"We dug coal together."
Boyd Crowder's final line of "Justified" harkens back to what were almost the final words he ever heard back in the "Justified" pilot episode, as he drifted toward the darkness with a bullet lodged in his chest. Instead, it became his saving grace; because of their ancient history together, at least in part, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens couldn't bring himself to shoot his old friend and frequent foe, no matter how much he wanted to.
It was just one of many left turns in the utterly terrific "Justified" series finale, an hour that should go down in the books as one of the finest final episodes of the modern drama era — the perfect capper for a near-perfect final season, and a near-perfect show. "Justified" never earned "Breaking Bad" or even "Sons of Anarchy" levels of recognition, but the people who knew and loved the show are all the better for having Harlan County as their dirty little secret.
And yet, as satisfying as the finale was, it left fans with more than a few questions about the fate of certain characters, even with its lengthy four-year-later epilogue. Here's what I'm still wondering about "Justified," mere hours after the finale:
Do you believe in miracles?FX
Whether or not you believe a thing Boyd Crowder says, you (a) sure do enjoy watching him say it, and (b) have to believe there's some element of a higher power at play here. How else to explain that Raylan gets shot in the head, but just superficially enough that his precious hat takes most the heat? How else to explain that Boyd's gun runs out of bullets just as he's about to empty a clip into his ex-fiancé?
Interpret these events however you wish; for my part, I'll lay my money down on "divine intervention" and walk away from the table.
Why the eye?FX
Chekov's gun goes in and out of the drawer on "Justified" like a merry-go-round, resulting in predictable but satisfying final rides for each of the show's main antagonists. Mags Bennett poisoned her enemies with her signature "apple pie" moonshine, and so she was poisoned in turn; Bobby Quarles surprised people with a gun hidden under his sleeve, and so we were shocked when that arm was cleaved; so on and so forth.
What's the significance, then, of Avery Markham dying from a gunshot to the eye? Is there signature Chekovian poetry there, as is often the "Justified" way? Perhaps it calls back to Markham's first scene, when telling lover Katherine Hale that he would deal with a traitor by gouging out both eyes. "Both eyes; that's a good start," he quipped at the time. If two eyes are the beginning, then one eye is all it takes for the end.
What's with the hat?FX
Throughout "Justified," Raylan walked the razor's edge between justifiable and unjustifiable action; he was "the angriest man" ex-wife and frequent flame Winona Hawkins had ever known. But in the end, Raylan seemingly finds some semblance of peace. He doesn't kill Boyd, no matter how much he wants to put him down. He plays it by the books. He becomes fully worthy of the white hat he's been wearing all series long.
Why, then, does his white hat die during the shootout with gunslinging looney tune Boon, only to be replaced on his head by Boon's own black cap? As Raylan transforms from angry jerk to stubborn hero, the white hat fades, and the black hat rises. Is it a statement that Raylan's rough exterior masks a hero's heart inside, a man no longer a Givens through and through? Or is the explanation simpler — it's just a damn cool hat?
What happened with Raylan and Winona?FX
Back when Winona visited Raylan earlier in the season, the two decided to get back together, just as soon as Raylan finished his work in Harlan. They both recognized that the deck was stacked against them, giving themselves a 51% chance of making it work. Looks like the 49% won out, given the state of their union in the epilogue.
So, what happened? Why couldn't Raylan and Winona get it together, even after Raylan turned his back on Kentucky for good? In reality, the answer's pretty obvious: Raylan. There's just no living with the most stubborn man alive. Even if it isn't the perfect Raylanona fairy tale ending so many fans were hoping for, it's an authentic and honest ending — a "Justified" ending.
Can Ava stay safe?FX
When last Raylan saw Ava, he was bleeding in the middle of the street, watching her drive off with his car. Four years later, they met again, this time on Ava's new turf, in her new world, with her new son: Zackariah, the secret son of Boyd Crowder. (Albus Severus Crowder has a nice ring to it, but I do appreciate Ava's tribute to her late uncle.)
Given the revelations, Givens decides to let Ava stay exactly where she is; he walks away from the opportunity to turn her in. But is that it? Is that the end of the story? Or will Ava have to continue looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life, waiting for the day when the Crowder ghosts of her past come rushing back to haunt her?
Who has the money?FX
It's obvious, isn't it? There's no one other than Wynn Duffy who could walk away from Harlan with Avery Markham's millions. That's what the Down On All Fours Mobile Grooming truck is for, right? It's the perfect ending for one of the show's winningest weasels, the one man who always walks away from a gunfight with blood splattered on his face, but not his own blood.
Best of luck to you, Wynn. Enjoy Fiji.
Do we buy what Boyd's selling?FX
"Any man can walk toward temptation, but it takes a real man to walk away from it. And when I say walk, I mean keep on walking! Turn around! Walk in the other direction! Climb that ladder! Get me behind me, Devil! Don't look down!"
What a rush to see Boyd spouting off his evangelical nonsense for the first time in a long, long while. But how much do we believe the words that are coming out of his mouth, versus simply enjoying his lyrical lunacy? Is Boyd a changed man, authentically repeating an earlier phase of his life? Or is Con Man Crowder alive and well in his church beyond the bars?
Never forget what Boyd said to Raylan in the Bennet barn: "Some day I will get out, and when I do, I will kill Loretta, and I will come and kill you." The Boyd we see in the closing moments of "Justified" appears to be a changed man. But appearances are often deceiving — more often than not, in fact, in the curious case of Boyd Crowder.
The late Mags Bennett's legacy is not her own bloodline, but the daughter she always wished she'd had: Loretta McCready. She made it out of the finale alive, but will she make it out of Harlan alive? Or will Loretta stay put, plant roots the way Avery Markham wanted, but never could have achieved as an out-of-town carpet-bagger?
Truth be told, we'll never know. Like so many other characters, Loretta's future remains a mystery; we don't see her in the four-years-later scenes, and all we can do is wonder about her future, just as we wonder about the future of Harlan County.
Is Constable Bob OK?FX
Patton Oswalt's fan-favorite character was seriously wounded in the penultimate episode, and there wasn't a single word mentioned about him in the finale. So, what's the scoop? Is he alright? Did he survive his injuries, or succumb to them? File this one under the list of things we'll never truly know; but I choose to believe Bob's still patrolling the backroads of Harlan, Death Star-sized ballsier than ever.
So, that's really it for Bobby Quarles?FX
I might be the only man on Earth who still cares about the ambiguous fate of the season three villain, but I can't deny my feelings. One last Quarles callback, be it a cameo appearance on the show or an off-screen mention, would have made the final season of "Justified" for me. Instead, we'll just have to wonder if getting his arm lopped off by Limehouse was enough to put Quarles down for good. I choose to believe he's locked away in some padded cell somewhere. In all likelihood, he's ashes in a box.
When does "Justified" season seven start?FX
Never, you say? Never say never, says I. But for now, we say farewell to Harlan County... and although it's with a heavy heart, it's with a full one, too.
Raylan and Boyd dug coal together. You and I dug "Justified" together. What a ride.