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Justified “The Promise” 

Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

[Warning: spoilers ahead for the Justified series finale.]

Were you surprised? I was surprised. I thought we’d lose Boyd or Ava, or both. I was fairly certain we wouldn’t lose Raylan because Elmore Leonard didn’t roll like that, but I was satisfied with where we ended up for everybody. I didn’t expect the flash forward, either, so that was just icing. I thought it was a fantastic way to say goodbye. I’m good.

When we wrapped up last week, Raylan was taken into custody, and I honestly thought later, well we can’t have him in a cell for the last episode ever. And that complication is dispensed with early on when Art comes to fetch him, Raylan makes his case, and Art hands over his gun and his badge (I guess the gun we saw him with last week was his backup piece).

The Marshals land on the mountain and Tim and Rachel lead the manhunt. Sadly, Tim does not get to recite the speech from The Fugitive, but I really hope it’s on the DVDs.

Ava is interrogated by Markham, who gets Zachariah’s name out of her, and when she calls up to Grubes’ place, Boyd answers and she tells him that Markham has her, and sets up a ruse for Markham’s men to get the rest of the money. Boon takes Loretta and goes, and then they wait, and Boyd has to flee the cabin when the Feds show up. He starts flinging dynamite at them and gets away.

Raylan realizes Ava’s leave-behind of Dewey’s necklace means she was taken, so he and Art visit the Markham-owned deputy who got worked over back when Boyd busted out of the hospital. They find him in a local bar and Raylan does his best “Hey, batter, batter” (reminding me of his Dewey encounter way back there) on the bar to get the guy to give up the shed where Markham has Ava. Art heads up to the mountain to manage the scene Boyd left behind and Raylan, on his own again, goes to get Ava.

Boyd arrives at the shed ahead of Raylan and shoots the goons and then Markham a couple of times before finishing him with a shot through the eye. He pulls the trigger twice on Ava but he’s out. Raylan comes in and essentially begs Boyd to draw on him so he can put him down. But Boyd won’t play. He says he’s out of bullets. Raylan tosses him another gun.

Boyd asks Ava why she betrayed him, and she leaves him silent when she says she just did what he would have done. He tells Raylan again he won’t draw on him. He promises that if he lives, he’ll kill Raylan and Ava when he gets out. We close up on Raylan while he mulls and then we cut to the Fed sweep afterward as the Marshals clear the scene and Boyd walks out in cuffs. Rachel does the honors of driving him in.

Raylan takes Ava and they start the drive into Lexington as “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” plays. She offers him the nine million and he says no. Boon slams into them from behind, spinning Raylan’s car around to face him. He gets out of his truck and begins a Mexican standoff with Raylan, who gets out to face him. Raylan tells Ava to get down, and she does. So does Loretta in Boon’s truck.

Boon starts in that he saw them leave the shed and he didn’t want to miss a goodbye. Raylan’s not terribly interested in the conversation, and he flashes his gun and badge. Boon draws. Raylan draws. Both fire and then drop. Raylan is completely motionless, and Boon is still moving around. He starts to roll over and take another shot when Loretta steps on his hand and kicks the gun away and then he dies.

She walks toward Raylan and he jolts up, bleeding from the scalp. He leans over and picks up his hat, which took the bullet for him. Before he can distill that completely, his car starts up and Ava hauls ass away.

Later at the Marshal’s office, Raylan emerges from the elevator with a Band-Aid on his head. In Art’s office, he offers to stay a couple of days to track Ava down and Art says no. He says he brought him to Kentucky to get Boyd, and he did–the right way. (We never see Vazquez’s response to how it all went down.) They toast and then Art’s called back to work, so Raylan says goodbye to Tim and Rachel–no hugs, no tears.

Raylan tells Tim he hopes his next partner is less of a pain in the ass, and Tim says he couldn’t be more of one. Raylan leaves him a worn copy of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” Tim asks if he’s read it a bunch or bought it used. Raylan says if he’d said he’d read it 10 times, that would be low. He walks out and gets in the elevator, donning Boon’s hipster hat as the doors close.

Four years later.

