April 3, 2013 by Susan Miller
Susan: I’ve slept on it, and I’m still heartbroken for Boyd. Do you remember at the beginning of the season, when Raylan got robbed and had to chase down those chicken fighters and Boyd was riding high on possibilities? They’ve switched places and I don’t like it. What’s Boyd going to do now?
Steven: What’s Boyd going to do? What’s Ava going to do?! I will say this, though: I would rather go to prison for a crime I didn’t really commit than have my wifey go for one she did. Who’s going to fake-clean the bar when Boyd has guests with guns over? Who’s going to live in that big fancy house with him? I feel so bad for them both, but most of all Boyd. I know that he wishes it had been him and not even in a melodramatic, put-on sort of way. At least on the inside he would’ve had a chance at some kind of salvation and serenity. Now he is just a single man moving heroin through Kentucky. I think next season might be the time for a truly converted Boyd to emerge. And I hope, hope, hope that it will result in Ava being freed from her prison sentence. They could be happy and poor down in some holler–but I feel like Boyd might not get that wish.
Susan: I do worry about Ava in prison, but I really am less invested in her as a character. Sure, she’ll have a tough time in jail, but what about Boyd? He had such dreams of making it out of Harlan, and living a dignified life up on the Hill with lots of little Crowders running about the place. He had dreams that those Crowders could grow up to be lawmen or lawyers or doctors or teachers. He dreamed of getting out and running a Dairy Queen, living a nice quiet life with his woman and reading all those books he loves to quote. He was so very close to realizing all of those dreams, close but just out of reach. My heart broke for him as he let out that primal yell, that frustration at never breaking through. I see it time and again on these shows, be it The Wire or The Sopranos. A show where Boyd and Raylan aren’t at odds is a less interesting show, sure, but certainly a happier one for Boyd and Ava. In the end, I just want Boyd to be happy.
And isn’t that strange? Isn’t it strange that I feel more for Boyd than Raylan in this episode? Raylan is also a tragic figure, permanently trapped in Harlan, staring at his tombstone in Arlo’s yard. He saved Winona and the baby but when given 30 days off to spend with her, he lets her go to her mother’s without him. I suppose Raylan is the cautionary tale for Boyd. Raylan got everything Boyd wanted but is just as unhappy. He has the opportunity to be with Winona but won’t take it. He has the opportunity to leave Harlan, but for some reason can’t do it.
At the end of the day, who is worse? Are they equally bad? Do either of them really want to be good?
Steven: I agree with your analysis of Boyd and Raylan, but I further wonder if it’s an Importance of Being Earnest deal, where they were switched at birth and Boyd should’ve been the one living a normal, law-abiding and enforcing life, while Raylan ran heroin and did as he pleased. Time and time again, Boyd has reformed, tried to be a good man, but the desire to get out of the holler and up onto the hill has driven him back into the life of crime–well, blowing things up, primarily. Conversely, whenever everything lines up for Raylan he works himself into a funk about it and goes off with a new woman or here recently just settles down into his self-created morass of lonesomeness. You’ve got the wife, the kid, the badge, the hat… What gives, Givens?
I feel like parallels like this do one of two things–one pessimistic and the other, well, perhaps not optimistic but at least less pessimistic. The first is to suggest that Boyd would eventually be just as miserable as Raylan even with Ava out of prison living in their new fancy house. The other is a suggestion to Raylan, namely, “Get your head out of your @$$ and try to be happy.” Because it really isn’t like his wife’s in prison for life. Sure, she may be the ex-wife to some crazy cult leader/serial killer/whatever The Following is about–but as long as Raylan’s willing to put in even a modicum of effort I’m sure he can keep her and their marriage alive… Why ya wailin’, Raylan?
Susan: Aha. So Raylan is like a character on The Sopranos who is given every opportunity to change and won’t take it because it because it’s too hard. However, Boyd is like a character on The Wire who is tragically condemned from birth by his family and address. To put it simply, Raylan = Tony Soprano. Boyd = Stringer Bell. Clearly, String is superior.
Let’s move on. What did you think of Raylan’s plan to dispose of Nicky Augustine? They got me again with that one. How do they keep making the bad guys deaths so surprising and sensible? It’s always so nice and tidy. Sure, Raylan had to look the other way while an assassination went down, but a lazy show would have Raylan kill Nicky or the mob would just happen to get smart at the right time. Justified never forces their characters to act stupid for the sake of plot.
Steven: Also, Raylan called in Sammy Tonin. He has now officially aided in the hit of Nicky Augustine, meaning that he has simultaneously done the head of the Detroit mob a favor and accepted a favor from Sammy. Not only did he look the other way when they killed Nicky, he made it happen! I really thought Raylan was going to shoot Nicky himself. And then when Sammy had Nicky killed, I thought, “Great! Raylan didn’t have to kill him.” But now I’m starting to wonder if it would’ve been better if Raylan had just done it himself. Now he’s in the pocket of the mob and, if The Sopranos has taught us anything, those are some tricky pockets to get out of.
