Tomorrow night is the beginning of Justified’s 5th season, and I find myself pondering how somehow simultaneously, there’s been incredible storytelling, without a whole lotta change. Let me see if I can explain why this is so special, and why it makes Justified one of my favorite shows. Finally my thoughts will rest on what I think I can expect from the show’s final two seasons, if previous TV greats are anything to go by.
So how can I sum up the past four seasons of this show, and why it’s so good at being big while laying low? I guess it has something to do with the way it brings to life a small community that sort of sprawls into the Appalachians and how the main character, a U.S. Marshall, is in some ways both loved and hated all the more for being the returned prodigal son of one of the areas most long time criminals, and how he is always in some way at odds with the wily Boyd Crowder, who he’s known since childhood. There’s always something going on, that somebody knows about, but nobody’s talking about in Harlan County, but if I have to tell you everything, then I tell you what. Yeah, that actually sums a lot of it up.
In the first season it was in a lot of ways all about Boyd, the next expanded things further into the hills, moonshine and all (especially Maggs’ apple pie, that I so wished I could taste). Season three helped us to see why outsiders are so unwelcome in any part of Harlan County, but especially Noble’s Holler (I swear I wanted to eat a rack of ribs after every episode). And season four showed us just how deep things can go if someone is able to weasel their way in and stay in Harlan County, with the hunt for Drew Thompson.
Out of the four seasons, I think that one and four are tied as my favorites. Part of what makes this show so amazing is regardless of what’s on the surface it’s everything below it that matters, and drives everyone to do what they do. Speaking of everyone, there are some characters we’ve seen go but a couple have made it farther than expected.
There’s certainly Wynn Duffy, who seems to stay just close enough to the fire of things and not be left out in the cold, but not too close to get himself burned, and that’s the kind of place you really need to stay in Harlan County, any closer or further and you’re either missing out or going out (usually in a body bag).
And then there’s Boyd himself, that like Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman, never was intended to last very long. Boyd Crowder in fact should have died at the end of the pilot, but like so many characters we love to hate, or even just love, he’s stuck around, and definitely for the better.
So why do I bring up Justified’s apparently inevitable end? Because this past year (2013 already feels far away somehow) we watched the end of two great television shows. One of them was amazing and the other broke bad and couldn’t come back. I’m referring to Breaking Bad, and Dexter. And yes, Dexter is definitely the one that broke bad. I never even finished my blog on it after the finale because I just stopped caring. By the end of the final episode it was a running joke that whenever a character made a stupid and/or out of character choice that someone in the room would just use the phrase “shhh it’s in the script”. And to make matters worse, after season six of Dexter, the contract was renewed for only two more years, so it’s not like they didn’t have enough time to wrap stuff up. When it comes to Breaking Bad though, it was also announced two seasons out when the series would end, and it was one of the best endings to one of the best shows. Ever.
Walton Goggins said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that “Graham [Yost] and I were at dinner in New York one night, just the two of us, and he said, “l look at Justified as a two chapter book: The first three years is the first chapter, and now the last three years is the second chapter.””. Now Justified has only been renewed (at the time of this blog) for its 5th season, but it just keeps getting better, I don’t see why Yost wouldn’t get the timetable he wants to tell the story.
So if season four was in a sense the beginning of the end, and the start of the second half, then I am definitely prepared for Justified to go out with a bang, not a whimper. Season four, in my opinion centered things completely on Harlan county, it’s history and it’s secrets.
In season five, interviews and sources state that for at least part of the season Boyd will be in Detroit, still cleaning things up in some ways after the mess that Quarles left in season three. Raylan will be spending some time in Florida, and Ava will be spending time in jail (there was that whole issue with her getting caught moving a corpse in last season’s finale). With three of our major players further apart than they’ve ever been it’ll be no surprise that by the time this season wraps, and the final season begins that it’ll be all about Harlan again, and I am okay with that, as Goggins also said that they want to tell this story “with a beginning, a middle, and an end”, which is very similar to what Vince Gilligan had said when news was breaking a couple years ago that Breaking Bad was getting its end date.
It gives me a lot of confidence and big expectations for a show that in my opinion is so completely underrated, that it may be like Breaking Bad, everyone will catch on and binge watch so they can be caught up for the final episodes. Me, I’m just glad I can take my time, and take it in week by week, I feel like most of characters on the show would say why rush?
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!