Rarely have I fallen out of love with a show as quickly as I did with “Justified’s” fifth season. After building up a good head of steam in its first four years, the FX drama used it to dive straight off a cliff, ceding screen time to a horrendously miscast and thoroughly underwhelming Michael Rapaport and Alicia Witt and getting lost in plot convolution that didn’t seem worth the trouble of following. After three episodes, I was out, and didn’t care if I never looked back.
After watching the first three episodes of “Justified’s” sixth and final season, however, I’m back on board. In fact, I can’t wait to see more. (After polling some more dedicated fans, I also watched the last three of Season 5, which were much improved but still not essential.) The focus on the conflict between hotheaded lawman Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and swaggering outlaw Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is clearly, finally, the focus, but there’s also a new clutch of worthy adversaries, including Garrett Dillahunt as an ex-military contractor whose slick surface surely hides a violent exterior, and a (clean-shaven!) Sam Elliott as, well, that would be telling.
Although the season sets about clearing us some loose ends, it also reminds us that “Justified” began as a show about history, including the personal kind. As Raylan’s ex-wife gives birth to their daughter in Florida, he’s drawn towards the Sunshine State and away from “Bloody Harlan,” but there’s some old business to tend to first: Apprehending Boyd, perhaps on racketeering charges, and selling off Raylan’s family house and land, over which his father’s tombstone looms ominously. We’re reminded that Boyd and Harlan grew up in a time when coal mining seemed like their only future, and that the industry’s waning forced them onto opposite sides of the law. Chances are good we’ll hear “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” again before the season is done, and at the moment, even the show’s creators say they don’t know who will end up dead, though surely someone will.
Although Raylan’s marshall colleagues still get short shrift, “Justified” has grown into a show with a rich ensemble, which now includes a much-welcome Mary Steenburgen among its rogues’ gallery. It’s particularly good to see Joelle Carter’s Ava out of the slammer and back in the world, and her new gig as an informant reporting to Ralyan on her sort-of-ex-fiancée gives new juice to the long-simmering tension between the three of them. That even the minds behind “Justified” don’t know how it’ll end seems a little worrisome, but it seems like the journey there is going to be a hoot.
Reviews of “Justified,” Season 6
Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
Maybe more than in previous seasons, this final leg of “Justified” foregrounds the characters as characters, the story as a story, and Harlan as a playful fictional space — a Kentucky county that’s seemingly as violent as a war zone, yet as claustrophobically intimate as Stephen King’s Maine, Richard Russo’s upstate New York, or Damon Runyon’s Brooklyn and midtown. Everybody on “Justified” is connected by work, sex, marriage, genetics or the historical aftershocks of ruinous family feuds. Every conflict or showdown is emotionally or physically concrete yet at the same time metaphorical, the stuff of future legends. And the “My Dinner With Andre and His Guns” dialogue is so off-the-charts lyrical that you can hear the writers chuckling.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
The good news is that nearly everything that went wrong last season goes right at the start of this one. Raylan’s pursuit of Boyd has always been the show’s most compelling storyline, but it’s been on hold more often than not over recent seasons. (In years when the show had a great villain like Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett, it could get away with keeping its two leads mostly separate; when the best the show could give us was Daryl Crowe, the foot-dragging became an irritant.) Now it’s what the entire season is about — along with the question of whether Ava is loyal to Boyd, to ex-lover Raylan, or only to herself — and everything feels quicker, more confident and more gripping than it has going back at least to season 3, if not to the show’s season 2 peak.
Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly
“Justified” has long been rambling toward — if not dragging its s—kickers on — the final showdown between pissy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his underworld soul bro Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). But the neo-Western’s end is here at last, and the guns are mostly blazing. The storytelling immediately recharges the Raylan vs. Boyd conflict.
Brian Lowry, Variety
“Justified” begins its final season with a customary slow build. The new threat, played by Sam Elliott, doesn’t even really present itself until the third episode, with another fine addition, Garret Dillahunt, as his vaguely threatening surrogate. Still, that’s emblematic of the laconic charm that has characterized this Elmore Leonard adaptation throughout its run, with Timothy Olyphant’s modern cowboy becoming one of FX’s unsung heroes. Perhaps foremost, “Justified” has consistently been one of the more disarmingly funny hours on TV, as illustrated by a scene when Raylan interrupts a married man in the midst of a dalliance with a prostitute. When the lawman jokingly pretends to mistake the woman for the man’s wife, the hooker gets the punch line: “Ew, gross.” The series also revels in a slice of Southern life (actually, more like low-life) newly popular in reality-TV circles, but where few dramas dare to tread.
Willa Paskin, Slate
The confrontation between Raylan and Boyd, in the works since the series began, imbues the series with some of the urgency it has lacked in recent seasons while it wasted time in the backwaters of Florida and in Detroit high-rises. And yet as rejuvenated as “Justified” feels, it can still be uncomfortably enamored with Raylan’s bad behavior. As the new season begins, Raylan is once again on a short leash at work. But because of his experience with Boyd and Ava he’s working this one last case before moving to Florida to be with his daughter and ex-wife. And yet despite being in real trouble with his co-workers, in the early moments of the first episode, Raylan opts to deal with an unhelpful Mexican police officer by T-boning said officer’s car, kidnapping him, and driving him over the border to answer questions. Raylan is still unhinged, and yet “Justified” keeps making him look pretty damn cool.
Elisabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire
Ultimately Justified is a procedural, and a very good one at that, but it’s the little things that make it special: its attention to people’s financial status (Boyd didn’t get an iPhone until he was a successful criminal); character actor moments, the way that criminals are dumb, and often hilariously so (which is very Leonard); and the pas de deux between Raylan and Boyd is one for the ages. Two men that want to be each other, in some ways, obsessing over each other, they are forever intertwined, and it’s likely to end with one of them in the grave. One way or another, Raylan and Boyd will never leave Harlan alive, but based on the first fourth of the season, it’s going to be a lively ride and true to the spirit of the late Leonard’s work.
Chuck Bowen, Slant
Season six is comparatively slow, and obsessive, which is a relief from the convolutions that had grown to characterize “Justified.” We’re allowed to savor those great dialogue exchanges between lovers and antagonists that ultimately define the series—rich in history, hurts, and the passing of joints and the knocking back of booze while astutely selected country music plays in the background. Boyd’s dissertations continue to be a notable marvel, especially in an early dust-up with Raylan that the former concludes with the memorably chilling proclamation, “You see, Raylan, I’ve learned to think without arguing with myself.” “Watch out” has never been so eloquently, or menacingly, voiced.