I do like that it really was everyone trying to act smart about their situation. We forget how different the show would be if characters acted more rashly or if things just happened to work out. Ava is in prison, but the original situation was both of them fleeing from the Feds and eventually getting caught down in Argentina somewhere. Now Raylan’s on the hook for Nicky’s death, but he and Winona are safe AND he’s been able to keep his badge. There’s not a lot of slop on this show, and that’s something I really appreciate.
Susan: Someone on the internet today made an interesting comparison between what Raylan did to Nicky (calling in Sammy Tonin and walking away) and what Boyd did to Preacher Billy (handed him the snakes, but made sure they were poisonous). We have yet to see what consequence Raylan suffers, but Boyd loses Ava because of his indirect murder. Could it mean that there’s more justice in the outlaw confines of Harlan than the legal land of Lexington?
Steven: Oh that’s interesting. Or could it just mean that Raylan’s justice will come, even if he’s clear of any legal ramifications. Do you think there could be some unintended consequences resulting from not only killing Nicky but also putting Sammy firmly into power? Or do you think it will be more direct? Will somebody go out of his way to make sure Raylan gets what he’s owed. Maybe a former coal-buddy with nothing to live for and a longtime grudge? I’m sure that Boyd’s glad Nicky’s out of the picture now too, but I somehow doubt he’s going to look on Raylan with camaraderie next season, especially since Raylan gets to do whatever he pleases while Boyd keeps digging himself deeper in the hole.
Susan: I’m sure Sammy will come back into the picture next year, but I’d be more interested in Sammy reuniting with a one-armed Quarles. He’s not dead, is he? If Sammy is going to be running the Detroit show, we know it will be dysfunctional. Nobody does dysfunction better than Quarles.
I could see Boyd taking a renewed interest in his animosity toward Raylan next season because Ava is in jail. Jail is on Raylan’s side of the law, and it’s Raylan’s rules that she’s being contained by. Also, Raylan is the one who made Boyd come with him to find Nicky, therefore setting into motion Ava having to move the body on her own. However, Raylan also saved Boyd from jail, since the whole set-up was designed to get Boyd, and Ava just ended up being collateral damage. A grieving, trapped Boyd with money to burn may want some revenge on Raylan. It’s a fool’s errand, but if anyone can go toe to toe with the man in the hat, it’s Boyd. Just please let it mean more explosions and proclamations of “Fire in the hole!” I miss Boyd’s catchphrase.
Steven: Boyd vs. Raylan would bring us all the way back to the beginning, which is a symmetry I always like. And like I said, I don’t think Boyd’s very happy to be free while Ava’s in prison. That’s not the kind of trade off a man considers a positive. If there were a way for him to take her place, I’m fairly certain he would take it.
Susan: As we look back on the season, which early episode story did you enjoy the most? Preacher Billy and his Last Chance Holiness church? Raylan’s bounty hunting adventures with Jody and that guy from Mad Men and Jackie Nevada? Lindsay and her ex-husband’s dreams of managing chicken fights? Josiah Cairn and his missing foot? Drew’s widow and her suspicious secret gift? Another one that I forgot?
Steven: Favorite story-line? I was excited about Preacher Billy, but then it kind of fizzled out without getting too profound. I feel like the show still only flirts with spirituality–they never really commit. It’s like when some shows have a bunch of sobered-up drunks in the background but never really get too in-depth into the philosophy behind what got them sober. (I’m lookin’ at you Nashville.) At times the themes are heavily implied–like with Nicky Augustine’s dialogue about Abraham, or Boyd’s constant references to his faith and then lack of faith… I suppose, this will sound crazy and also not fitting with the show’s realism or style, but I’m always waiting for the supernatural presence in shows with this much overt symbolism. I feel like if everyone was talking about time travel in a show, you’d eventually need someone to travel through time in a way that goes beyond the traditional 60 seconds per minute fashion. If religion were just buildings and sayings, then I doubt so many people would keep that candle burning. And yet, quite often in the world of television it gets reduced to little more than that. But that is an enormous soap-box I’m not going to climb up onto today. I think what really bothered me about the Preacher Billy story was that there weren’t any velociraptors. I just kept waiting and waiting with my metal soup ladle, but they never did show.
Actual favorite story-line? I’d have to say Colt’s development, from loose-cannon MP to accidental assassin to accidental liberator of Ellen May, I saw Colt as one of the chief driving forces of this season. He refused to pull punches, he had real problems that were both internal and external, and when his luck finally ran it out it was a truly tragic moment. Greek even. He worked against his fate, rushing and rushing to tie up loose-ends, but in the end when he’d finally caught Ellen May was when his story ended. Redemption in the eyes of Boyd meant certain damnation in the collapsing world of Harlan, and instead of going with Tim quietly, he went out the way he’d certainly expected to all along.
Susan: Colt did such fine work this season. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive Tim and Rachel for killing Colt and freeing Johnny, respectively. Johnny wasn’t even mentioned in this finale, but we know that if we didn’t see him die, he’s not dead. Who would’ve imagined he would outlast Arlo? Disgraceful.
That’s it for season 4. News of a renewal for season 5 came last week, so Justified fans can rest easy, knowing that we have at least one more year in Harlan with Boyd, Raylan, Art and company. See you in 2014.