Justifiable - Macleans.ca



What did y’all think of the season finale of Justified? This has been a terrific season for what is arguably the most entertaining drama on the air right now, and the finale had mostly terrific acting (this show has some of the best guest or multi-episode arc characters on TV, and Margo Martindale and Kaitlyn Dever have both booked major new pilots for next season after their great performances this season). And – spoilers below…

…and the season finale had plenty of the show’s signature great funny/scary moments, like Dickie (Jeremy Davies) using Raylan as a piñata, or the sound of one gunshot setting off a full-scale war. This is a show that is very good at reconciling the fact that violence is fun to watch – TV violence, anyway – with the basic clumsiness and ugliness of real violence. It doesn’t shirk its duty as an action-packed fun show, doesn’t lecture us about enjoying violence, but shows us that it’s not pretty.

I did have some real reservations about the way the episode ended, and the ending made the rest of the episode seem a little more problematic in context. Raylan was essentially a passive hero for most of the episode, standing around while others do things. For most of the episode’s length, this didn’t bother me, because Olyphant is so cool, and Raylan has built up his badass cred so thoroughly, that the show can get away with putting him into the background or humiliating him a little; it shows he’s not a superhero. (It’s a bit like James Bond in From Russia With Love and Goldfinger is a passive loser and a screw-up for much of the story, but he’s James Bond, so we don’t doubt he’s cool.) But I thought they pushed it too far, or piled too many different passive-hero ideas one on top of another. Having him get rescued at the last minute by another character – fine. Happens all the time; happened to James Bond. But then doing the same thing again just a few minutes later, having Raylan just about to be killed when someone else shows up to rescue him, seemed like overkill. A friend said the writers “cut off his balls,” and I wouldn’t put it that way, but I felt like they just de-activated him a little too much.

I thought it made the final scene weaker than it might have been, because by that time Raylan really didn’t have his usual credibility as a man of action, and the twist on the usual “If you kill her you will be like her” speech was supposed to be that Loretta could wind up not only like Mags, but like Raylan. And since they didn’t try to have a twist on the result of the speech (I’m not saying they should have, necessarily; just that it ended as we expected) it needed the extra bite that it would have had coming from a more active protagonist. By the time of the very final scene, where he more or less has to be passive or the bit doesn’t work, the sense of him being a guest on his own show put a bit of a damper on the moment.

Anyway, it doesn’t change the excellence of the season overall – a lot of people were disappointed with last season’s finale, though that was more to my taste. Endings to a season-long story are always going to be a little problematic at times.

Filed under:


  1. good to see Macleans cover one of the better shows on television. i wouldn't go as far as to say it's the best on the air right now, considering Breaking Bad blows just about everything else out of the water. terrific show though. i think the writers' decision to make Raylan more passive in this season comes from the whole "you can't leave home again" idea. life in Harlan goes on with or without him. it's just a heck of a lot more interesting when he stays.

  2. What I thought was interesting was the way they set Raylan against Walton Goggins again. Both seasons the arc seemed to indicate there would be some final confrontation with them, only to switch it up in the last episode when they suddenly have to work together to reach a common goal.

    It shows that you never can see what’s coming on this show, and that’s part of what’s great about it. I also echo your thoughts on the violence of the show. My wife watches about 50 USA Network shows that are formally similar to Justified, but she doesn’t watch Justified because of the violence and language. I like it better because it’s honest about what it’s depicting without being overbearing about it. Burn Notice has just as much mayhem and murder (actually more) but is nicey-nicey about how they depict it. While the show is enjoyable, it does put it at a lower level.

    Finally, the writers in season 2 ran actively away from Raylan’s “fastest gun in the west” persona from Season One. How many episodes featured his superior gun skills? I can’t think of any – even the one where he is hiding the warehouse with his ex-wife doesn’t feature him doing anything all that more extraordinary than his enemies. They also gave his Marshall Service boss a much more real-feeling reaction to having to supervise someone like that (i.e., he hates it and his fuse is burning down on putting up with it). It’s amazing that all worked and you still view him as a hero even though events as well as the character’s family work overtime to humanize him.

    Great post, great show.