Skip to main content

The past is a statement. The future is a question.

Justified
Season Six

(SPOILERS) There have been more than enough damp squib or so-so show finales of late to have greeted the demise of Justified with some trepidation. Thankfully it avoids almost every pitfall it might have succumbed to and gives us a satisfying send-off that feels fitting for its characters. This is a series that, even at its weakest (the previous season) is leagues ahead of most fare in an increasingly saturated sphere, so it’s a relief – even if there was never much doubt on past form – that it doesn’t drop the ball.


And of those character fates? In a show that often pulls back from giving Raylan Givens the great hero moments (despite his maintaining a veneer of ultra-cool, and getting “supporting hero” moments as he does in the finale, 6.13 The Promise), it feels appropriate that his entire (stated) motivation for the season should be undermined. He doesn’t get to take down Boyd Crowder, except in an incarcerating sense, but as always he is sanguine about it. After all, “We dug coal together”. They’re enemies but, in a two-sides of the same coin way, also friends.


One of the pleasures of the season comes from scenes cutting between Raylan and Boyd outguessing the other’s latest manoeuvre. It’s appropriate that Boyd doesn’t give Raylan the opportunity to take him down a blaze of glory. More than that, we already had Boyd “killed” in the pilot. While there might be a certain circular satisfaction in doing it again, too much has been made of Raylan’s own pig-headedness and Boyd’s own guile to finish on such an obvious note.


Not that there isn’t enough effective nose-leading to make us think this might be where we’re heading. We see Boyd’s ruthlessness, Billy the Kid style, in the cameo from Shea Wingham in the penultimate episode, 6.12 Collateral, where Boyd shoots him in cold blood (“I’m an outlaw”) and it suggests no redemption will be in the offing. Yet come the final scene, it’s Boyd in business as usual mode, preaching from the pulpit. The real penance is not that he loses his life but that he doesn’t get to infect others with his larcenous ways; those being Ava and her young son (although, given Boyd’s shrewdness when it comes to Raylan, it wouldn’t be difficult to conceive of him tracking down his beloved should they ever wish to translate Justified to the big screen).


It’s Boyd who is granted the big cathartic kill, “Big Bad” villain Markham (Sam Elliot in sterling, ‘tache-less form), rather than Raylan, but much of the season’s emotional core is devoted to the fated-not-to-be relationship with Ava. It’s appropriate that this, through its twists and turns of trust and distrust, is shown to be a love with depth and substance but that just cannot work – at least for Ava. And on that subject, very sporting of the redundant Natalie Zea (although she had another show during the last couple of seasons) to come back as the relegated-to-cameoing Winona. Quite apart from fan backlash against her, it didn’t feel plausible that Raylan would settle down with Winona, but it’s nice to see a balance of responsibility taking hold in the “four years later” of him sharing custody of their daughter.


Ava particularly deserved some sort of happy ending, though, given the treatment she was receiving from the unsympathetic law enforcement agencies during the season. Raylan gets to be the good guy (“I ain’t gonna to take you in”), after being a complete bastard, as well as throwing shots at the podgy babe (“Looks like you fed him well”). The final season’s a believably fraught rollercoaster for Ava, put between a rock and a hard place at every turn.


There’s a sense, though that the series was shrewd to avoid OTT alterations to its status quo, ones that would be out of keeping with Raylan’s laidback “abiding” status. Their lives all do carry on after the final credits roll, yet the circle is complete too (he did what he was brought to Harlan to do five seasons before). Some roles change incrementally, others not at all; Art is on the way out (however far away that may be) just as Rachel is on the way up (whatever setbacks occur here) while Tim is just plain reliable.


Season Six is especially well served by the villains, and the twisty scheming they get up to. Admittedly, some of the plans here are pinch-of-salt, such as Markham’s conviction that weed will be legalised in Kentucky and hinging his land-buys on it (although Loretta at least puts in the maybe-not suggestion towards the end). And Boyd’s plot to go in under Markham’s vault is appealing but the stuff of only-in-the-movies (or on TV), particularly his decision to continue with the heist even after he knows Raylan is waiting for him.


Raylan: He got a long-winded, peculiar way of speaking?

