Quick Take: Justified, "Bulletville"
Watching this first season finale is indeed well justified.
Review: Justified, "Bulletville"
(S0113) I set an extremely high bar for Justified after its stellar series premiere ("Fire in the Hole"). Its storytelling was strong and assured, a modern day Western with a quirky and atmospheric sensibility that only the genius of Elmore Leonard (legendary crime fiction writer and executive producer on the show) could bring. Throw in Timothy Olyphant as leading man Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins as potential nemesis Boyd Crowder, and the potential in my view was unlimited.
As the first half of the season wore on, Crowder went largely unseen and the story started to take on more of a mystery-of-the-week quality, with Raylan forced increasingly to work around or against the simple code that governs his life, and helped to land him back in the Lexington, Kentucky office of the U.S. Marshal's Service. So, there were a few episodes that felt more "one off" than chapter of an epic tale, and a few episodes where the twist involved Raylan not having a kick ass duel or gun battle of some sort. Justified never became weak but… my attention started to wander. So much so in fact that I lost track of it mid-season and only caught up very recently.
I'm so glad that I did, as the second half of the season picked up steam beautifully, and culminated in a satisfying (if not electrifying) season finale. The reason it works so well is that the threads of the season/series long story arc began to be sown mid-season. Raylan was confronted with a series of personal and family issues – papa Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry) involvement with Boyd's papa Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey, who seems to be in everything on television these days, including stints on Lost and Happy Town), a steamy if unstable relationship with Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), and dealings with ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) and her husband Gary (William Ragsdale) – that helped to transcend past the "one off" dramatic level.
Most of all, Goggins performance as Boyd over the last series of episodes made the biggest difference. He transforms from an atrocious if charming White supremacist and bank robber to a jailhouse converted old time preacher of the gospel hour, and then again to some new and uncertain friend to Raylan by the end of "Bulletville." Just writing that makes me feel that it shouldn't have worked for just being so odd and unwieldy a transformation, but it does. I couldn't get enough of his enigmatic and offbeat twang, and his campaign to destroy Bo's meth business (while keeping his trademark "fire in the hole!" before letting loose a bomb or rocket launcher) with no material profit for himself throws the series and all its characters for a true head scratching loop.
The relationships between the two fathers and two sons (Raylan and Arlo, Boyd and Bo) were also established very well that we got some nice parallels and emotional resonance from both. I particularly liked that if there wasn't a whole lot of good in either Arlo or Bo, we saw things in them that that were at times charming or even endearing (Arlo using his con man's skills to bullshit the soldier about to be deployed to Afghanistan into standing down from blowing himself up with a hand grenade comes to mind). And both turned firmly against the better natures of their respective sons in fundamental ways, Arlo trying to scam his son in order to get closer to Bo (failing miserably in a brilliant scene in which Raylan gets the drop on his old man, seeing his game running from miles away), and Bo massacring his son's "flock" for using his strange powers to mess with his drug trade.
Therefore, there was much justice to be served in the Justified season finale, and served out well it was. Bo catches a bullet courtesy of the furious drug cartel and seemingly dies, while Arlo takes a flesh wound bullet from Raylen's gun and sees his plans deflated. Boyd gets a few steps closer to real redemption via sincerely apologizing to Ava for the hell she went through, and helps Raylan to stave off both Bo's crew and the cartel in a terrific standoff at an old time cabin in the woods.
Here's how I know that I'm now firmly hooked: I want to see what happens next. Where does Boyd (said to be a regular character next season, for which we can all applaud) go from here in his personal journey, as well as his friendship with Raylan? And surely Arlo and his wife Helen (Linda Gehringer) will have a further role to play in Raylan's future. And I'm particularly interested to see how the love triangle between Raylan, Ava, and Winona plays out. The buildup of the Raylan-Winona reconnection was very nicely played out this season, but it would be too easy to simply allow them to get back together and have them live happily ever after. Maybe Gary makes a play to work things out with Winona, or foolishly sets out to take down Raylan?
Video: Justified, "Bulletville"
Catch the Justified season finale in full from Hulu, while available:
Recap: Justified, "Bulletville"
In the season finale, things come to a head in Harlan when the worlds of Raylan, Boyd and Bo Crowder collide.
From Around the Web: Justified, "Bulletville"