A modern Western set in Harlan, Kentucky, based on Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire In The Hole” and imbued with the author’s trademark wit and sardonic sense of humor, that’s what Justified offered viewers. It proved to be an unique and immensely enjoyable experience centered around two incredibly interesting lead characters: Timothy Olyphant’s complex US Marshal Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins’ enigmatic outlaw Boyd Crowder. It’s their dynamic that’s always been at the center of the show and now, after six seasons, Justified has come to end, wrapping up the story of two men who used to dig coal together in a satisfying way.
Its lackluster fifth season aside, Justified has always been a show that showcased outstanding writing, acting and direction. It’s a relief then, that Season 6 gets back to the level of quality many have come to expect from this FX series. Right from the start it’s apparent that the final season is sharp, lean and focused, completely lacking filler material. It elegantly continues the plot strands left dangling from the previous season, effectively introduces some fresh new faces and storylines, and then continues to interweave those throughout the 13 episodes. The big bad who steps in and has all the show’s characters set on a collision course is Sam Elliott’s entrepreneur Avery Markham, a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to acquire Harlan land and get rich off the imminent legal weed business. It’s not long until people start dying, the law starts noticing and other Harlan criminals feel threatened. It’s a simple but brilliant premise to both inject Justified with some wonderful new talent and also get its core cast of characters’ to where the writing staff thought they needed to go. The result is that absolutely nothing feels forced: everything feels organic, wonderfully laid out and executed by the show’s creative team.
Besides Elliott, a man who feels right at home acting in Justified‘s universe and who brings a lot of charisma and menace to his villain, the other guest stars are all terrific: Garret Dillahunt and Jonathan Tucker both portray muscle hired by Markham, and both make these characters the writers have dreamed up instantly unforgettable. Jeff Fahey also knocks it out of the park as Ava’s uncle, a conflicted character Fahey gets to explore to great lengths during the season. However, it’s the series regulars the spotlight shines on the brightest: the final season of Justified really is about Raylan and Boyd’s relationship, with Ava struggling in between these men who have been at odds with each other for years now and who both have a history with her as well. Olyphant and Goggins, as always, bounce off each other wonderfully and once again convey the troubled history these two characters and their families share. It’s always been apparent that Boyd and Raylan are a different side of the same coin, and that fact gets played up a lot more during this final season, to great effect. What’s even more commendable is Ava’s place in all of this: after the cliched storyline Joelle Carter was handed last year, it’s great to see her character back doing something interesting and being put in challenging situations, both emotionally and morally. Suddenly Ava is one of the final season’s standouts, and Carter conveys there’s a depth and complexity to the character that’s thrilling to watch.
Nick Searcy, Jere Burns, Jacob Pitts and Erica Tazel are also at the top of their game and, at the end, you’re sad to see the last of all of Justified‘s characters. The wrap-up is handled beautifully though, a worthy send-off to Harlan County’s best and baddest. Season 6 truly is full of great character moments, tense setups and unexpected turns that are sure to surprise you. It’s a final season that knows exactly what it has to do and then goes on and does it, without feeling like it simply ticks all the boxes. Gladly this isn’t a last batch of episodes that feels like a formality that leads to something completely safe and expected, but instead it’s quite the contrary: it’s one of Justified‘s best seasons, because it takes chances and always puts the characters first. Their choices inform the plot, not the other way around, and because of it the show has found a way to truly go out with a bang.
Justified‘s final season is an outstanding last chapter that’s both familiar and fresh, and ends the series beautifully. It’s simply top-notch TV. 9/10