There’s also Markham’s muscle, which never quite breaks out from the self-consciously written (or underwritten), with the exception of Duke Davis Roberts’ endearing Choo-Choo. Gareth Dillahunt is usually the most commanding of performers (he made an indelible mark in just three episodes of Burn Notice) but Ty Roberts never catches fire quite as he should, despite a loquacity that outdoes Boyd (“Hell, son, you done talk as much as I do”). 


Jonathan Tucker steals every scene he’s in as replacement bug-eyed leering loon Boon, but that’s all he ever is; a bug-eyed leering loon. Fast on the draw, true, as Alan Arkin’s reprise of the road stand-off he directed in Season One shows, but lacking anything that would paint him as other than a cartoon.


But Mary Steenburgen’s Katherine Hale is a true steely villainess, going after exactly what she wants and unflinching about it; Markham’s warning to Ava is well-placed, as Ava lacks that ruthlessness and tunnel-visioned self-interest. As such, Katherine and Markham are perfectly matched for each other, and it’s a nice touch that even after discovering her duplicity Markham still wants her. That both their demises are particularly gruesome can’t be a coincidence.


Elliot’s image is a twinkly-eyed cowboy with a massive moustache (such that the Coen Brothers barely had to embellish it in The Big Lebwoski), and I’m trying to think of a role where he’s been asked to show such cold, calculated poise before. Steenburgen too, come to that, although I never had any doubt of her range.


The supporting troop has their moments. I’d have been disappointed if Jere Burns’ Wylie Coyote Wynn Duffy had been disposed of. He’s just too damn appealing, even with his indulged penchant for a nigh-on all-over tan this season. It’s nice to hear he was possibly spotted surfing in Fiji. Kaitlyn Dever, if confirmation was needed, is given a further chance to show what a great young actress she is as Loretta, thrown a series of juicy scenes against the likes of Markham and Boon and proving unflappable throughout.


There are also brief call outs to Mykelti Williamson’s Limehouse, Danny Strong’s Albert Fekus and Jeremy Davies’ Dickie Bennett. I’m never quite so sure about Patton Oswalt’s Bob Sweeney, who’s the only trace of the kind of indulgently self-conscious character Justified otherwise avoids. Rick Gomez gets to up the ante of David Vasquez’ prickish side in the later episodes, as he insists on Raylan’s potential culpability in Ava’s escape (it’s a wonder Raylan was allowed to escort her the last time, all things considered), which is good fun. 


There’s also a great showing from Jeff Fahey as Ava’s uncle Zachariah, a crazy but well-meaning old-timer who goes out in a blaze of guts. Fahey may unfortunately for him always be The Lawnmower Man, but he’s etched out a solid niche on the small screen in recent years.


As always, there are some great show-stopping sequences. I’ve mentioned Raylan versus Boon, but the standout must be 6.11 Fugitive Number One’s visit by Catherine to take care of the snitch that is Winn Duffy. Mikey (Jonathan Kowalsky) has shopped him in, disenchanted by his boss’s lack of a code, but has second thoughts when she raises a gun on Duffy. The ensuing altercation, as she repeatedly shoots Mikey at point blank range while he strangles her and Duffy hides under a table is gripping TV of the first order. And then there’s the touching farewell to Mikey (“Will you hold me?”)


In the first episode Fate’s Right Hand Boyd shoots Dewey Crowe in the back of the head, which would be a shock except we know by now Justifiedthat has that kind offhand capacity with long running supporting characters (it happened with Johnny Crowder the previous season). There’s also the shootout in 6.6 Alive Day with Ty. But what works best about Season Six is where many shows go awry ultimately. It has its main characters entirely in focus and understood, knowing where they should end up. 


Justified might be the most wholly satisfying new TV show of the last decade, one that knew when to bow out and not to bite off more than it could chew. One that knew itself through and through and didn’t commit to unwise continuance (Breaking Bad). Not that I’d be adverse to a movie at some point in the future, just as long as Raylan gets rid of that new hat first.


How the Seasons stack up

Obviously, I’m going to need to give them a back-to-back run through at some point, but just now I’m minded to rate them as follows:

1. Two 
2. Three
3. Six
4. Four
5. One
6. Five

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.