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Justified: The Promise

"We dug coal together."

Not what I expected. But that's okay.

For a show as violent as Justified that features two mortal enemies on opposite sides of the law, I couldn't help but expect a violent ending. Instead, they went for this Elmore Leonard-ish wordy sort of thing, with a long coda set four years in the future. I didn't think it was working for me, either. But then, that last conversation between Raylan and Boyd really got to me.

Even though Boyd and Raylan didn't shoot each other, we did get gun battles. The mess in the Bennett drying shed was a shocker, especially when Boyd refused to pick up the loaded gun and actually surrendered to Raylan. I thought they'd established this season and certainly in the penultimate episode that Boyd was an outlaw who'd die before going back to jail. Maybe when he was actually faced with that death, Boyd realized he just wasn't ready to go.

The Raylan/Boon showdown on the road was satisfying too, as well as oddly comical. I laughed out loud when Raylan pushed back his coat in an old West kind of way to free his holster, and laughed again when Ava and Loretta slid down behind their respective dashboards in tandem. And then I was totally shocked when Raylan went down and didn't get up. For about a minute, I thought they'd done it – they'd killed their leading man. But no. And I absolutely loved that Raylan discarded his old hat because it had a bullet hole in it, and took Boon's.

We got one final rendition of "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" right before the Raylan/Boon gun battle. What a perfect auditory cue to make the possibility of Raylan dying feel more possible. In season two, Raylan saved Loretta's life. She finally returned the favor by standing on Boon's gun hand before he died.

The ending for Ava was satisfying, too. I didn't want Raylan to take her in, and he didn't. (I think it was seeing her small son, close in age to Willa, that did it.) It's a bit sad that she didn't get to keep any of the money, though. Although Wynn Duffy getting away with it all in his dog grooming van also made me laugh out loud.

There were so many callbacks to the pilot episode that I'm sure I'll miss mentioning most of them. But what I liked the most was Raylan and Boyd reconnecting in prison as Raylan was spinning cover for Ava. In "Fire in the Hole," the short story that the series was based upon, the last line was Raylan saying why he cared about Boyd: "We dug coal together." Here, they gave that last line to Boyd. Even though I had been expecting Boyd to die in the finale and they'd given us every reason to believe he would, returning to Boyd's need to preach, his desire for redemption, was quite lovely. Or maybe it was just a pleasure to see Walton Goggins giving a raucous sermon again to a brand new flock.

There was a lot more to love about this episode, too. Raylan and Art buried the hatchet and said a fond farewell to each other with what was probably very expensive bourbon. Tim and Rachel both lived through the finale and the Lexington office will continue as it was. I was so glad that Constable Bob survived. And I loved Lappicola, the officer who arrested Raylan, telling him to shut up or he'd put him in the trunk.

Best of all, Raylan made it out of Harlan alive, and spent four years in Florida building a relationship with his daughter Willa. It's a shame that things with Winona didn't work out, but honestly, I wasn't surprised. Winona had said she was ready to accept Raylan as he was, but that might have just been too hard for her. And Raylan would never find it easy to settle down.

Bits and pieces:

-- Gold acting stars for Sam Elliott, who was a terrific final season villain. When his character was introduced, he and Katherine talked about taking out someone's eye, and that's how Markham died. Nice foreshadowing there.

-- The casting gods also did a fine job with Raylan and Winona's daughter Willa. Absolutely adorable child, and she could act. And Willa shares Raylan's love of ice cream.

-- How perfectly Boyd, throwing sticks of dynamite at the marshals from above.

-- Boyd and Ava stared at each other as the marshals were taking him away. It was just a nice little moment there, their last sight of each other. I like to think Boyd wouldn't have killed Ava if Raylan hadn't shown up.

-- When Raylan left, he gave Tim a dogeared paperback book, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins. This is the book that made Elmore Leonard decide to switch from westerns to mystery/suspense. Nice tribute.

-- Also nice that they let us see Ellen May and Limehouse again.

-- Wynn Duffy's van had on it, "Down on All Fours Mobile Grooming: The experts of Doggy Style." Hilarious.

-- They brought in Jason Gedrick for about a minute to play Winona's husband or boyfriend, Richard. I think they wanted a recognizable actor in order to make it believable that Winona would prefer him to Raylan. Oddly, I just finished watching the first season of Bosch, in which Gedrick played a particularly creepy serial killer, so my reaction wasn't positive.

-- Who killed Vasquez's boss, Simon Poole? Was it Wynn Duffy? I guess it's not important.


Blue Moon bartender: "You wanna drink in here, you need a badge or a pair of tits."
Raylan: "Art, show 'em your tits."

Boyd: "Goddam, Raylan, your timing sucks!"

