Season 5 of Justified is over, but there’s plenty to talk about last night’s season finale, “Retribution”. Here are seven Focus Points on the finale and their effect on the series final season next year.
1. Raylan and Kendal have a chat
With one of the themes of the season being separation (Kendal from Wendy, Raylan from Art, Ava from Boyd, and even Raylan from Winona and daughter) there’s a nice reinforcement of Raylan trying to reach out to troubled kids who come from rough upbringings. Loretta McCready actually bet on his heroic nature. Raylan tried to prevent Kendal from entrusting his future with Daryl with his radio winnings, but as Raylan knows, you can’t escape who you’re born with. Raylan knew how to break the kid down and get him to say what he needed to confirm that he didn’t do it–even if he didn’t give up Daryl. The solution still required Wendy’s help in the end, but there’s something about Raylan’s stories, even ones about Arlo that seduce you. Or maybe it’s just the way he says, “cocoa.” Kendal, as misguided as he was, tried to act tough but was no match when Raylan walked through the door. He may be an absent father, but his efforts with Kendal and Loretta show that he could be a good dad yet. It was a really strong scene (without guns involved) shared between Tim Olyphant and Jacob Lofland, who from his introduction felt genuine every time he was on camera.
2. Good help is hard to find
Apart from Colt, Jimmy (Jesse Luken) was one of Boyd’s henchmen that didn’t try to go behind his back. He was loyal to a fault and may have complained at times but he had good reason because Boyd gave him some shit work. One couldn’t help but feel bad for Jimmy, considering he tried to save Boyd, even at the end. But three-against-one is bad odds, even for a tough guy like Raylan. Still, that was some serious pain on Walton Goggins’ face, and must have felt like another stab in the heart for Boyd. Johnny betrayed him, and Boyd took care of it. Jimmy did everything he could to help and his fate was out of his control. Consider all the people who have died –especially in Season 1– trusting Boyd or fighting for his causes. It may explain why he appears so defeated entering Wynn Duffy’s deluxe Winnebago. We’ll miss you, Jimmy.
3. Raylan lets Wendy finish off Daryl
I can’t say that this was a surprise, but it was so satisfying watching Wendy blast off her brother’s nut sack and throat, leaving Daryl to die. Villains have a way of bleeding out on the floor in Justified. Remember Robert Quarles? Since this was a story about family –an ongoing theme of the series– Raylan left it for the family to do the work for him. Daryl certainly gave Wendy enough ammunition to do it, whether it’s for trying to put Art’s shooting on Kendal or beating her to a pulp. I find the more interesting facets of this family bond could be traced back to their history not shown. How bad of a mother was Wendy for Daryl to step in? How many times did Daryl beat his sister up? Was there ever a relationship between Wendy and Daryl?
I know, I know, that steps into cliché redneck material there, but the way they played it on camera, there appeared to be some deeper feelings of love and hate. Perhaps that’s why she pointed the gun where she did. Daryl “loved” Kendal (If hanging him up to attempted murder could be called love) like his own son, definitely more than his supposed biological dad. Viewers stepped into this family tree with the roots already dug in, so this confrontation could simply be resolving a long and tired sibling rivalry, anger about the past, or just Wendy coming to grips with the terrible person she is–we’ll never know; Raylan did nothing to stop it, and advised Wendy to stop from putting another bullet in Daryl before a self-defense case could be thrown out. So he didn’t get his hands dirty, and Wendy and Kendal try to repair their mother-son relationship. Alica Witt put on a great show this season and was the most pleasant surprise of Season 5.
4. The Drug Cartel vs. Boyd, Tim, & Rachel
The finale’s biggest action standoff was also one of the fastest. No long talk up or soliloquies. This was Tim and Rachel holding ground and taking out the cartel. It does say a lot about Boyd, using Tim and Rachel (and Raylan) to save his hide once again, and leading them into an ambush. He’s smart and resourceful but he only looks out for himself. I was pleased to see both Tim and Rachel used increasingly the last three episodes; hopefully this is a preview of things to come in Season 6. Will there be any revenge by Mr. Yeun and the cartel? Anything is possible, but as long as Boyd and Wynn leave the heroin trade, then they probably don’t have to look over their shoulders. And since the marshals got involved, this appears to be the end of the cartel thread, especially with the new arrangement between our remaining criminals…
5. Boyd and Wynn are back in business with… Katharine Hale
After taking care of the cartel, Boyd squared up his debt with Wynn, but Justified’s new power couple made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, leaving us with that cheshire grin of approval we’ve come to love. What was interesting about this conversation was that it was Katharine Hale doing most of the talking; she’s the one who made the offer to Boyd to get back in the business of robbing banks and she led us to believe that she was the reason her husband’s criminal operation ran smoothly. ADA David Vasquez’s history with Katharine and his nervous body language also builds her reputation as a person of interest. As for Boyd, he needs new soldiers. He’s had more buffoons like Dewey than loyal help like Jimmy or Colt, but I doubt Katharine puts up with that kind of ineptitude in Season 6? If she’s smart, Katharine will play to Boyd’s strengths and get him to blow shit up.
6. Ava’s uneasy alliance with Raylan and lack of relationship with Boyd
The finale ended with this awesome scene on the bridge and we now know that Ava’s release hinges on her cooperation to help bring in Boyd. But I don’t think the writers would make it that easy. We have to believe that the hard time in prison affected Ava, or at least influenced her to some degree. I see Limehouse coming into the fold in the final season and be there for Ava in some way because he’d be someone who isn’t looking to use her.
Will she get involved with Boyd’s bank heists? Will she break into her own crime on the side, while helping Raylan? Will there be a permanent divide between Boyd and Ava or will there be an attempt to salvage that, knowing Raylan’s plans for Boyd? Or will she try to win him back, only to save herself and stab Boyd in the back in the end, or perhaps stab Raylan? Ava is the pivotal character. There was also no love lost between Raylan and Ava, and maybe this squashes all of those shippers’ hopes looking for these two to rekindle the Season 1 chemistry. Either way, we’re extremely happy to see Ava get out of prison and back in the fold playing off of the main cast like a glove fitting a hand. Joelle Carter resumed her on-screen chemistry with Goggins and Olyphant, as seen in the last two scenes, thus solidifying the main crime story for next season.
7. We have our end in sight
Raylan has his way out of Harlan and Kentucky for good. With Art submitting his transfer back to Florida, that gives a storybook ending to this six-year crime story with Raylan rocking his daughter to sleep. He just has to finish one last job and that’s to put Boyd Crowder behind bars. But this is Justified we’re talking about here, so just getting Boyd in jail doesn’t seem right. The grave is probably more like it. Could this really be the ending or a set up for tragedy?
Showrunner Graham Yost told us that the writers’ room has an ending in mind, and what they’d like to see, but they’re not sure who’s going to die and how they’ll get there. Everyone is fair game, and that includes Raylan. Let’s not assume the “good guy” wins; Raylan has had questionable judgment along the way and the ending of Season 5 could be foreboding. Remember, we are sure to hear “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” in some way (we’ve heard three renditions already) but will it refer to Ava, Boyd, or Raylan? Maybe two of them, or all three? Of the three, Raylan is the only one trying to leave Harlan. The answer to that question is probably best answered with another question that’s guided the entire series: What would Elmore Leonard do?