Justified: Bulletville

Raylan: "You didn't happen to bring your rocket launcher, did you?"
Boyd: "I didn't think to pack one."

If they hadn't gotten another season (and I'm so glad they did), this episode would have worked beautifully as a series finale. The father/son conflict at the heart of the story was resolved, miraculously without Raylan or Boyd actually committing patricide, but with Arlo defanged and Bo dead. (Sons two, Dads zero.) Although there were a few semi-pointless non-arc criminal-of-the-week episodes, this first season was pretty strong. And it certainly ended with a whole lot of bang bang.

I'm not a big fan of gun battles, but damn, this was a really good one. What made it work for me emotionally was Raylan and Boyd, two characters I'm completely invested in, joining forces against Bo and the cartel. They're enemies, yes, but they were always on the same side when it came to Ava. It was even rather touching that Boyd said Raylan was the only friend he had left, and he clearly meant it.

Raylan is pragmatic, almost to a fault. He was actually expecting his own father to turn on him. I found it disturbing and utterly horrible that Arlo was capable of capturing his own son, knowing full well that the Miami cartel was planning to torture him to death. (Raylan shooting his own father in the arm didn't bother me a bit.)

Even so, what Bo did to Boyd was arguably worse than what Arlo nearly did to Raylan. It was bad enough having Johnny as his proxy beating Boyd down in the "other cheek" scene, but executing Boyd's entire flock? Boyd finding all those bodies hanging from the trees like some kind of horrible fruit was almost too much. (Exceptionally high body count in this episode, huh?) Unlike Raylan, Boyd never expected his own father to be so evil.

Boyd's grief, guilt and confusion was so moving. I love Walton Goggins as Boyd. It's nearly the perfect marriage of complicated character and outstanding actor. I particularly liked the way he looked in this episode, because it was an outward reflection of what Boyd was thinking and feeling. In several scenes, he held his body like a vertical black line, literally straight and narrow and much like a priest in a cassock. He tried to kill Bo, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it. What will Boyd be like after this experience? Is he capable of being a good man, after all? Is his belief system gone, or will he manage to hang on to it?

One more thing about Boyd. He was initially supposed to die at the end of the pilot episode, but the character was so intriguing that they decided to hang on to him. (And yay.) It's obvious that when they decided to retain Boyd, the racism went away. (And yay.) It has been implied that the Nazi crap was just a front Boyd used to recruit skinheads to rob banks for him.

Anyway.

It's not just the Raylan/Boyd relationship that I enjoy so much. Boyd's regard for Ava is so intriguing. The episode opened with Boyd coming to Ava's door and apologizing for lusting after her, as well as not taking action to save her from Bowman. And then he made amends by risking his own life to save her from his own father. I remember in the pilot that Ava said Bowman beat her once because she referred to Boyd as "creepy". I would imagine that what Boyd just did might change her opinion of him.

Wouldn't Boyd and Ava make a fascinating couple?

Bits and pieces:

-- They left us with one big question: did Boyd, with a bullet in his shoulder, manage to catch Pilar? Either way, Gio might be even more determined to get Raylan now.

-- What happened to Johnny Crowder? Did he die? And how many Crowders shot other Crowders this season? I lost count. That family is now a lot smaller.

-- M.C. Gainey was a marvelous villain.

-- Gary moved out, leaving the field clear for Raylan and Winona. Raylan looked a little shocked at that news. Maybe he's not quite ready to jump back into a relationship with Winona.

-- Art is likely to be unhappy about all the people Raylan shot in this episode. How many was it? Five?

-- Apparently, there is a Bullittsville in Kentucky, but not a Bulletville. But it's a great name.

-- The last moment was Raylan aiming his gun at the departing Boyd and making a "pow" sound. Perfect.

Quotes:

Boyd: "For years I lusted after you, and I was far from subtle. Well, that was wrong. And not only because you were my brother's wife, but because it was unseemly, unwanted and it made you uncomfortable."
Ava: "If by uncomfortable you mean it made my skin crawl, then yes."

