Season four of Justified is at an end, and that means it’s time to see if the hammer is going to fall on any or all of the usual suspects. If this series is known for one thing, it’s that it likes to end its years with a bang…sometimes more than one. What happens in this last piece of season four, though, comes with more questions than answers.
At the Marshals Office, a satisfied Raylan declares that “All is right with the world,” which Art doesn’t quite believe. He says he got a call from Winona about having two rocking chairs, since there’s the suspicious one that showed up last week. Raylan arrives and doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that Winona’s front door is cracked open. When our hero walks in, he finds two armed thugs pointing weapons at him.
He’s not the only one having a bad day: Boyd, Ava and Jimmy intend to move the body that Ava and Ellen May dumped down the mine shaft. Unfortunately, when they get there, the county sheriffs are already on the scene.
Back at Casa Winona, Raylan and Winona are being held hostage by several bad guys in their baby’s nursery. One of them tells Raylan that they need him to do something for them: take them to where he’s keeping Drew Thompson. Raylan retorts that he can’t help them, before he manages to get his hands on a gun and drop two of the bad guys. The other one gets about a dozen slugs in him courtesy of both Raylan and a terrified Winona. They’re going to need a new nursery.
Art and AUSA David Vasquez (guest star Rick Gomez) arrive soon afterward, and explain to Raylan that the only person who can get them off Nick Augustine’s hit list is Sammy Tonin, the Detroit Mafia twerp from last season that Raylan can’t stand. Art warns Raylan that if he goes after Augustine himself, “don’t bother coming back,” but we all know that Raylan isn’t going to listen. Instead, he goes to talk to Winona, telling her, “I’m going to find the guy responsible for this, and I’m gonna take care of it.” Because that’s what Raylan does.
While Boyd and Ava contemplate if they’ll have to go on the run, they have a meeting with the local undertaker, wanting to know if police have yet identified the body from the mine shaft. Boyd wants to make sure it’s identified as someone else, and calls in a debt the undertaker owes him to make it happen. That’s how Boyd and Jimmy end up in a cemetary in the middle of the night, digging up a grave. At least Boyd is willing to do his own dirty work. The two of them remove the body of Henry Willis and bring it back in plastic wrap, depositing it on the table in the bar’s back room, much to Ava’s horror.
Not a few minutes later, Raylan comes to the bar calling for Boyd, wanting to know how Augustine found Winona and insisting that both Boyd and Ava are going to come with him when he goes after the mafia shot-caller. He implies that he’s spoken to Ellen May, which raises Boyd’s eyebrows. “You ain’t got nothin’ on Ava,” Boyd retorts, to which Raylan replies, “Are you sure?” The two men have a stare-down, after which Boyd agrees to take Raylan to Augustine. For his part, Augustine appears completely unruffled by this unscheduled visit.
While Ava and Jimmy swap corpses, Boyd tells Raylan that whatever Augustine knows about Winona did not come from him, and they discuss Boyd’s relationship with Ava. Boyd thinks Raylan might be jealous, seeing as how Ava is also Raylan’s ex-girlfriend. Raylan retorts that he thinks Boyd loves anything that makes him not feel like the bad guy. As Boyd drops an armed Raylan off for his late-night meeting, Ava kicks Jimmy out of her vehicle and drives off without him.
Raylan offers Augustine (guest star Mike O’Malley) a deal: turn himself in, confess to a whole host of things, and leave Raylan’s family alone, or end up dead. Augustine not only doesn’t take the offer, but goes on to say that he’s headed to Detroit to kill Sammy and will come back for Raylan’s family when he’s done. “The only chance they have now is if you use that Glock on me to end this,” he snaps. Raylan’s next move is to speak with Sammy (guest star Max Perlich) and inform him how the chips have fallen. When Sammy asked if Raylan would feel any obligation as a lawman to intervene in anything that follows, Raylan flippantly responds, “‘I’m suspended.” And he doesn’t look back as Sammy’s thugs riddle Augustine’s car with bullets. Hey, don’t say there wasn’t another option.
Boyd returns to the bar and is shocked when Ava isn’t there. She’s trying to dispose of the body herself, which proves to be a bad idea, as she’s discovered and taken into custody. Boyd doesn’t get to her until several hours later, when he proceeds to try to beat up the sheriff that arrested her, and gets assaulted himself. Watching the whole thing is Cassie (guest star Lindsay Pulsipher), and it all starts to make sense. Ava cries in the back of the police car, and she and Boyd share a kiss goodbye before she’s taken away.
Winona and Raylan reaffirm their love for each other as he apologizes for everything she’s just been through. “Least nobody died,” she states, before she grabs her bag and heads off for safer places. One wonders if we’ll see her or Raylan Junior again next season; you’d think so, but doesn’t this scene also point out that the world of Justified is a little too deadly to have a newborn around with any regularity? With his baby mama in the wind, Raylan sets to fixing the holes in the wall of Arlo’s house, at least until Art phones him.
As if Boyd’s day isn’t horrible enough, Wynn Duffy (guest star Jere Burns) pays him a visit, explaining that Sammy is the new head of the Detroit mafia, and that has meant a promotion for him as well. Boyd wonders why Duffy came all the way there to tell him that news. Duffy refers to them both as “survivors” and says that he’d like Boyd to handle his heroin distribution in Kentucky – offering him the partnership that Boyd wanted earlier this season. He’s gone as quickly as he arrived, leaving Boyd to break into the house he would have shared with Ava.
With his baby mama on the road, Raylan sets to fixing the holes in the wall of Arlo’s house, at least until Art phones him. He pretends he doesn’t know that Augustine was executed by Sammy. “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” plays again as Raylan eyes the creepy headstones his father picked out for the family.
This is a Justified finale that is much more low-key than any of the ones before it. While there’s still a body count, most of what happens is accomplished with words, not actions, keeping in line with the past couple of episodes. Is that wrong? No. As has been established, Raylan Givens isn’t purely a fighter – he can also effectively solve problems without bullets. Is it a letdown? In some aspects, because Justified has become known for not pulling its punches. There’s a certain amount of pop that comes from those huge confrontations and gun battles, and without them, it’s not quite as lively as usual.
Having said that, there are some intriguing plot threads for next season. As has been previously mentioned here, the show is going to have to address Raylan’s personal life – how is it going to work in his being a father? What kind of relationship, if any, will he have with Winona? Or will the show stick him with another new love interest, and continue the play we saw this season, where Winona and the baby only appear sporadically? That seems a little bit like cheating (why introduce the pregnancy subplot at all if it’s going to be pretty much an afterthought?) but it also seems like the most logical idea. Then again, no doubt it will also depend on Natalie Zea’s availability, since she’s also on The Following – another show on which her survival isn’t a sure thing.
The showrunners would be ill-advised to get rid of Ava, so season five will have to address how to get her out of the trouble she’s currently in. Likewise, although the rift between the cousins is pretty darn wide now, Justified ought to keep David Meunier around, so how would Johnny get back into the picture? This season has ended in such a way that the writers could make some significant changes to the show, but ironically, it’s also the season that’s proven that they shouldn’t. We’ve seen a storyline without a real “big bad” (unless you count Nick Augustine, who is not on the level of Mags Bennett or Robert Quarles) and it’s been strong and entertaining almost throughout the entire run. While we could see some leaps forward and maybe some missing faces, maintaining the status quo in Harlan County wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
Justified has been renewed for season 5 and will return in January 2014.