tv review – FX’s Justified, episode 5.13

After a sloppy season we got a paint-by-numbers finale that offered no surprises, no tension, no nuthin’. If serviceable was what the writers were going for, they succeeded… but just barely. ‘Restitution’ hastily tied up all the threads this season had started to quickly set up Justified‘s sixth and final season, which will apparently be all about taking down Boyd Crowder. Didn’t see that coming, did you? And guess who will be instrumental in the Marshals’ plans to take down Boyd? Why, Ava of course, because there had to be some kind of point to her dull and predictable prison story. If anything this week’s season finale solidified the notion that Justified‘s fifth season was a low point for the series; even the usually climactic and satisfying last few scenes fell flat, the implemention of Ruby Friedman Orchestra’s ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’ more habitual than epic, a stale shadow of the show’s better season enders.

Raylan’s plans worked out effortlessly, without a hitch. Raylan talked to Kendal, then to Wendy (who had apparently believed her brother Daryl up to that point; rendering her a blind and dumb character, a far cry from the smart and sassy strong woman we were first introduced to) and she proceeded to rat out her brother, who then threatened her, which led to his death: Wendy shot him in the groin and then in the neck, after which Raylan had a cruel and quippy line to share with the dying Crowe. While our favorite Marshal has always been a violent and angry man, he was never one to kick a man when he’s down, but this season he’s done so two times: with Danny and Daryl. I understand Raylan hated these two characters, but despite his flaws he was never a mean man: he was forceful when he needed to be, he took no prisoners in tight situations and always was quite trigger-happy, but never did he add insult to injury. Because of it he was an anti-hero to root for, not a scumbag. This season he’s gotten awfully close to the second category, another sign there’s just something inherently off to this season’s writing (Olyphant’s acting seems uneasy at times too, like he knows the material isn’t exactly up to snuff).

Meanwhile Boyd was held at gun point by the cartel and by using his wits he was able to get out of this sticky situation: after they’d killed Jimmy (he will be missed) Boyd was ordered to reel in Daryl, so Boyd changed his cell’s phone book information to act like he sent Daryl a message, but gave Raylan a heads-up instead. It was an elegant and clever touch, but the pacing itself seemed off. After Boyd’s text it took Raylan a long time to get back to him, in fact, he didn’t: we were never shown Ralyan picking up his phone because he was busy attending to the Crowe matters, but somehow, suddenly Boyd received a message and Tim and Rachel showed up at his doorstep. I get you can’t show everything but it was a rather clunky solution to an interesting idea, and the subsequent shoot-out didn’t really up the ante either. Tim, Rachel and Boyd took out the bad guys of course, what else could have happened to these one-note cartel lackeys? It was a simple matter of economics to predict the situation’s outcome, the result zero tension. Then, with season 5’s storylines wrapped up, Justified immediately set the stage for what’s to come: Rachel’s pissed at Boyd now so the Marhals will hunt him down, Ava’s free and will secretly assist Raylan and his posse, Duffy and Katherine Hale want Boyd to rob banks for them, and, oh yeah, Art’s awake. It was crazy to see how many of its time ‘Restitution’ dedicated to setting up the show’s sixth season, instead of letting the season 5 stories breathe some more and wrapping those up in a less conventional and more fulfilling manner.

Justified‘s fifth season is over and let’s hope that the finale also put an end to the shows sudden and steep decline in quality. ‘Restitution’ was barely okay, went through the motions, was a mediocre wrap-up to a disappointing season. 5/10

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2 thoughts on “tv review – FX’s Justified, episode 5.13

  1. Well, somebody had to reply. As has always been the case with Justified, the mid season episodes are used for for exposition: re: the opener while setting up for the finale. Because this season was only half of the season 5 and 6 story arc, you might want to revisit episode 13 to clarify. Both Yost and Olyphant have said repeatedly since season 1 that the 6th would be the last. And season five has only created a more substantial ‘launching pad’ for the epic duel between Boyd and Raylan.

    • Thanks for the excellent reply, nuts2catering. While I do understand what Yost and the writers were going for, I found the finale (and the season in its entirety) unfulfilling. Many plot strands and characters seemed like an afterthought, the episodes uninspired and unfocused. Setting up the sixth and final (hopefully also thrilling and climactic) season is all fine and dandy, but that doesn’t “justify” the lack of direction, tension and a satisfying narrative. To me it’s in this regard that the fifth season faultered where the previous didn’t (some seasons were a bit saggy in the middle because of the reasons you mentioned, but previously the show always got its groove back in the last couple of a season’s episodes).

      Regarding the “launching pad”: the Boyd-Raylan dynamic has always been an interesting one, but this season did little to build on what was already there, I feel. The only card the writers played in this regard is the shift in Ava’s loyalties, for which we had to suffer through a trite and clichéd storyline that rarely had any connection to the overall proceedings and failed to add something interesting to the “season arc”.

      But from your words I take it you did enjoy the fifth season? In that case: great! I found it to be subpar and disappointing, but, as you know, that’s just my opinion.

      Thanks again for your reply! I appreciate the insight and I like a good discussion.

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