Poor Raylan. The man just wants to get the hell out of Harlan and it seems like every single person he knows just keeps pulling him back. Whether it be the Bennett family and their continued pursuit of county domination, Winona’s constant waffling over her true feelings for Raylan, or Art’s push-pull of admiration for Raylan’s tenacity and disappointment over his job skills, Raylan Givens is a battered man in season two of Justified and all the sarcastic grins in the world can’t cover that up.
The closing scene of Wednesday’s Justified might just be the straw that breaks the marshal’s back, as Dickie exercising the Bennett blood in him resulted in the only likable family Raylan’s got (sweet Aunt Helen) being shot in the middle of the night. There’s no indication of whether she lived or not (I personally think she’s dead, but I could be wrong), so I’m not going to go as far as to call this a murder, but this was a very serious act of violence and one that will be the catalyst for a brutal final showdown akin to last season’s breathtaking finale. But what else will it do for the increasingly exceptional FX series?
I opened this piece by talking about how Raylan’s been trapped in Harlan’s spiderweb this season, but I think that what happened to Helen could light a fire under him to make it out of his hometown (perhaps fleeing back to Miami?), at least for part of next season. Of course, Raylan now has more incentive than ever to take out Dickie Bennett (could that threaten his job, though?) and considering the disdain that Mags has for her son, I wouldn’t be surprised if she and Raylan put whatever differences they have to the side in order to bring Dickie down. Plus having Mags join Raylan will free her up to possibly come back in another season down the line which, considering how well her character has been received, is a possibility. I think it’d be very cool to watch Mags and Raylan take on Dewey and Dickie’s men, mostly because seeing a family’s split loyalties would add an extra layer of psychology to what promises to be a bloody final two episodes.
The explosive culmination of the Bennett/Givens feud is only one aspect of the final two episodes of this season. We have Boyd who is kind of a criminal mastermind (how cool would it be to see Raylan go away and comes back next season to see that Boyd’s kind of assumed Bo’s role as county kingpin?), Ava becoming the country Carmella Soprano, and a bunch more peripheral characters who can pop in, change a scene dramatically, and pop back out quickly. For example, you know Arlo isn’t going to take what happened to Helen lying down, so it would be almost poetic to see the old man lace up his boot straps and help Raylan take down the man who killed(?) his wife. Arlo’s not played much of a role this season, minus a scene here or there, but his most important contribution may be helping Raylan find justice for Helen and inching closer to having a bond with his son.
This season of Justified has been pretty magnificent, to say the least. We’ve seen a fascinating combination of black comedy, gun fights, cases of the week, a scary-good villain, and personal growth (and arguably de-evolution) of the characters we’ve spent the last two years with. If the final two episodes of the season are anything close to the quality of the previous 11, we’re in for an awesome ride.
Justified airs Wednesdays at 10:00 on FX with a repeat immediately following at 11:00 and subsequent re-airings throughout the week.
What do you expect from the final two episodes of Justified’s second season? How have you been enjoying the season so far? Do you think the show can top itself next season?