In my review of the first episode of this final season of Justified, I predicted how the series would end. Here is what I wrote: . . . there are three obvious ways for the series to conclude at the end of this season: Raylan gets his wish of having a final showdown with Boyd in a High Noon-styled standoff in the streets of Harlan—with Raylan as Marshal Will Kane (obviously) and Boyd as nemesis Frank Miller. At the end of High Noon, Kane kills Miller and then throws his badge in the dust as he leaves town to spend the rest of his days living the peaceful life of a pacifist shopkeeper with his Quaker bride. Indeed, the writers of Justified appear to have been thinking of High Noon as they plotted out this final season. The likely twist on the High Noon story would be to see Boyd end up killing Raylan (a reversal in which essentially Abel kills Cain/Kane) and then leaves town with Ava to spend the rest of his days living the peaceful life of a farmer, preacher, or shopkeeper; it’s a life that Boyd offers Ava in the episode — and he seems to legitimately yearn for such a complacent life with his own estranged “bride. Finally, the series could end with Raylan and Boyd killing each other during their final showdown—as their respective women-folk watch in agonized horror, of course. I concluded my three-path “High Noon prediction” by stating, “One of those three scenarios is the likely ending for the series.” The season’s third episode reinforced my prediction of a High Noon-based ending, which I wrote about in my review of that episode: . . . one thing I [got] right in my review of “Fate’s Right Hand” was my assumption that this season is partly based on the 1952 film High Noon that starred Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane. . . . in this episode the writers made it obvious that they are thinking of a High Noon connection, as “Noblesse Oblige” has one direct reference and one indirect reference to High Noon. First, after he learns the identity of the man who actually owns the three million dollars* he’s been hired to steal (Avery Markham), Boyd contacts Wynn to arrange a meeting in which he can discuss the situation with both Wynn and Katherine. However, Wynn is suspicious of Boyd’s intentions and says Boyd might be intending to “High Noon it” by getting everyone in one place so he can kill them. Later, Acting Chief Rachel Brooks (played by Erica Tazel) asks Raylan what he’s going to do with Earl—one of Boyd’s men who was caught trying to steal explosives for Boyd: Raylan: I’m goin’ to let him go; send him back to Boyd, jumpy; get ’em all spun up before I swoop back down on my white horse. Rachel: That’s actually how you see this going down, isn’t it? Raylan: Why not? Worked for Gary Cooper. In addition to various minor allusions to High Noon that have also been made throughout the season, two episodes showed Raylan’s tombstone—thus foreshadowing his death that I anticipated I would see in this series-ending episode in which the High Noon showdown both did and did not come off as I predicted. After Boyd kills Markham by shooting him in his left eye, he then points the gun at Ava’s head and pulls the trigger twice—only to discover the magazine clip is empty. Before he can reload, Raylan enters the barn and Boyd curses his timing. However, rather than simply arresting Boyd, Raylan is focused on the two of them drawing their weapons on each other and having the long-promised High Noon showdown. When Boyd explains he’s out of bullets, Raylan kicks another gun over to him. However, even though Boyd picked up the gun, he refused to point it at Raylan because he knew he would lose the showdown; Boyd wanted to live so he could fight another day. He promises he will eventually escape prison and then kill both Ava and Raylan. With that threat expressed, Raylan may have felt justified to shoot Boyd regardless of whether Boyd made a move to fire his own gun. However, Raylan doesn’t fulfill his longtime promise of killing Boyd. If he had, the only witness to Raylan’s crime would have been Ava, and she later asks him why he didn’t do it when he had that chance. It’s a significant question because we have seen Raylan commit other illegal (or un-justified) acts involving the deaths of criminals. However, his previous unethical acts do not mean Raylan’s ethical choice here is a characterization error committed by the show’s writers. Instead, his decision to arrest Boyd rather than kill him without just cause reveals a bit of the complexity of Raylan’s own moral code regarding his longtime nemesis. Their relationship has constantly bordered on being one of either adversarial friendship or friendly adversarialship. Still, the scene ends with the threat of Boyd’s promise that he will someday escape prison and kill Ava and Raylan. I was surprised Boyd’s plot line seemed to wrap up with half the episode remaining. I then