The finale to Justified‘s fifth season is just a week away. We’re in a place in time now that, during previous seasons, was filled with tension, cliffhangers and high stakes that made you nail bite your way through the last couple of episodes a season had to offer. But Justified‘s been off its game for weeks now and ‘Starvation’, the penultimate outing, didn’t manage to turn that around. It squandered the momentum last week’s ‘The Toll’ had built, giving us an episode that started out strong, but soon after lost its sense of urgency. After the first scene in which Jere Burns’ Wynn Duffy tried to convince the Mexican cartel he had dealt with Boyd, a terrific and tense scene that made you wonder if this was a flashforward or just one of Duffy’s plays (the latter, it turned out, to save Boyd and himself), ‘Starvation’ went through the motions until the last five minutes, where it nailed an interesting set-up for next week’s ‘Restitution’.
Everything in between was bland and forgettable though. The Mexicans were after Boyd who tried to save his own skin and cooperated with the Marshals to do so. Raylan was after Daryl Crowe Jr. and tried to use Boyd’s knowledge to find and catch him, while Boyd tried to pin his own misdeeds regarding the heroin shipment on Daryl and hoped to be awarded a clean slate for himself by helping the Marshals. Because Boyd knew Daryl was after his bricks of heroin he made sure Daryl knew of their whereabouts, setting up an ambush for the Crowe. But Daryl isn’t an idiot, so he sent his sister to collect the dope, which led to plan B: to set up a meet with Crowder and Crowe and record it. It was then up to Boyd to make Daryl talk, so Raylan and company could capture the oldest Crowe and start his prosecution, beginning with possession of illegal goods. We knew it wouldn’t play out that way though: we were shown Dewey was returning home, which could only lead to one thing, namely the Crowe family idiot getting arrested, thwarting the Marshals’ plans. That’s exactly what happened, which almost made the episode end with a whimper. It didn’t though because Raylan stepped up his game: he made sure the innocent Kendal Crowe would be facing trial as an adult, in an effort to play Wendy and Daryl against each other. We’ll see how that evolves next week, but it sure is something that’s starting to resemble a high-stakes game. Let’s hope next week’s episode can maintain the momentum this episode’s final moments built. Last note: meanwhile Ava’s been set up in jail and the Mexicans are onto Boyd and Duffy, so there’s a lot that has to come to a head next week.
‘Starvation’ was more busy setting up an interesting jumping-off point for the season finale, than offering solid entertainment. It was all very predictable and formulaic fare, lacking appeal because the buildup of tension, excitement and emotional investment has been absent for most of the season now. 5/10