Art: "You tell Winona I said hey. I still don't know what she sees in you."
Raylan: "It'd be weird if you did."

Rachel: "Nice hat."
Raylan: "I tried it on and it fit."
Another callback to the pilot episode.

Winona: "You're the most stubborn man I have ever known."
Raylan: "Beats angry."
And another.

Ava: "All I got is water and water."
Raylan: "No Coca Cola or RC? Coffee?"
And another.

Ava: "It's not like you find me here running whores or robbing banks."
Raylan: "Every long time fugitive I've ever run down expects me to congratulate them for not doing what no one's supposed to be doing anyhow."

Boyd: "Raylan Givens, I know that you have never believed a word that has come out of my mouth, though I have harbored the secret hope that you have nevertheless enjoyed hearing them."

Raylan: "I suppose if I allow myself to be sentimental, despite all that has occurred, there is one thing I wander back to."
Boyd: "We dug coal together."
Raylan: "That's right."

That final scene between them was pretty much perfect. Their battle of wits ended, and Raylan won.

This finale was excellent, even if I found it a tiny bit unsatisfying. It was true to Elmore Leonard's style, and I understand why they chose to do that. Did they intentionally leave all of the major characters alive so that they could return to them someday when Boyd escapes from jail, which he inevitably will?

Four out of four black hats,

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


  1. There was a lot to like about this finale, and it wasn't what I expected it to be. Yet I understand this is the way Elmore Leonard would've done it, and I respect that.

    Getting to see that long coda was a touch bittersweet. While I agree that Raylan and Winona not working out made sense, it felt a bit disappointing. Although it was nice to see Raylan interacting with his daughter.

    I loved that Ava not only got away, but seems to have found a nice little life for herself. Too bad she's always going to be paranoid.

    Then there was that lovely conversation at the end of the episode between Raylan and Boyd. Couldn't have been better.

    This was a series that gave us some remarkable ups and downs, and I'm happy that it ended on a good note.

  2. I really liked the way the final "gunfight" between Raylan and Boyd went down. Raylan so wanted to kill him, but Boyd wouldn't give him a reason to make it "justified." He wouldn't give him the satisfaction. He was going to force Raylan to be just as bad and dirty as him, if he was going to put him down. And Raylan ultimately wouldn't bite. Perfect.

    I felt so sad when all was said and done. Watching Raylan say his goodbyes to Art, Tim, and Rachel got me a bit choked up. Then we got the extended ramp down with the time jump. I was glad to know what became of Ava and glad to see her living a decent, if haunted life. And the final chat between Raylan and Boyd was lovely. I felt fairly misty when the final credits came up. So many wonderful callbacks to the beginning, bringing things full circle, and bringing all the characters to a good final resting place, that wasn't in the ground. Not expected at all, but I found it very satisfying.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful reviews of this series, Billie. It's been great sharing the journey with you and your readers, and I'm glad this season let us really enjoy the final ride.

  3. Thought I'd share this interview with Graham Yost about the finale. He answers a lot of questions and provides his thoughts on different character bits.

    I was really satisfied, and thought that last scene between Raylan and Boyd was wonderful. I'm glad Raylan finally caught his man the right way, as Art had been telling him for years.


  4. I really loved the way it ended. I was very satisfied that our main 3 characters didn't die. The showdown with Boon was great. I think they did a wonderful job building up to that moment. I don't think Boyd would have killed Ava. He loved her too much and I think he really just wanted to know why she turned on him. Also, I thought Wynn admitted to killing Simon Poole a few episodes back? Maybe to Mikey? I might be wrong tho.

  5. Thanks for explaining the dog-eared paperback. I have read tons of last episode reviews and no one else seemed to catch it. Think this finale was perfect! Would not change a thing!

  6. I wasn't expecting such calm at the end and I'm still kind of sitting with some of the elements of the finale, but mostly I really liked it. Of course, I would have forgiven all manner of shenanigans just for that last scene with Boyd and Raylan. So satisfying.

    I've got to thank you, Billie. It was your enthusiastic endorsement that got my husband and I started watching this show and it has turned out to be one of my all time favorites. I'm so glad I didn't miss it!

  7. Thanks so much, everyone. It's been fun. Justified is a quality show, and I pretty much always enjoyed writing about it.

    These days, a bad finale usually means that people who haven't seen it probably won't try it. The more I muse about this finale, the better it gets. Let's hope that's a good sign that Justified will have staying power.

  8. Wow. It's over. I usually hate endings, especially in books and TV shows. Never want to finish that last chapter and leave the world that the author created in my head. And TV shows almost never stick the landing. Guess the show creation environment (ratings, advert $, etc) is mostly to blame. The writers gotta keep it flying, keep it flying, and then foomp! it's cancelled or nobody knows how to land the damn thing after X years.

