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Bulletville: An Advance Review of the Season Finale of FX's Justified

It's only fitting that FX's lawman drama Justified should go out with a bang.

The first season of Justified, based on characters created by the incomparable Elmore Leonard, wraps up its run tonight with a fantastic installment ("Bulletville") that is more than aptly titled.

Over the course of the thirteen-episode run, Justified has succeeded in creating a vividly drawn world of crime and punishment, a Southern Gothic landscape set in the hills of Kentucky (and the offices of Lexington) where violence runs amok, fugitives are caught, and the good guy dons a cowboy hat and slings a gun with the best of them.

In the capable hands of Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder have become some of the most deftly drawn adversaries on television, former friends turned enemies whose relationship is a constantly shifting morass of blame, confession, and enmity. Like Raylan, the audience has never been sure of whether to fully believe Boyd's alleged conversion and newfound religious belief. Can a leopard change its spots? Can a bad man turn good?

Those questions about human nature seem to be at the forefront of tonight's season finale, which wraps up the season-long Crowder family storyline in a hail of bullets and offers some intriguing twists along the way. With the emphasis placed squarely on Raylan/Ava/Boyd, it sadly means very little screen time for the other U.S. marshalls this week but it also means that the pacing is killer, allowing the tension to seep into every scene.

While Raylan and Boyd are the focal points for the episode, it's also about the twisted relationships between fathers and sons and how that formative relationship can shape a man. Can we ever live up to our father's expectations? Do we want to become him or kill him? What happens when we turn our backs on where we came from? Important and weighty questions that both Raylan and Boyd are forced to contend with as the first season comes to a dramatic close tonight.

Additionally, the season finale examines issues of causality. Can one crucial action define a man's life... and possibly his death? Justified began with Raylan's transfer to Harlan because of his "justified" shooting in Miami, an moment in time from which everything else spins out as a result. Returning to Harlan, Raylan finds himself falling into a relationship with Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter)--and reigniting something with his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea)--and becomes enmeshed in yet another war with the Crowders.

Throughout the season, the threat of the Miami drug cartel--whose lieutenant Raylan shot in a posh Miami restaurant overlooking the ocean--has loomed large and that shooting, justified though it may have been, comes back to haunt to Raylan Givens in no uncertain terms, even as it connects with the meth trade in Harlan and the insidious involvement of Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey).

We will find out just how far Boyd's supposed religious conviction will take him, what lengths he'll go to for retribution, and the sacrifices he's prepared to make for his cause... whatever that might be. Suffice it to say, there are some surprises remaining in Goggins' wiry self-appointed preacher and some nicely rendered epiphanies to boot.

It all comes down to a final shootout in Bulletville, as these things should, and the body count for tonight's episode is mighty high. Who will walk away and who will be six feet under? Find out tonight in the riveting season finale of a series that's at once smart, provocative, and action-packed. Fire in the hole, indeed.

Justified's season finale airs tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on FX.


Hadley said…
This show has been surprisingly enjoyable. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are pitch perfect and the writing keeps you interested even if you're not typically a fan of the western genre. I'm very happy that it's been renewed for a second season!
abbytaz said…
As much as I love Timothy Olyphant and his success in "Justified" for some reason I started to forget about this show. I guess because of it's procedural nature and lack of taught writing and subject matter that I lost interest. I will watch the finale tonight to cap off a good season and will probably try harder next season to follow it.

Also I guess because the way FX has treated "Damages" this post season with the attitude of "let's allow this Emmy-winning series quietly drift away into the sunset", leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
Summer said…
Justified has been a nice addition to our TV watching lineup. The writing and dialogue most weeks is snappy and quick paced, with Raylan, Boyd, Winona, and the Chief my favorites by far...

Can't wait to see what they do with S2! S1 really went out with a bang (make that several), and it gave a great reset for the friendship between Raylan and Boyd, and possibly Raylan and Winona. Looking forward to more...

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