Raylan: "A dozen barrels of ephedrine?"
Art: "Somebody is going into the meth business in a big way."
Raylan: "Or the folks in Harlan are really, really congested."

Art: (re: Boyd) "Maybe he's become some kind of vigilante."
Raylan: "Mmm. Maybe he's Batman."

Bo: "Who am I kidding. I can't hurt my own son. Johnny, hurt my son."

Boyd: "Do you believe in God?"
Raylan: "I do."
Boyd: "Tell me about your God, Raylan."
Raylan: "Well you know, white hair, long beard, sits on a heavenly throne."

Pilar: (shouting from outside) "All we want is Raylan Givens!"
Raylan: "I'm Raylan Givens!"
Boyd: "No, I'm Raylan Givens!"
Raylan: "Are you trying to be funny?"
Boyd: "A little."

Boyd: "I ain't going anywhere. They killed my daddy."
Raylan: "You came here to kill your daddy yourself."
Boyd: "Well, that's different."
Raylan: "How?"

Four out of four rocket launchers,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Mark Greig said...

This was a great ending to a great season. And that final moment was just perfect.

I've loved your season one reviews, Billie. Look forward to season two (and three).

Josie Kafka said...

Ditto on the love, Billie. Congratulations on finishing an entire season so quickly.

Even knowing how this episode ended, it was still such a pleasure to watch. And, hey! It's like a more complicated shoot-out at the OK Corral, with Boyd as the "vigilante" Doc Holliday, and Raylan as Wyatt Earp against the Clanton/Crowders. The Earps and Holliday didn't have quite as many daddy issues, though.

Jess Lynde said...

I've really enjoyed your Season 1 reviews, Billie. I'm liking Justified, but for the most part it is a show that I watch and enjoy without thinking about too deeply (so far). So your reviews have added an extra layer to the experience.

This was quite the season finale, though. Much as I enjoyed the stuff with Raylan and the shoot out at Bo's cabin, it was Boyd's story that resonated with me most deeply. They've done an excellent job of making us believe in his transformation, and the scene of him finding his men after Bo was done with them was utterly haunting and heartbreaking. Walton Goggins as Boyd is indeed compelling.

ChrisB said...

"In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
You will never leave Harlan alive."
--Lyrics by Brad Paisley

I kept playing these four lines of music over and over. What a perfect way to end this season. For finally, this season was about Harlan, its people and its people inability to get away from the town and each other.

In the first episode, Raylan is forced back home; yet, his homecoming seems almost inevitable as the season progresses. He has so much emotional baggage tied up in that town that he would eventually have had to come back. Even the women he gets involved with represent this struggle. Winona is the woman (not from Harlan) whom he loved/loves, yet there is something about Ava (from Harlan) that he cannot resist.

Arlo and Bo, whom we learn have known each other for fifty years, are both such despicable men. Yet, what made them that way? Was it the desperation to stay out of the mines, obviously the only way to earn any money in that part of the world? Throughout the series, they sink lower and lower into such immorality that it is difficult to remember that, at some point, they must have been young men (like their sons) trying to find their way.

Boyd's transformation seems almost real to me. And, it is interesting that while his going against his father had the inevitable conclusion, he phrases his actions in terms of Harlan. He didn't want the meth labs anywhere near his town. And Sheriff Mosley, the last time we see him this series, talks about the good he did for the town -- even though it meant getting into bed with a drug cartel.

So many of the people in Harlan are tied together through family. Johnny (who I really hope somehow survives) is a Crowder, but only Bo's nephew which makes him feel like he is not quite good enough. I thought it interesting that he tried to join forces with Bo's son rather than just take Bo on alone. Raylan's Aunt Helen marries her brother-in-law, even though she was the one who knew what he was like throughout Raylan's childhood. I've never been able to completely wrap my head around why she made that choice.

Small towns and the people who live in them. Who would have guessed that so many compelling characters and stories could come of them?