    I thought Justified's landing was mostly perfect. What I liked best was that all the main female characters did pretty well considering all the crap they took for six years. Ava got away. Yeah, without all the money, but got away. Loretta got to finally step on Boon and will no doubt be the new pot queen of Eastern Kentucky. Them Harlan girls! And Rachel is still Chief Dep.

    And Tim's still alive! This show never had a "Bear" or other animal to worry about, so we worried about Tim instead.

    But the biggie is that Raylan did NOT kill Boyd or vice versa. Cause let's face it, villain or no, we all loved Boyd as much as we did Ava, Raylan, and the rest. Woulda been a bummer. Given this show's carnage it's wonderful that the three mains all left Harlan alive.

    I guess to end properly a show has to step out of it's usual rhythm a little. "Four Years Later" was a bit of a shock at first, but I think you're right, Billie. It will get better with rewatching because everything after that was just right. Even Raylan not being quite together with Winona and Willa worked cause hey , it's Raylan. And what he did with Ava's "death" was good for both Ava and Boyd. She can live free of fear and Boyd will get closure, although he may see through Raylan's trickery. Raylan did sell it awful hard with a death cert AND a fake DL.

    Thanks to Billie for the great reviews and all the great commenters, including our resident seer, Jesse. Yup. Feels like we all dug coal together.

  9. I accidentally semi-spoiled myself on this episode by glancing at your review, Billie, so I was prepared for the end to be more fuzzy than bloody. With that preparation, I thought it was perfect. And wonderful. And they dug coal together. Yes.

    Congratulations on wrapping another show, and thank you so much for all the wonderful reviews!

  10. Aw, you weren't that into it till the end? The whole of it was working for me :') I'm so grateful for a satisfying experience with a series finale. Even BrBa's left me with mixed feelings. If this is Elmore Leonard's style of ending, I think he's got the right idea.

    >>"When his character was introduced, he and Katherine talked about taking out someone's eye"
    Oh that's what that was... I'm an idiot, considering unlike you I saw the whole of this season within days. All I could think was "Uhh they're not making a callback to that mob boss whose eye Drew shot out are they? Buh..."

    I'm still in a daze over being interested in the coda for once, which is always the point I mentally check out of a story. Huge respect to them for having Raylan and Winona separated once again without actually giving it screentime. Very good call.

    @Kate: "I don't think Boyd would have killed Ava."
    I didn't think he would either, so I was shocked we got to see confirmation on that terrible curiosity when he finally fired the empty gun at her. Good for him, even though I'm glad she made it out. It was just too similar a beat to Katherine and Markham if he decided he could live with it.

    I'll always be a little sorry Raylan didn't tell him he has a son, even though it's the right call.

    (repost) Boyd: "Raylan Givens, I know that you have never believed a word that has come out of my mouth, though I have harbored the secret hope that you have nevertheless enjoyed hearing them."
    I know I sure did Boyd! I'm glad the ending wasn't bloody either, it would've felt perfunctory after most of the (unexpectedly) touching deaths already peppered throughout the season. Carl... of course Mikey/Katherine... and Dewey even before that. Come to think of it you killed a lot of cool guys Boyd, maybe prison really is where you deserved to land. There was also the actor who played Eli on Boardwalk Empire's character. You couldn't get away with all that!

    Thanks for reviewing the show. Anyone who watches it to completion is well rewarded

    1. "Huge respect to them for having Raylan and Winona separated once again without actually giving it screentime."

      Lol what? They gave it screentime. There's an entire scene with them in the park and the introduction of Richard. And it's a beautiful scene. Team Winona, get on the right side of history!

  11. I loved the finale and have now re-watched it way too many times to count. Loved this review even if I don't agree with every point. My favorite scenes, well there are too many. It was a perfect episode IMO. I wasn't happy with Raylan and Winona not working out because I have rooted for these two crazy kids from the beginning. But watching Raylan watch Winona walk away was a thing of beauty. It reminded me of the scene in the pilot, completely wordless too, where Raylan sits in the courthouse and watches Winona. She has no clue he's there. The intense gaze of longing and desire with a touch of regret of what was lost. Same thing in this scene. Raylan will always know Winona is the one who got away and as he says in S1, losing her will always eat at him. I'm not sure why they couldn't make it work (well, we all have theories) but I was hoping they could jump through those hurdles. These two belong to each other, and I remain hopeful that they will one day find their way back to each other.

    And with that, what a beautiful final scene. "We dug coal together. That's right."

  12. Justified has been on my “To be Watched” list for many years now. I finally got to it and zipped through the 6 seasons in about 3 weeks. Read each of your reviews and comments after each episode, of course! What great television. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for your reviews, I’m sure this wouldn’t have been a show I’d have watched off you hadn’t covered it here. Sooze


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