of this conversation on Twitter this week, and in a few emails too, and I keep going, “Nobody’s had any sleep!” Raylan’s got Ava up at 4 am. Boyd and Duffy are up at 4 am. Then it’s nonstop into the wee hours of the next morning, most of it spent running all over God’s green creation. No wonder it’s all falling apart. “I think some sleep is what you need,” Darryl says to Wendy, and he could say it to the lot of them. When’s the last time anybody had a good night’s sleep?

A good night’s sleep and some coffee in the morning and some Drive-By Truckers on a front porch. Whether or not it could fix anything now, it sure couldn’t hurt. I think it could fix a lot.