figured we would get back to Boyd in the last half of the show—perhaps it would not take him long to fulfill his promise of escaping and going after Ava and Raylan. However, I also knew the last half would also have to address Boon’s plot line, and that was the part of the episode that I was looking forward to the most—the High Noon showdown between Raylan and Boon that I could not have anticipated when the season began because the writers took too long to introduce Boon (the best character this season has given us). The showdown between Raylan and Boon begins when Boon rams his pickup truck into the rear of Raylan’s sedan and spins it around so the cars are facing each other on the Harlan county road. The sun’s reflection off a lake indicates the time of day is not high noon, but we are nonetheless getting the High Noon showdown between white-hat-wearing Raylan and black-hat-wearing Boon. Each man leaves his car to face the other one in the road while the women in their vehicles (Ava in Raylan’s sedan and Loretta in Boon’s truck) squat down on the floor to avoid being hit by the inevitable gunfire. Both men wait for the other one to make the first move that will then trigger his own reflexive action. We knew from previous seasons that Raylan is quick, but can he match Boon’s obvious speed as a quick-draw artist? We also knew from previous episodes that Boon prefers to aim for the head. He introduced himself to Loretta by placing a headless viper in her living room. He had shot off its head to demonstrate his skill. However, while we did not see him actually shoot the snake, the implication was that he took careful aim rather than shooting after rapidly drawing his weapon. His aim is not as precise when he’s drawing quickly, as he shot Loretta’s ex-boyfriend, Derrick, in the shoulder but confessed he was aiming for the head. Eventually, Raylan and Boon appeared to draw their weapons from their respective holsters simultaneously—though Boon may have been a fraction of a second faster. Historically, these types of gunfights in the streets of Old West towns rarely occurred—and when I say “rarely,” I mean there is only one documented case of this type of showdown: the 1885 gunfight between Wild Bill Hickok and David Tutt. The stereotypical showdown of squarely facing off against each other is a carryover of the “gentleman duels” of the 17th and 18th centuries—such as the famous duel in which sitting US Vice President Aaron Burr killed former US Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton—and the dime novels of the late 19th century. The more historically correct Old West version of a gunfight would have been for Raylan and Boyd to have hidden behind their respective cars and then shoot at each other. However, cinematically, it was great to see Raylan and Boon engage in the romanticized vision of gunslingers having a quick-draw shootout—but I was shocked when I saw red spray emerge from the back of Raylan’s head after Boon fired his weapon. In the still image of the red “spray,” it’s clear that it is actually red-colored smoke that was blown out of the top of Raylan’s hat. However, in real time, that still image flashed by in a fraction of a second and was very convincing as a spray of blood (and brains) shooting forth from the back of his head. Raylan immediately flops backward to the pavement; Boon follows a second later by falling to his knees while struggling to stay upright. As Raylan remains motionless, Boon raised his gun to attempt one more shot at Raylan, but Loretta stopped him by stepping on his hand and then kicking the revolver away with her foot. Then she walked up to Raylan’s still motionless body. With a third of the episode remaining, I struggled to understand how the remainder of the time would be spent. Would we see Winona and Willa board a plane in Miami to come to Raylan’s funeral in Harlan? Would we see Boyd go into a rage in prison due to his revenge against Raylan being taken from him? Would this be the best way to use the final 18 minutes of the series? However, as Loretta stares, Raylan stirs—rising to a wobbly sitting position with blood flowing down the left side of his head from the wound where the bullet grazed him. He was still alive. Instead of the remainder episode showing the aftermath of Raylan’s death, we jumped ahead four years later. Raylan is at a park in Miami with Willa, who is now approaching her fifth birthday. We are shown the loving interaction between father and daughter, but I’m looking at the background—for any sign of Boyd Crowder, newly escaped from prison, striding towards Raylan with an automatic clutched in his hand. I’m half-expecting a Sopranos ending with Raylan briefly glimpsing Boyd bringing his gun up before the screen goes to black. Instead, Winona walks up and we see the happy Givens family enjoying a day together. Yet I’m still surveying the background