Once a show finds its formula for success, it becomes very, very difficult to veer from a path its creative team knows works and works well. I was a big Dexter fan for the first three or four years until its formula rendered the show completely void of any surprises. You knew what was going to happen several episodes before the characers themselves figured it all out.
It’s been a very good season for Justified, one of TV’s top dramas, in which showrunner Graham Yost and his creative team willingly tried to reinvent the show. To be sure, they didn’t radically change its DNA. Raylan Givens didn’t suddenly start teaching dance to poverty-stricken kids. The writers didn’t start using Nicholas Sparks as source material. The show was still very much the Elmore Leonard-based program it always was, but the show’s structure (which before now featured a Buffy-like annual Big Bad) was upended in favor of a season-long mystery arc.
Interestingly, the mystery was solved with about four episodes to go, and the third-to-the-last installment was the one that featured all the great good guys/bad guys action. So, while this week’s season finale was richly satisfying, there were only loosed ends left to tie up.
Raylan had a showdown with Nicky Augustine and was able to take care of the Detroit gun thug without firing a shot. Well, Raylan didn’t fire a shot at least. It’s a good thing when the baddest a-- in the room is also the smartest.
That left Boyd and Ava trying to dispose of Delroy’s corpse before Ellen May was able to implicate them in Delroy’s disappearance. They almost got away with it, with Ava’s ultimate fate being something we’ll catch up with next season. Boyd was forced to start working for Wynn Duffy, which should be riveting television. More Wynn Duffy is always a good thing.
Raylan and Boyd share a bond as characters. Both grew up in Harlan County. Both went to high school together. Both had criminals as fathers. Both worked in the coal mines before Raylan’s Aunt Helen encouraged Raylan to get out of Kentucky. Now, they are on opposite sides of the law, but just barely. Boyd tried to get Raylan to join his outlaw ways a couple of weeks ago. “You’d still get to shoot people and be an a--hole,” Boyd assured Raylan. “And, those are your two favorite things to do.”
Season Four ended with Boyd breaking into the house he and Ava were going to buy as respectable people and with Raylan fixing the hole in the wall of his father’s house. It was that hole in the wall that started the whole Drew Thompson mystery in motion, and now it’s literally been closed. These are two men who aren’t all that different and yet are complete opposites. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are still electrifying in these roles. It’s especially cool when you realize that Boyd was supposed to die in the pilot, but Goggins was so great in the part they made him a series regular.
FX announced this week that Justified is renewed for a fifth season. It still stands as one of TV’s great accomplishments. Moreover, it’s still the greatest adaptation of Elmore Leonard literature of all time, with the possible exception of Steven Soderberg’s film Out of Sight. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Raylan and Boyd continue to cross paths.