Raylan sits in the park eating ice cream with his daughter and challenging her for gross flavors. He gives her a dollar for her efforts and tells her to tell her mom it was for reciting the alphabet. Winona walks up and they have a friendly chat. She invites him to dinner and he begs off. Richard (Jason Gedrick), her husband walks up, and takes Willa to the car. Raylan takes issue that Richard calls her “punk,” and Winona tells him it’s short for punkin, to leave it alone.

He goes to work, still wearing Boon’s hat, and is about to head out on a case when the daily mail brings him an envelope from Rachel with a newspaper clipping. There’s Ava in a pumpkin patch in California.

And in the next scene, he’s there, driving up to a house. He knocks on the door and Ava answers. She doesn’t let him in, and tells him she can only offer him water and water. She offers to go for a walk instead and they do. She says she’s living in the guest house there, working for the woman who owns the house, helping with horses used for children’s rehab. Raylan tells her she can dial down the sainthood bid.

They get to the house and she says she needs to make arrangements if they’re going any further on their path, and then she calls out to someone that it’s OK to come forward, that Raylan is her old friend. And we see a little boy. Raylan laughs that they were never looking for a pregnant woman. His name is Zachariah. She says Boyd can never know. He says he won’t, and he’ll leave her where she is. A promise is a promise.

We catch up with Boyd, preaching the prison bible, back in old rhythms, when he’s called for a visitor. And there’s Raylan. They each pick up a phone as we close with the only love story that matters on Justfied.

They banter for a bit, and Raylan gets serious, and Boyd asks if he found Ava. Raylan says yes, and with more gravity than you’d expect, he tells him she’d dead. Has been dead for three years. Fell asleep at the wheel of a car in Texas. He produces a driver’s license and death certificate and tells him they just found out because it triggered an ID theft investigation.

Boyd chokes up a little, and asks if she was alone. He says it was probably for the best because nobody ever gets out of Harlan, except for him. Boyd doesn’t want him to go yet. He asks Raylan why he came himself to tell him. Raylan says that it was something that needed to be done in person.

Boyd presses if that’s the only reason. “Well, I suppose if I allow myself to be sentimental, despite all that has occurred, there is one thing I wander back to,” says Raylan. Boyd finishes the thought, “We dug coal together.” Raylan smiles, a little glassy-eyed and wistful, “That’s right.” He smiles. He doesn’t hang up yet.


I got a little emotional at the end there with Raylan and Boyd, I think because I just didn’t believe that they’d both make it. It’s been a long and winding road. Raylan got him, but at what cost? I do love that we finished with them. I was sort of thrilled that they both lived, and sad that Boyd and Ava were broken, and that Raylan has a life, but maybe not the life he wanted.

There’s a tiny throwaway moment in the scenes with Ava where Raylan asks her how she got out of Harlan and we see flashes of his theories–Ellie May, Limehouse, and then Duffy in his double entendre “Down On All Fours” dog grooming van as the possibles. Ava doesn’t confirm, but we can presume it was Duffy.

And then there’s a lovely thank you at the end for the people of Harlan, the U.S. Marshals Service, and of course, Elmore Leonard, who I’m sure is quite content with the way the story went. I wonder if and how often he and Graham Yost discussed it.

I’m satisfied. And if 20 years hence, we need to pick up the intertwined legacies of Raylan’s daughter and Boyd’s son, that’s OK, too.

Here are the cast and creator Graham Yost at the finale screening last night in LA–I think Kaitlyn Dever is wearing the new hat.

Photo Credit: Photo Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/FX Networks
Photo Credit: Photo Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/FX Networks

Thanks so much for reading our Justified coverage over the years!

For the last time, here are our favorite quotes:

“My compliments on your grit.”

“I told you I’d get you.”

“There, you dumb son of a bitch.”

“Art, show him your tits.”

“God damn, Raylan, your timing sucks.”

“I pull, you put me down?”

“Try that one.”

“Honestly, Boyd. I put myself in your shoes. I did what I thought you would do.”

“Nice hat. I tried it on and it fit.”

“Every longtime fugitive I’ve ever run down expects me to congratulate them for not doing what nobody’s supposed to be doing anyhow.”

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to…look for a reason to get off the phone.”

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