for some sign of Boyd. Instead, Richard walks up and joins the happy Givens family. Richard? Wait a minute! Who the hell is Richard? Apparently, Richard is Winona’s new husband—her third husband. It looks like that 49% chance Raylan estimated he and Winona had of making their relationship work didn’t come through. The 51% chance won out. Still, it appears Raylan and Winona are good friends—and Raylan and Richard are at least friendly toward each other. However, Richard’s nickname for Willa is “punk,” and it bothers Raylan considerably. He’s spent his adult life dealing with punks (the criminal variety, not the bohemian variety). Winona explains it’s short for “punkin’”—which, itself, is a cutesy form of “pumpkin.” Raylan already knew what it meant, but he still doesn’t like that nickname for his daughter. Ironically, when he gets back to his office (he works in the Miami US Marshals office) he finds mail from Rachel Brooks—who has been transferred to the Seattle US Marshals office. In the envelope is a newspaper clipping about profits from pumpkin sales benefiting elementary schools—and standing amidst the pumpkins is Ava Crowder. Raylan tracks Ava to a horse ranch in California where she lives and works. She has become a model citizen of the community, but obviously does not have any of the ten million dollars that she stole from Boyd after Boyd stole it from Markham. Despite her new life, Raylan seems set on arresting her—until he realizes she has her own four-year-old child. The issue of young Zachariah’s parentage doesn’t come up, but it must dawn on most of the audience that the boy could be Raylan’s rather than Boyd’s. After all, it was implied that Raylan had sex with Ava one last time when he was trying to keep her focused on her job as a confidential informant. At this point, there are only a few minutes remaining in the show. We are essentially getting the “where are they now” ending that is typical of movies based on real-life events, but that even concluded Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Thus, I’m thinking, “they’re setting us up for a reunion movie. We’re going to get a two-hour sequel movie in a few years that has Boyd escaping from prison and Raylan being called in to catch Boyd before he fulfills his promise of killing Ava and coming after Raylan. At this point, I’m liking the idea of this type of reunion movie. Let the show cool off for a couple of years before coming back with a quality movie in which the writers and actors have all been reinvigorated. I’m contemplating this imagined movie as Raylan visits Boyd in prison. He’s there to tell a lie to Boyd—to tell Boyd that Ava died in a car crash as she was fleeing US Marshals who had tracked her to Oklahoma. Boyd completely accepts Raylan’s news, and he mourns the loss of the woman he loved despite his promise to avenge her betrayal of him. The reaction shows how much people can change in four years. Like Ava, Boyd has also become a model citizen—albeit a model citizen of the federal penitentiary. He has returned to preaching, and he is gathering a flock from the inmates with whom he is serving time. However, Boyd wonders why Raylan came all the way from Miami to deliver the news of Ava’s death rather than send word through the prison warden or Boyd’s lawyer. Raylan says he thought it was “news that should be delivered in person.” Boyd: That the only reason? (Pause while Raylan contemplates a response.) After all these long years, Raylan Givens, that’s the only reason? Raylan: Well, I suppose if I allowed myself to be sentimental despite all that has occurred . . . (pause) . . . there is one thing I wander back to. (Pause) Boyd: We dug coal together. (Pause) Raylan: That’s right. Boyd’s final phrase carries a lot of connotative symbolism within those four words. That phrase, and Raylan’s response to it, literally brought tears to my eyes. I’m going to miss these characters, but I no longer want a reunion movie in a few years. We have been given the appropriate ending for one of my all-time favorite TV series. Despite the excessive unevenness in this final season, I still enjoyed it. I cannot fathom a better ending to the series six seasons than the heartfelt warmth in the eyes of these adversarial “friends” as they acknowledge the brotherly bond they have . . . . . . “We dug coal together.” * During the season, the idea that Markham had three million dollars in his vault to use for the purchase of farmland in Harlan County changed to him having ten million dollars in the vault. Apparently, he had lied to Katherine and actually had seven million dollars more than he told her he had. I wonder if the writers just decided 10 million dollars sounded better or if they learned how much the land in Harlan County would actually cost and so adjusted the amount of money accordingly. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.